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Change of Venue Chance Damaged

Horse racing: Vote urges more discussion of proposal to move 17-day meet from Pomona Fairplex to Santa Anita.

June 04, 2002|LANCE PUGMIRE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Those hoping to keep horse racing at Fairplex Park in Pomona for a 64th season gained a powerful ally Monday when the Thoroughbred Owners of California voted to urge more extensive discussion of the meet's future.

The seven-member California Horse Racing Board is expected to vote Thursday on whether to approve the request of James Henwood, Los Angeles County Fair president-chief executive, to change the venue of his 17-day meet from Fairplex to Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.

"Given the lateness of the day, the need for more information, the potential negative impacts on other tracks, the legal impediments posed, and the break from a long tradition of racing at Fairplex--[these] all justify a very close and careful look," John Van de Kamp, president of the thoroughbred owners said.

That was warmly received by Sherwood Chillingworth, the Oak Tree Racing Assn. executive vice president whose meet at Santa Anita immediately follows the Sept. 13-29 fair dates.

"The [horse racing] board has to make up its own mind--they know what's best for the horse racing industry of Southern California," Chillingworth said. "But the thoroughbred owners are a body that has a purpose of looking out for the industry and I'm happy they agree with us, that approval of this now would be too premature."

The executive boards at Hollywood Park and Del Mar also oppose the move because of the uncertain financial impact on their meets.

Henwood and Santa Anita President Jack Liebau announced their five-year lease agreement to move the fair meet May 23. Henwood missed the deadline for including the change of venue on Thursday's agenda by five days, but he successfully appealed to CHRB Executive Director Roy Wood.

John Harris, a CHRB board member, has already expressed strong doubts he could approve the move with such limited time available for analysis. Another board member, who asked not to be identified, said that such a major decision should not be approved until next year.

Although the CHRB has shown flexibility in authorizing race dates, Liebau noted that all of the 2002 Southern California dates had been approved Aug. 24, 2001.

Liebau contends that shifting the fair meet to Santa Anita will result in greater profits for horsemen because of increased handle, wider satellite wagering coverage and the addition of 10 turf races.

"I don't have any idea [how the CHRB will view the thoroughbred owners' decision], but we're disappointed by it," Liebau said.

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