Pleasanton picks up more horse racing dates!

Well, it really happened.

After a contentious meeting the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), by a 6-0 vote on March 21, awarded Pleasanton the racing dates formerly held by Golden Gate Fields.

It is a banner day for racing in Northern California and a badly needed injection of positivity.

Golden Gate Fields is set to close for good in June as 1/ST Racing, the entity that owns GGF, is consolidating its business at Santa Anita.

They did so with the feeling that outside the summer Northern California Fair racing dates, there would be no other racing in Northern California. This is turn would send the revenue for satellite wagering, which had previously been going to GGF and 1/ST Racing, down to Santa Anita as there would be no Northern California host track.

That all went away as Pleasanton, now a legitimate host track in the northern half of the state, will get the revenue from the off-track betting facilities.

Since the decision, the speculation has run rampant about the future for Santa Anita and 1/ST Racing. In an 11th hour threat before the CHRB meeting, 1/ST Racing released a statement saying they may have to close or sell Santa Anita if they didn’t get their way.

Was it an empty threat?

I believe so.

The egos are too big for the powers that be to just shut the doors. A sale would be nice, and it would be wonderful to see someone like Churchill Downs Incorporated swoop in and buy Santa Anita.

As nice as that would be, I think it’s highly unlikely.

What’s next?

For racing to rebuild in California, it will take everyone working together. I remember the days when there was Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Del Mar, and Los Alamitos in the south. Northern California offered Golden Gate Fields, Bay Meadows, and the summer Fair meets, which included dates in Vallejo, Stockton, and a Fair meet at Bay Meadows.

Every track you went to was busy and racing was thriving.

Now, five of those tracks are gone. The cost of doing business California has certainly been an issue, and the inability to crack the slot machine/sports book field that the Indian casinos have a stranglehold on at this point.

The best way to battle issues facing horse racing is with a united front. Check the egos at the door, work together, and it could very well be beneficial for everyone.

One factor getting little to no notice in the discussion of the racing dates, but will be a key moving forward, is each of the Fair’s have established, quality marketing teams.

Alameda County Fair CEO Jerome Hoban touched on it during the CHRB meeting. Pleasanton has a track record of success when it comes to getting the word out. Even when Pleasanton had a fall meet, it was well promoted and well attended.

You must know your audience to be successful and I think that was something that has been missing from our bigger tracks in California. At the same time, the Fair excels at this.

There are consistently big events at the Fairgrounds and there is an infrastructure in place for managing big events.

Horse racing has a unique aspect in that the majority of people that work in the industry truly love the sport of racing and the horses.

At the end of the day money has to be made but it’s easier to put in the hard work when you love what you are doing.

So many are involved for all the right reasons – they are a family. Whether those that opposed Pleasanton getting additional dates want to admit, giving Pleasanton the dates saved lives and careers.

Northern California has been given a chance to stand on its own without living in uncertainty. Knowing so many of these people I don’t see how it won’t be successful.

Instead of living on the woe is me platform made so popular by 1/ST Racing, it is going to be “hey look at what we can do,” attitude.”

March 21 was a banner day for horse racing in Northern California horse racing. Now we need to go out and prove we have earned the right to make it work.

By Dennis Miller