Horse racing officials have settled a 2008 race date schedule, paving the way for races at Bay Meadows race track in San Mateo despite its refusal to install synthetic turf.
San Mateo County Fair officials met the announcement with relief, after earlier worries that the annual event would lose attendance and money without horse racing as a draw.
"It’s wonderful to have the dates. They will give us the revenue we need to support the fair. It wouldn’t be the same without them,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill who sits on the fair board.
The California Horse Racing Board must still approve the calendar which includes dates during the annual August fair. The proposed schedule includes 70 races at Bay Meadows and 120 races at Golden Gate Fields in Albany. The dates are Aug. 6 to Aug. 18, starting slightly before the beginning of the 2008 fair.
Earlier this year, it looked unlikely Bay Meadows would have any race dates at all. The CHRB mandated in 2006 all racing associations with four weeks or more of continuous racing have a synthetic surface to be granted a license in 2008. Hollywood Park, also owned by Bay Meadows Land Company, already installed the new track. Del Mar is in the process and both Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita are planning to install it this year.
Bay Meadows, however, felt it unnecessary to spend $8 million to $10 million when the facility is slated for demolition and renovation.
In March, the CHRB voted not to grant Bay Meadows a two-year waiver to its synthetic turf installation mandate — a decision that would see Bay Meadows close this November, eliminating more than 500 jobs and the tax revenue for local governments the track provides. In July, the board changed its position and voted 5-0 in favor of granting dates despite the turf battle.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution May 22 calling on the horse racing board to reconsider its March decision. Horse racing and satellite wagering was hosted at Bay Meadows during the county fair in the past. Without race dates from the horse racing board, the county couldn’t even offer satellite wagering at the San Mateo County Event Center. The loss means about $500,000 in revenue gone from the fair budget.
The absence of racing wouldn’t spell the end of the fair but would greatly minimize its offerings, fair officials said at the time.
Although the final vote is pending, Hill said he and others believe it will be ratified.
"I don’t think there’s any reason it won’t be,” Hill said. "Of course, I’ve been surprised before.”
Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.