June 12, 2024

As a critical California Horse Racing Board vote on Thursday approaches, 1/ST Racing, a subsidiary of the Stronach Group, made a not-so-veiled threat to consider selling or closing Santa Anita if the board authorizes racing in Northern California this year.

It’s unclear if it’s a serious threat or just gamesmanship, but in a three-page letter sent Tuesday from Craig Fravel, executive vice-chairman of 1/ST Racing and Gaming, to CHRB board members, he said “An analysis of alternative uses for Santa Anita and San Luis Rey will be undertaken in short order [if racing is allocated to the north].

“The current financial model and required capital expense make no sense and the consolidation of operations as discussed last year and at the January Board meeting is the only alternative that has been presented.”

The showdown is over a proposal that will be made Thursday from three county fair associations for a 10-week meeting in Pleasanton at the Alameda County Fair Grounds. The meeting would run from Oct. 19 to Dec. 15 on Fridays through Sunday. Word of that plan was first reported by the Daily Racing Form.

The reason Santa Anita is opposed to the plan is because of legislation introduced last year that would reallocate simulcast money from Northern California to Southern California if there is no racing in the north. The Stronach Group announced it was closing Bay Area track Golden Gate Fields at the conclusion of its current meeting in June.

Santa Anita believes it needs that additional money to make racing viable in Southern California.

Other threats made by Fravel include immediate purse cuts at Santa Anita and reevaluating capital projects at Santa Anita totaling more than $7 million that were supposed to be done this summer.

“Should those projects be deemed unfeasible, further operation of Santa Anita and San Luis Rey as training facilities will may be in jeopardy,” the letter said. San Luis Rey is a training facility in San Diego County owned by the Stronach Group.

In the letter, Fravel said the yet-to-be-presented proposal by the California Assn. of Racing Fairs “is lacking in so much detail that it is difficult to understand what has been done over the last eight months [since the closing of Golden Gate was announced] and even more difficult to understand how the Board can be asked to put the entire thoroughbred industry in the state at risk by allocating dates on the basis of speculation.”

The matter originally was brought up at the January meeting, but the Board agreed to delay a decision until this month so more could be learned.

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