The California Horse Racing Board yesterday approved a Santa Anita Park proposal to allow gambling on an April Arabian Race. Pending legislation regarding the issue will likely pass soon in Sacramento. According to Scott Daruty, a Santa Anita representative, an Abu Dhabi group will contribute $175,000 to the potential April 2nd race. $100,000 of the funds will go towards the purse, and the remaining $75,000 will be earmarked for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund.
The pending legislation, titled AB 558, would allow for six Arabian races per year, with wagering, to take place at Santa Anita Park, as long as the Northern California fair circuit isn’t disrupted. Industry stakeholders and the board did express some concerns during the Thoroughbred meeting.
“I don’t have a problem with this, per se. What I would have a problem with is this reducing any of the opportunities for the Thoroughbred horsemen,” California Horse Racing Board member Madeline Auerbach said. “We have a tendency here to cut back days, cut back races, and I don’t want to see this Arabian race used and be told we have to run less Thoroughbreds … If Santa Anita can do this in a fashion and guarantee we don’t lose any opportunities for our horsemen, then I would have no problem with it.”
“It’s very clear from the TOC perspective that this race is not going to replace a Thoroughbred race,” said Thoroughbred owners of California President Nick Coukos. “In fact we have a contractual agreement with Santa Anita that will not allow them to replace a Thoroughbred race, so if a race is going to be run April 2, we expect nine Thoroughbred races that day. If this is not a 10th race, we would have an objection to it.”
The preference from the Thoroughbred owners of California would be for the Arabian race to either be the first or last of a 10-race slate.