Despite announcing that Golden Gate Fields was closing at the end of the year, the Stronach Group has agreed to keep the horse racing track open another six months, into the middle of 2024.
Aidan Butler, chief executive of 1/st Racing, said the track will apply for racing dates for the first half of next year. Barring something unforeseen, the track likely will receive the dates and then close next summer after eight decades of racing.
“We are pleased we could work out a solution with our industry stakeholders to be able to keep Golden Gate Fields open for an additional and final meet,” Butler said in a statement Saturday.
Butler had floated the possibility during a California Horse Racing Board meeting last month to determine race dates. In private meetings, according to two people with knowledge of them who were not authorized to publicly comment, Butler said that one condition to keep Golden Gate open would be that industry stakeholders would not oppose any legislation that would move the simulcast and ADW (advance deposit wagering) money that normally would be handled by Golden Gate to Southern California, and fellow TSG track Santa Anita in particular.
The legislation was approved this week when AB 1074 was passed by both bodies of the California legislature. The bill still has to be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has until Oct. 14 to do so or veto the bill.
TSG announced the scheduled closing of Golden Gate in mid-July in an effort to shore up racing at Santa Anita. The historic and picturesque Arcadia track has struggled to summon the large fields found favorable to bettors. The once-vibrant track can appear like a ghost town during weekday racing as most of the track’s handle comes from ADWsources, which can be done remotely on phones or tablets.
The track runs an average of only three days a week. The hope is that horses that had been running at Golden Gate, which straddles Albany and Berkeley in the Bay Area, would come south and allow Santa Anita to go to four days of racing.
The move was met with skepticism.
Greg Ferraro, chairman of the CHRB, told The Times in late July: “No more than 20% of the horses would qualify to race in the south. I don’t think there is much support for $5,000 claimers down there.”
With the delay, it will be awhile to determine if the move to close Golden Gate and save Santa Anita is a smart decision or a Hail Mary, or a little bit of both. It won’t be known until late next year or sometime in 2025.