December 4, 1998
LOS ALAMITOS, CA — The members of the California Horse Racing Board unanimously re-elected Commissioner Ralph Scurfield to the position of chairman Friday and named Commissioner George Nicholaw vice chairman of the Board. Both terms are for one year.

Scurfield, who was first appointed to the Board in 1991 by Governor George Deukmejian, has since been reappointed twice by Governor Pete Wilson. His current term as a CHRB commissioner expires this July 26. Scurfield was first named chairman in 1992 and has retained that post with the unanimous support of his colleagues ever since.

Scurfield also holds the post of chairman of the Association of Racing Commissioners International and has served in various official capacities for that organization since 1994. His heavy involvement in civic affairs dates back to the 1960s when he served on the Sacramento Planning Commission and the Sacramento City Council. He is president of the Scurfield Company in Sacramento, dealing in property investment and commercial development and management.

Nicholaw was first appointed to the Board in 1992 by Governor Wilson, then reappointed to a term that expires January 1, 2000. He is chairman of both the Security and Licensing Committee and the Pari-mutuel Operations Committee, giving him great responsibility in the area of regulating racetrack operations. He is vice president and general manager of KNX Newsradio in Los Angeles.

In other business, the Board agreed to hold a special meeting December 18 at CHRB headquarters in Sacramento specifically to review an anticipated amended license application reflecting the expected new ownership of Santa Anita Park.

William Baker, chairman and chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Turf Club (LATC), said escrow could close as soon as December 11 on the sale of Santa Anita to a subsidiary of Magna International, a Canadian-based company chaired by Frank Stronach. When the sale is final, Baker will immediately submit a revised LATC application for the upcoming winter meet at Santa Anita listing any new officers and directors, which will be the subject of the December 18 meeting.

Members of the new Statewide Marketing Organization (SMO), which will have an estimated $6 million a year to spend on the promotion of horse racing in California, summarized their activities to date and indicated the 1999 marketing campaign will be closely linked to promotional activities by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA).

Jack Liebau, president of Bay Meadows, and John Van de Kamp, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), advised the Board that coordinating the new SMO promotional activities with the ongoing NTRA program is the most efficient and economical way of getting the new California marketing program up and running.

The SMO was created by SB 27, which directs .4 percent of the off-track handle within California to a "private, statewide marketing organization to market and promote thoroughbred and fair horse racing." The other SMO members are Craig Dado, the LATC vice president of marketing; Roger Hayes, chief financial officer for the Sonoma County Fair; Jim Ghidella, TOC deputy director for Northern California; and Corey Oakley, president of the National Orange Show. The membership reflects equal representation by racetracks, horsemen, and simulcast representatives.

Other promotional activities being considered include the promotion of specific simulcast facilities on local cable markets and promoting the benefits of racing in California as a way to attract horses and owners to the state.

The Board approved the license application for the Bay Meadows thoroughbred meet from January 21 through March 28, which will experiment with full-card simulcasting and no live racing on the first two Wednesdays of the meet (January 27 and February 3). Liebau said full racing cards from New York and Florida will be brought in those two "dark" days, along with the regular in-state simulcast signals. Another change will involve a 7:15 p.m. post for Friday programs beginning with the fourth Friday of the meet, February 12, which will be a holiday (Lincoln’s Birthday).

The CHRB Special Committee on Horse Racing, chaired by Commissioner Christo Bardis, has continued holding meetings with breeders, horsemen, and racing executives, and conducted another public meeting Thursday to discuss a list of 19 possible ways to improve horse racing in California.

Bardis and the other two members of the Committee, Commissioners Joseph Fenley and Jack Coffey, summarized their activities Friday. They also arranged for a demonstration of a piece of heavy construction machinery, which pulverizes asphalt and other hard substances, in this case the compacted soil of a racing surface, while providing a uniform sub-base. Bardis encouraged the racetrack executives to consider purchasing or leasing the equipment and using it to make all racing surfaces in California uniform and more safe for racing participants.

As a way to help increase field size, Bardis said that beginning with the new racing season December 26, trainers will be asked to submit to racing secretaries a weekly inventory of their horses that are ready to run — even those horses that are stabled off track at auxiliary facilities. Conversations with horsemen are continuing to determine exactly what information will be conveyed, such as the distance each horse is ready to run, the preferred race conditions, and so forth.

"We also are anticipating a change in procedures for the Vets List," said Bardis, referring to a proposal that horses scratched from a race would be prohibited from racing for an additional five days. This would help ensure that horses who are truly sick or injured would be given additional time to recover. It also would discourage the suspected practice by some horsemen of scratching horses for other than veterinary reasons but under the guise of health problems.

Bardis made brief references to other suggestions relating to turf racing during the fair season, purse restructuring, starter fees, and other matters that are largely under the purview of horsemen groups and racetrack management. He said the committee will continue to monitor those areas.

The Medication Committee reported that it is beginning a review of the Lasix rule and has authorized a study at the University of California at Davis involving the levels of procaine penicillin in exercised horses.

The Board approved the distribution of $425,969 by the Santa Anita Foundation to 55 beneficiaries and the distribution of $16,086 by the Horsemen’s Quarter Horse Racing Association Charity Foundation Inc. to nine beneficiaries. At least 20 percent of these funds will be distributed to racing-related charities.

The Board approved matters relating to off-site vanning and stabling in Northern and Southern California.

The Board congratulated the Oak Tree Racing Association for its outstanding meeting at Santa Anita, which set a new record for average daily handle.

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