Vic Zast

From the perspective of being an owner, an industry pioneer in corporate sponsorship, a track president and fan, Vic Zast writes the "Destinations" column for The Blood-Horse. His five-star ratings of international events have shed light on racing in all corners of the globe - from England, Australia, Hong Kong, Dubai to Japan.

Vic is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com, a columnist for the Illinois Racing News and has written on racing for ESPN.com, National Public radio and The Age, Australia's leading daily.

Vic makes his home in Chicago and lives in Saratoga Springs in August.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010


On the Second Day of Christmas, California Revival


(CHICAGO, IL – December 14, 2010) Optimism is in the air at Santa Anita. The re-installment of a dirt track has had an emotion-propping effect. A rise in takeout is being touted for enabling purses to increase 25 percent. But don’t overreact - the California sun isn’t shining on horse racing.

Zenyatta stirred the fan base and now the once-beaten mare is gone. Yet, the departure of a charismatic horse is the least of the state’s concerns. This past year, attendance at tracks was abysmal, fields were small, purses tumbled, dates were cancelled, handle suffered (it’s two-thirds of what it was a decade ago) and the Breeders’ Cup, which was poised for a long run at Santa Anita, was lost when the landlord pulled the rug out from under his tenant.

In addition, the mystery of Hollywood Park’s future remains. The new home of Oak Tree was scheduled to be converted to condos long ago. Del Mar, the lone bright spot, wants to race more but can’t convince trainers that its track is okay. The recent closing of Bay Meadows has left only one major racetrack up north. The owners won’t join together with trainers in one organization. A fight for dates looms.

If this situation isn’t bad enough, the tracks have zero chance at getting slot machines to augment their battle against rising costs. The state legislature has failed to approve revenue sharing with the Native American tribes that are operating casinos. And the lobby in support of the casinos is too powerful to fight. Moreover, exchange wagering has been greenlighted. The system, which permits people to bet against horses winning, opens wide the probability of corruption, race fixing and reduced racetrack revenue.

Is a leading role for California in horse racing’s revival too much to wish for, dear Santa? The Sport of Kings in our country’s most populous state, with its glorious lore of Seabiscuit, Shoemaker,Whittingham and Baze, would fit the bill perfectly. It once did and it can again.

This is the second installment in a 12-part series. For the “First Day of Christmas” wish, go to http://bit.ly/faDoFC. Return to TrackWords tomorrow for the “Third Day of Christmas.”


Written by Vic Zast

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