The big players in California horse racing will gather next Tuesday to hash out the future of racing in Southern California.
At the moment, it looks like the Oak Tree Racing Association — which has been running races at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia for 40 years — will be heading elsewhere.
Santa Anita's owner, Frank Stronach, voided his lease with Oak Tree in a bankruptcy proceeding in April. Since then, the parties have been trying to work out a new agreement. But the talks appear to be going nowhere, leaving open the possibility that there won't be live racing at Santa Anita this fall for the first time in decades.
Of course, horse racing has been in decline for many years. But the idea that Santa Anita would be empty come the fall would be an especially stark illustration of that. The track has been running since 1934, and once upon a time drew tens of thousands of spectators, including Hollywood stars.
Stronach has been trying to revitalize the place by partnering with Rick Caruso to build an open-air mall in the (mostly vacant) parking lot. But thanks to the bankruptcy, that too, appears to be off, as Stronach tries to restructure his deals.
So instead of having a new mall next to a functioning racetrack, Arcadia is looking at having a big empty parking lot next to an OTB parlor, with nary a horse in the paddocks.
At Tuesday's much-anticipated CHRB meeting, Stronach is expected to lay out a plan for the future of California horse racing. Hollywood Park, in Inglewood, is slated for demolition after the 2010 season, which could put Stronach in a stronger position come 2011, argues Lenny Shulman of Blood Horse Magazine:
Stronach, though, figures to be sitting pretty once Hollywood Park cedes to the wrecking ball; if Santa Anita cops those dates, it can run 10 months a year.
If that's not good enough, or doesn't happen quickly enough, some believe Stronach will attempt to shutter Santa Anita for as long as it takes to get favorable terms from the CHRB.
Well, if the Rams and Raiders can both leave L.A. at the same time, then anything is possible.