By Steve Andersen
ARCADIA, Calif. – After months of discussions, at times heated, racing dates for the 2018 season in Northern California were finalized at Thursday’s California Horse Racing Board meeting.
The dates are largely similar to the 2017 season, with one less week of racing at the Cal Expo-State Fair meeting in Sacramento, and one week in which the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale is the only racing in the north.
Golden Gate Fields will have the bulk of the dates, from Dec. 26 to June 12, Aug. 22 to Oct. 2, and Oct. 17 to Dec. 18.
The county fair circuit will consist of racing at Pleasanton from June 13 to July 10, Cal Expo July 11-24, Santa Rosa from July 25 to Aug. 14, Ferndale Aug. 15-28, and Fresno Oct. 3-16.
The actual dates of racing will be slightly different than the dates assigned, since the dates assigned include simulcasting rights on non-racing days. For example, Pleasanton is likely to open on Thursday, June 14 and race until Sunday, July 8.
The issue of summertime stabling in Northern California was not resolved. There is a possibility the barn area at Golden Gate Fields will close for part of the summer.
The calendar was proposed by the racing board’s dates committee – chairman Chuck Winner and vice-chair Madeline Auerbach – after a lengthy meeting on Wednesday.
Officials with the state fair in Sacramento protested the loss of a week of racing.
Racing dates for Southern California were finalized in September and are largely the same as 2017.
Santa Anita will race from Dec. 26 of this year to June 26, and from Sept. 26 to Nov. 6. Los Alamitos will have three meetings – June 27 to July 17, Sept. 5-25, and Dec. 5-18. Del Mar will race from July 18 to Sept. 4 and Nov. 7 to Dec. 4.
The precise racing dates will be slightly different. Santa Anita is expected to close its meeting in the first half of the year on June 24.
California handle up in September
Handle at all California tracks rose 4.4 percent in September, from $199.4 million in 2016 to $208.2 million this year, reducing the year-to-date decline to less than 1 percent, according to statistics presented at Thursday’s meeting.
In September, handle at the state’s daytime Thoroughbred and county fair meetings was $186 million, compared to $179.1 million last year, a gain of 3.8 percent. Handle at the Los Alamitos mixed meeting of Quarter Horses and lower-level Thoroughbreds was $22.1 million compared to $20.2 million, a gain of 9.4 percent.
There was one additional evening of racing in September.