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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cal Expo Update - Trouble in The Golden State

After noticing Cal Expo has been cancelling Thursday night racing for a couple of weeks, and it has been a little while since I have provided an update, It was time to check in at Cal Expo to see what is going on.
When asked about why they have been cancelling Thursday night racing, I learned that the racing secretary has about 225 horses per week to work with, ready to race.  With racing 30 races on Fridays and Saturdays, this number of horses doesn't even provide Cal Expo with an average of 8.0 starters per race (Cal Expo can handle ten starters on the gate).  For Cal Expo to race on Thursday nights, they are able to add four more races a week, bringing a total of thirty-four races a week with an average of approximately 6.0 starters per race.  This is with getting all horses to race. Admittedly, the racing product is stale.
.The reason for dropping Thursdays is Cal Expo has an expense of $35K per day to operate and to race with short fields and a short card on Thursdays, they are getting 'stung' pretty badly.  Right now the CHRB is requiring Cal Expo to cancel Thursdays one week at a time.  On February 23, Cal Expo is going in front of the CHRB to ask for permission to cancel the remaining Thursdays of the current meet.
When asked if anyone has left California since the uncertainty of finding a new operator has set in,
I was told they have had some requests for information regarding operating the meet and Cal Expo is gladly doing everything they can to provide those people with the requested information as they want harness racing to continue.  That having been said, no one has really left California seeking another base of operation other than Rick Plano and Tim Maier who left last spring and have not returned.  In fact, a couple of Canadian horsemen have come down to race at Cal Expo.

Just to make sure there is no confusion, the balance of comments are mine.  With most stables full of $2,500 claimers, where are they going to go to race?  Most tracks outside of California have slots so a lot of these horses would be uncompetitive racing at racino tracks. What is needed is a new management group which is dedicated to harness racing who is able to take over the meet at Cal Expo or another location and put money into meets to allow horsemen time to upgrade the racing stock and make the Californian product more appealable; not only to induce new stables to come to California, but to also increase interest in the product from gamblers.  In addition, the harness racing community in the Golden State must work on getting the legislature to revoke some of the more oppressive barriers to having a successful meet, such as limiting harness meets to importing eight races a day and being allowed only to cross-bred simulcasting.  Unlike other states, racinos are out of the question in California due to their compact with the Indian tribes.

Otherwise, even if a new operator comes in to take over the Cal Expo meet, the same problem will just re-occur down the road and when you dip into the well for operators too often, it is a matter of time until the well runs dry.

Do not try this at home:  A New Jersey man allegedly claiming temporary disability beneifts supposedly got found racing in qualifying races and acting as a trainer.  Either someone who works for the insurance company is a harness racing fan or someone didn't like him and turned him in. 


mcasa78 said...

Very nice post!!
This is really a shame for fans out here in California, it wasn't always this way especially at tracks like Hollywood Park, Cal-Expo, Del Mar even Golden Gate had a 2 yr. Harness meet, since we cannot have racinos ou here you would think that perhaps some of the Indian tribes here in NorCal would get involved to help the sport out, I think their influence would help big time here another would be why don't they introduce legislation to have simulcast year round everyday like in some states, at least it MIGHT get us back on the right track?? What do think??

Pacingguy said...

I think harness racing has been mistreated by the California State Legislature. Why harness racing is limited to eight simulcast races which must be harness while the others have more options I don't know; especially when someone with an ADW account in California can wager on any race their ADW carries. A racetrack can't compete. Why Cal Expo can't have full card harness simulcasting when they are dark makes no sense either.

I don't see an Indian Tribe getting involved with racing, unless that would allow them to bring gaming to there and then there is no guarantee that racing will survive long time.

Note California thoroughbred racing is not doing well either with Bay Meadows torn down for development and Hollywood Park rumored to be next.

Of course, harness racing in the Golden State was hurt by the racing scandal in 1987 (,9867292); what the long-term damage from that scandal is unknown, though I suspect it is still hurting the sport.

camineralman said...

Allowing a number of small indian tribes to band together and operate a racino at the present Cal Expo location is a no brainer. It qwould be a win win for the tribes, the horseman and the state economy as well as a great source of rwevenue for the state coffers. Rental prices for the grandstand would be greatly enhanced in this way.