Sacramento, July 17 ~The addition of the Arabian Racing sponsorship money from the 2011 HH Sh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival has recently brought focus and new enthusiasm to beleaguered California Arabian race horse breeders and owners.
For many years California was the place to race for Arabian horses with two of the largest stakes races in the country, the Daughters of the Desert and the Drinkers of the Wind, both Grade 1. In recent years racing for the horse that has the oldest recorded lineage in the world (archaeological evidence of horses that resemble modern Arabians dates back 4,500 years) has suffered from many problems, not least of which are economic pressures to the industry. The incentives to breed and race in other states have enticed many owners to relocate, and California is now struggling to regain a foothold in its once glamorous and lucrative position.
Of recent, the Arabians are now running on the California Fair Circuit, on tracks that some claim are just as good as the larger tracks, and their racing season is now from June to October.
The Global Arabian Flat Racing Festival is bolstering Arabian Horse racing throughout America, Europe and the Middle East with added prize money for 42 races in 2011 which promises to almost double in 2012 and will include Australia on the calendar. California was given added prize money for five races called the Wathba Stud Farm Cup, which has given the Arabian Racing Association of California (ARAC) a boost and a connection to the International Arabian Racing scene. The first California race at the Alameda Fair in June was a judged a success and the venue was awarded an additional race with prize money of $25,000 in 2012. Larry Swartzlander, Director of Racing Operations for the California Authority of Racing Fairs said, “Representatives from Wathba Stud Farms working with ARAC packaged an exceptional promotion campaign and set up on-site displays and advertising promoting the race at Pleasanton. Staff from Alameda County Fair joined in promoting the race and the results were exceptional. Attendance was up 10% and handle 14%. The promotions surrounding the race drove home the point that Arabian Racing is alive and well and what is happening in California will further promote Arabian Racing in California as well as worldwide.”
The tentatively scheduled July 17 race at the Sacramento Fair was derailed when ARAC and AJC refused a race request by Dave Elliott, the Sacramento Fair Director of Racing, that would stage Arabians against mules. Accordingly, the Sacramento venue has been moved to the Humbolt County Fair in Ferndale on August 14. Santa Rosa will host the race on July 30. Two other races, one at Fairplex in Los Angeles on September 16, and a final in Fresno on October 8th will complete the bonus races for 2011. When I called Mr. Elliott to get his thoughts on the matter, he tried to redirect the conversation and refused to comment on the proposed Sacramento race, saying, “I refuse to comment. I’m done now,” and he hung up on me.
Kathy Smoke, the American Jockey Club President, supported the move from the Sacramento Fair venue. “Prior to the final Sacramento decision, Larry Swartzlander wrote a detailed letter to all the Fair managers describing the success of the Wathba Stud Farm Cup race in Pleasanton and encouraging them to follow Pleasanton’s lead in welcoming the sponsors,” she said. “Because of the reception given, Pleasanton was awarded for next year, The Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Cup, a race with the purse of 25,000.”
“The sponsor has told me how much they like California and they want to continue sponsoring races in California. As the AJC stated earlier, to produce races for Arabians against mules would be a direct insult to the heritage and culture of this part of the Arabian peninsula. They( UAE) are working very hard through theses series of sponsorships to bring knowledge to the different areas of the world about their culture and heritage, of which the Arabian breed plays a very prominent and important part.”
“I am sorry about losing the fair at Sacramento but they have taken a very short sighted approach to this issue, while AJC and ARAC are looking to the future of Arabian racing in the entire state of California. AJC along with ARAC feel that the work done on these added money sponsorships in 2011 is the beginning of a drive to bring Arabian racing back to the level it once enjoyed in the state of California.”
The Future of Arabian Racing in California can be helped by loweringInsurance Premiums
Kim Lloyd of Barretts Equine Ltd, manager of the Fairplex race track said in a recent interview, “California has a mystic. If you want to make a big splash with Arabian racing, you would do it here at Fairplex. The opportunity is here. We are the largest Country Fair in the nation. With the horse populations shrinking, we will have seven Arabian races this year. We like Arabian racing. It’s very competitive, the owners play by the rules, they follow through and are very helpful. If it were possible to throw money at an event, there should be an Arabian race day here and the races would have serious prize money.”
“California Arabian racing was once the largest Arabian racing in the US”, Lloyd continued. “Now California Arabian race owners are plagued by higher workman’s comp than many other race horse breeds, and the shrinking purses have meant fewer horses being bred for racing which has shrunk the Arabian industry.”
Susan Willis, President of ARAC, also sites insurance costs as one of the larger impediments to resurrecting Arabian Racing in a state with many good race tracks. “The California Workman’s Comp Insurance costs each Arabian trainer $375 over the start fee to run an Arabian horse in a race,” she said. “Fifteen years ago this amount was $160.00 for each start, in 2010 it was $335 and now will go to $375 in 2011”, she said. “We are the only state that makes the owner pay Workman’s Comp on a jockey. Arabian horses are grouped with with emerging breeds, even though they are the origin of the race horse. ARAC will continue to work to strengthen Arabian racing in California.”
“The support of the worldwide Arabian Global Festival will only enhance the International aspect of Arabian racing for America,” adds Denise Gault, Arabian Racing Cup Board Steward member.