To TOC Members:
Thank you for the positive calls, texts, and emails regarding the first Chairman’s monthly update. If you ever have any comments or questions, our door is always open. Please drop a line to me, Greg Avioli, Mary Forney, or Wayne Atwell if there is any subject in particular on which you would like more information.
April is one of my favorite months. Spring is here, and the Kentucky Derby is around the corner! California will be well represented in the 147th Run for the Roses with anticipated starters including Rock Your World for Hronis Racing or Talla Racing and trainer John Sadler, Hot Rod Charlie for Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing or Bill & Jeff Straus and trainer Doug O’Neill, and Medina Spirit for Zeden Racing and trainer Bob Baffert. Other possible starters include Dream Shake for Exline-Border Racing, SAF Racing or Richard Hausman and trainer Pete Eurton and Get Her Number for Gary Barber and trainer Pete Miller. As Hall of Fame trainer and longtime TOC Board member Bob Baffert always says, California has proven to be the best place to get horses ready for the Kentucky Derby year in and year out. Good luck to our 2021 California connections!
In a sign that we may have finally reached “the beginning of the end” of the Covid-19 pandemic, Santa Anita Park opened its doors to fans again on Santa Anita Derby weekend. A “capacity crowd” got to witness firsthand a great day of racing that resulted in remarkably strong all sources wagering handle of over $25 million!
Through the first four months of the Winter/Spring meet, the most important metrics that TOC tracks all show a positive resurgence. Field size is up, handle is up, and catastrophic injuries are down. I want to thank each and every Southern California owner for staying the course with TOC and California racing through the two most difficult years ever for racing at Santa Anita in 2019-2020. While horsemen have been bombarded with new rules and regulations over this time, it’s important to note that horseplayers don’t seem to mind the changes as wagering handle continues to grow. If this trend continues, the 2022 winter/spring meet may bring yet another purse bump.
Golden Gate also recently reopened to owners on April 16, just in time for this weekend’s GOLD RUSH WEEKEND – historically the biggest racing days of the year up North. We hope everyone comes out to support GGF and see some of the best racing in Northern California. As a reminder, reservations are no longer required, and an owner must present your CHRB license and either documentation of two weeks post second vaccination shot, or a 72 hour covid negative test.
Beyond this weekend, the TOC Board is focusing on how to address increasingly critical longterm challenges relating to the future direction of Golden Gate. To better understand the Stronach Group’s plans for Golden Gate, we invited Craig Fravel, CEO of Racing Operations for The Stronach Group, to our April board meeting. It was a productive exchange that focused on a number of pressing issues including animal rights activist protests, the reduction in the horse population, potential for future sports wagering at Golden Gate, and plans to potentially close some or all of the backstretch for this coming summer’s CARF racing seasons to allow for long deferred maintenance in the barn areas. Recognizing that none of these issues are quickly or easily solved, TOC plans to continue to actively engage with Stronach Group and CARF to build a more stable future for Northern Calfornia racing. I have asked TOC staff to look for a time prior to the end of the current Golden Gate meet to schedule a special TOC members meeting to discuss these issues and get Northern California owners’ input.
At the April CHRB meeting, the board approved and sent out for 45-day comment period a new penalty system for violators of the crop rule. The new penalty removes the “maximum fine of $1,000” and allows penalties above the $500 minimum at the discretion of the stewards (ie no maximum). You may recall that at the March CHRB meeting, TOC President and CEO Greg Avioli spoke in opposition to an earlier version of the crop penalty rule that included mandatory “forfeiture of half the jockey’s stakes purse.” TOC remains concerned that the new rule, while better than the last proposal, continues to lack specificity or guidelines to explain what types of fines will be associated with what types of violations. We continue to work with other tracks, horsemen’s groups and national associations towards the development of one unified crop rule for all US racing jurisdictions.
Last, but certainly not least it’s time to hand out the Ed Friendly Industry Service Award aka the TOC Chairman’s Award, recognizing outstanding contributions and service to the industry. Renamed for legendary television producer, owner and TOC founding member Ed Friendly, and selected by the Chairman with board support, past recipients include Mace Siegel, Bob and Beverly Lewis and Jerry and Ann Moss. This year’s winner is Aidan Butler, COO of 1/ST Racing for The Stronach Group. Please click here to read the press release and Aidan’s incredible accomplishments over the past two years. Congrats Aidan!
Until next month….