We’ve all heard the phrase “turn the page,” which is defined in The Free Dictionary as “to begin to behave in a more positive way after a period of difficulties.”
Many of us will be saying that on Jan. 1 to begin a new year. But I suppose the California horse racing industry already said it on Thursday. That was opening day at Santa Anita Park and the time for putting the closure of Hollywood Park behind us.
The end of Hollywood Park did not have to happen. Not if the horse racing industry had acted in unison, and with urgency, for the sport’s long-term best interests.
And that is where “turn the page” comes into play. All the finger-pointing in the world won’t bring back Hollywood Park. It’s time to move forward and figure out where to go from here.
The year 2014 will be a defining one as the Hollywood dates were cut up into so many pieces.
The old will become new as Los Alamitos, which used to host a thoroughbred meet years ago, will race two meets (July 3-13; Dec. 4-21). The main dirt track is undergoing an expansion from bullring to one-mile oval. Actually kind of an oval. Property restrictions will give it a unique shape.
Del Mar will run its normal summer meet (July 16 to Sept. 3) plus a new fall meet (Nov. 5-30). It also is under construction as its turf course is being widened with the promise of a future Breeders’ Cup coming to the San Diego area.
And Fairplex will run its usual meet (Sept. 5-21) at the Los Angeles County Fair.
That leaves the lion’s share of the racing dates with Santa Anita (Dec. 26 to June 29; Sept. 25 to Nov. 2).
The most powerful man in California racing is Frank Stronach. His company Magna International owns Santa Anita.
Stronach has invested so much money in horse racing, his and other people’s money, that he reminds me of the federal government. Deficit spending spurred on by the ability to print more cash.
Stronach always has lobbied for more racing dates wherever he owns a racetrack. See Gulfstream Park. Now he has gotten what he’s asked for in California, and he must deliver.
No one knows for sure what a six-month meet at Santa Anita will do to the magic of the Great Race Place. For example, just because we love going to Del Mar, Keeneland or Saratoga doesn’t mean we want a six-month run at these boutique meets.
When a meet is too long, it tends to become a grind. Ho-hum in nature. Anyone who has visited Santa Anita knows how special the place is. The worst scenario is for it to become commonplace.
For better or for worse, the California horse racing industry has tethered itself to Stronach as he guides it into uncharted waters. The hope is for smooth sailing ahead. In the worst-case scenario? He’ll send his minions down to the basement to find more cash.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.