Stronach Group's threat to close Santa Anita grows

The threat to Santa Anita from Stronach Group subsidiary 1/ST Racing & Gaming did not have the desired impact on the California Racing Commission.

Apr 8, 2024
2 min read
The Stronach Group threatens to "rezone" Santa Anita (see above) unless horse racing remains
The Stronach Group threatens to "rezone" Santa Anita (see above) unless horse racing remains banned in Northern California. But are companies serious?


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Stronach Group's threat to close Santa Anita grows

Last week, the owner of Santa Anita Race Course in Southern California threatened to close the famed venue if the state Horse Racing Board (CHRB) voted to meet in Northern California.

On Friday, the CHRB went ahead and approved the bill.

According to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the story, it was a "shocking rebuke" for Santa Anita's owner, the Stronach Group.

North and South

In a March 19 letter, 1/ST Racing & Gaming Executive Vice President Craig Fravel told the CHRB in no uncertain terms that their decision will have a serious impact on racing in California.

"An analysis of alternative uses for Santa Anita and San Luis Rey will be conducted soon if the game is assigned to the North," Flavell wrote. "The current financial model and required capital expenditure does not make sense and, as discussed last year and at the January board meeting, consolidating the business is the only option."

The letter's strong language comes as the state Legislature is passing a bill that would shift simulcast funds from Northern California to Southern California if there are no games upstate.

The Stronach Group plans to close its Bay Area racetrack, Golden Gate Fields, in June to address a lack of racing in Northern California.

It's unclear whether Stronach actually wants to close Santa Anita or if he's taking advantage of a strategic risk. Either way, this strategy is futile.

Slippery Slope Decision

A vote that was less certain to go against their interests — to agree on a date for the 10-week meet this fall at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton — ended in a unanimous decision in Northern California's favor .

It appears the CHRB will not be bullied, as six of its board members told Flavell at Friday's meeting.

Commissioner Thomas Hudnut complained that Fravel falsely attempted to portray the CHRB as “critical to [Santa Anita’s] bankruptcy.”

"Because if you go out of business, it's going to be because of mismanagement, not because of this board," he stressed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Castellanos, the Damascus commissioner, said the letter "troubled him" and was "not cool."

“Now that we have North versus South, I’m getting a lot of calls,” Castellanos said. "I'm not upset about these calls. I'm frustrated because I don't get along with bullies... The bottom line is we need to work together. We need to figure out how to keep playing in California. Not just in the North, not just in the South, And that’s true in California, too.”

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