Golden Gate Fields Extension and Legislative Maneuvers: Racing into 2024

Golden Gate Fields Stays Open Until Mid-2024

Despite prior plans to close Golden Gate Fields at the end of the year, the Stronach Group has now decided to extend its operation for an additional six months, pushing the closure into the middle of 2024.

1/st Racing CEO’s Statement

Aidan Butler, the chief executive of 1/st Racing, has confirmed that the track will apply for racing dates for the first half of the next year. Unless unforeseen circumstances arise, the track is expected to secure these dates and then conclude its operations next summer, marking the end of an eight-decade-long era in racing.

“We are delighted that we could reach a resolution with our industry partners to maintain the operations of Golden Gate Fields for one last season,” said Butler in a statement released on Saturday.

Legislation Paves the Way

During a recent meeting of the California Horse Racing Board, Butler had raised the possibility of keeping Golden Gate open. In private discussions, it was revealed by sources not authorized to comment publicly that one condition for keeping the track operational was that industry stakeholders wouldn’t oppose legislation redirecting simulcast and ADW (advance deposit wagering) funds from Golden Gate to Southern California, particularly the TSG track Santa Anita.

This legislation, known as AB 1074, received approval from both chambers of the California legislature this week. It now awaits the signature or veto of Governor Gavin Newsom, with a deadline of October 14.

Saving Santa Anita

TSG had originally announced the scheduled closure of Golden Gate in mid-July as part of efforts to strengthen racing at Santa Anita. The historic Arcadia track, known for its scenic beauty, had been struggling to attract the larger fields favored by bettors. Most of its revenue came from ADW sources, which could be accessed remotely via phones and tablets, leaving the track looking deserted on weekdays.

Golden Gate Fields, situated in the Bay Area between Albany and Berkeley, operated on an average of just three days a week. The hope behind keeping Golden Gate operational was that horses from the track would move south, allowing Santa Anita to expand its racing schedule to four days.

However, this move was met with skepticism. Greg Ferraro, the chairman of the CHRB, expressed doubts in late July, saying, “I doubt that more than 20% of the horses would qualify to race in the south. I don’t think there is much support for $5,000 claimers down there.”

Waiting for Results

With the decision to delay the closure, it will take some time to determine whether the move to save Santa Anita by closing Golden Gate Fields is a wise decision, a last-ditch effort, or a combination of both. The outcome won’t become clear until late next year or sometime in 2025.

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