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.
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.”