As we turn to the back side of the winter meets and spring forward to summer, it remains an exciting time to race in California. Thanks in part to the historic 2021 TOC/ADW purse enhancements, Del Mar will conduct its 83rd summer meet commencing July 22, 2022 with the highest overnight purses in the history of California racing. Maiden Allowance races will be $80,000, and the stakes schedule will hand out over $8,000,000. In addition the ever lucrative “Ship & Win” program is back incentivizing owners financially to buy race ready horses outside of California. Traditionally over 80% of all “Ship & Win” funds have been paid to California based owners. We look forward to a record summer where the “turf meets the surf.” Again, a special thanks to board member Bob Liewald for spearheading the TOC/ADW enhancements and closely monitoring the sports wagering ballot initiatives which could bring millions of additional funds into the purse account.
As we announced on April 1, 2022, President/CEO Greg Avioli resigned for personal reasons unrelated to TOC. Since our hard working and active board members and staff are intimately involved on all matters, it is business as usual at TOC without any short term need for an official interim President. When the role is needed, I, as Chairman, will step in. We created a search committee and have begun the wide and diversified quest for our next President. With operations functioning normally this gives us time and space to ensure we choose the best candidate. As many have noticed, our board now consists of some accomplished executives that are bringing new perspectives and success to TOC. We fully intend to hire a president that embraces that same mindset and formula.
We recognize that on many minds is the recent dip in field size at Santa Anita. In looking at the matter we discovered three noticeable factors. First, with trainer Peter Miller stepping away in 2022 we can attribute about 35% of the reduction simply based on his absence alone. Last winter Miller started 249 horses. In 2022 trainer Ruben Alvarado, who took over “his barn,” has so far started 83 with over 60% of the meet completed. Every industry recruits top talent, and clearly there is a void here that needs to be filled. Second, amazingly our Southern California horse population is flat versus 2021. Traditionally when field size drops it is directly related to a corresponding decline in population. Not this year – which begs the question of why our horsemen and horsewomen, with the same number of horses, breezing in similar fashion in the mornings, are not entering the entry box the same way as 2021. Third, field size in turf races is relatively flat versus 2021. Accordingly the real issue appears to be dirt related. TOC, CTT, Santa Anita, and Del Mar will address the issue in our stakeholder meeting in May.
2022 will be the dawn of a new beginning in the North with Golden Gate Fields closing this summer for needed repairs and CARF securing summer stabling for the fair circuit. Horses will moved from GGF to Pleasanton and Sacramento starting June 1st with the fair circuit scheduled to operate its customary 35 “fair” dates with an overall $488,000 increase in purses. CARF CEO Larry Swartzlander assured the TOC board CARF is more than capable of housing the North equine ecosystem. TOC board member Lindsay LaRoche recently toured the Pleasanton facilities along with representatives from CARF and CTT, and we are hopeful for a smooth transition this summer.