Archives for January 11, 2019

Is Horse Racing Dead? Not Yet in No. California

Golden Gate Fields concluded its 2018 Fall Meet in strong fashion on Sunday, Dec. 9, as the track posted a robust 19 percent year to year gain in all sources pari-mutuel handle over the course of 30 racing days. The positive increase mirrors results in all sources handle achieved at this year’s Summer and Winter/Spring Meets, and further underscores the positive changes taking place as Golden Gate Fields now looks forward to its 2018-19 Winter/Spring Meet opener on Wednesday, Dec. 26.

Increases in out of state wagering and off-track betting helped contribute to a total Fall Meet handle of $99.7 million, well above the $83.6 million wagered in 2017.

“We had another great meet,” said Golden Gate Fields Vice President and General Manager, David Duggan. “We, first and foremost, greatly appreciate the support of our loyal fans and horseplayers. Additionally, the horsemen have been working tirelessly as have our front-side staff.

“At the end of the day, it takes a great team to make a successful racing product and we have a great team here. We have improved our product in many ways this year and we look forward to continued progress in 2019.”

Jonathon Wong was the leading trainer for the third meet in a row, making 28 trips to the Winner’s Circle. Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer finished second in the trainer standings with 15 wins.

“I give the credit to all of my help, my owners, and the horses,” said Wong. “2018 was a great year for our team. My grooms, exercise riders and assistants work their tails off every day. The owners let me put the horses in the right spots and luckily, many of our horses performed well in the afternoon.”

William “Billy” Antongeorgi III topped the jockey standings with 36 victories, one more than Abel Cedillo. The accomplishment marks Antongeorgi’s first-ever riding title at Golden Gate Fields.

“Billy works so hard,” said jockey agent Fernando “Shoes” Navarro, who has represented Antongeorgi since 2015. “He has a great work ethic and great personality. He has that ‘it’ factor as a rider. I’m really happy for him. He wasn’t in the last race of the meet (on Sunday), so we watched it together and it was emotional when it was official and we had won the riding title. We hugged and congratulated one another.”

With the its upcoming Winter/Spring Meet running from Dec. 26 through June 9, Golden Gate Fields has announced an increase in maiden special weight and allowance race purses, while also bumping up bottom level claiming and maiden claiming purses to a minimum of $10,000.

 

A Preview of the Oaklawn 2019 Meet

I enjoy going to Oaklawn Racing and Gaming on warm, sunny days when it’s nice to be outside watching the horses run. This was not one of those days. It was 39 degrees and the wind was whipping my hair around as I stood just outside the trainers’ stand. But the early morning sun was streaming low across the track and horses are beautiful creatures in any weather. Cold or not, I was excited to be here. It was just before Christmas – over a month before opening day of the 2019 racing season – but 807 horses, nearly half of those expected, were already on the grounds. I’d arrived at 7:30 a.m. to watch them run and discuss some highlights of this 115th year of Oaklawn – a year to go down in the history books for sure.

“There is definitely a buzz in the air going into this season,” said Media Relations Manager Jennifer Hoyt.

Some big announcements have been coming out of Oaklawn in recent months, most notably a $100 million-plus expansion. One of the largest hospitality investments in Arkansas’ history, it will include the construction of a high-rise hotel, an event center, and an expanded gaming area. Work on the project will begin following the completion of the 2019 racing season but there are several exciting things to look forward to this season as well, including three new stakes races and a shift in the 2019 racing schedule…