Richard Shapiro: Chairman, California Horse Racing Board

[image url=""]Richard Shapiro[/image]

Shapiro has served as chairman of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) since January 1, 2006. Since being appointed to the CHRB in 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Shapiro has been extremely active as a racing commissioner, spending a great deal of his personal time on some of the serious issues facing racing today. In the past few years, he has met with industry leaders and others to resolve issues relating to Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW), assisted Santa Anita Park in its efforts to obtain permits for the replacement of barns in its stable area, and met or spoke almost daily with Board executives.

Over the last two years, Shapiro was the driving force behind the CHRB mandate to install engineered synthetic surfaces at major thoroughbred tracks. He spearheaded the push to develop a strategic plan for racing in California.

Shapiro, who in 1996 founded Winco Real Estate Services, Inc, a Calabasas-based real estate development and asset management company, has a long association with California horse racing. His grandfather, L.K. Shapiro, formed Western Harness Racing. His father, Marvin J. Shapiro, was responsible for legislation that legalized night horse racing in California. And Shapiro himself served as president of Western Harness in the early 1980s. His current term on the CHRB expires July 26, 2008.

Alameda, CA:
Since whenever I go to the California Racing Fairs I see tracks packed with crowds of young adults and families, what can California racing and/or the CHRB do to keep those persons' interest in racing throughout the rest of the year? What can be done to generally put racing more in front of the general public? I have and I also have heard some ideas but do not know if NTRA and/or individual tracks have deaf ears. I know bettors do not have much of a pipeline to the various racing entities of any kind or at any level. Would a bettors' organization help? Thank you.

Before joining the CHRB I must admit I hadn't been to any of our racing fairs. Over the last few years I have made a point to visit them, including last year Ferndale a one of a kind experience. Your observation is correct, it is great to see all of the families, kids with grandparents, and the up close and personal feel of our fair racing. I believe this is the breeding ground for racing's future fans, and we need to keep them engaged in the sport. I know many of our fairs go to great extremes to market racing as the highlight of the fairs in addition to top name entertainment. CARF ( Calif. Assoc of Racing Fairs ) does work year round to promote racing, and they also work with all of the other stakeholders in the industry. Many of our fairs also offer simulcasting and wagering throughout the year hoping to keep fans engaged. I'm not sure what you mean when you say a Bettor's organization, but I certainly do welcome suggestions and fan involvement in telling us what would be of interest.

Chicago, IL:
Why does Del Mar only have one pick 4 and the other major tracks in California have two pick 4's ?

That is a business decision on their part, and I suggest you contact them at They are great track operators and promoters of the game, I am sure they would welcome hearing from you.

Katy, TX:
Mr. Shapiro thank you so much for answering our questions. I know Lava Man is one of the greatest horses to ever run in this country on dirt, turf, or the new synthetic surfaces. A seven time grade one winner all at the classic distance of a mile and a quarter facing just as good if not better horses than those running on the east coast, carrying high weight in almost every one of them battling like the champion he is. He has done things no other horse has ever done nor will ever do, and still he gets no respect. When he won his third Gold Cup, it was barely even acknowledged, except in California, and I as a racing fan was outraged. Do you think he will ever get the respect he most definitely deserves, and why is there still such an east coast bias after all these years?

We agree, Lava Man has been a very rare and wonderful horse. I for one certainly respect him and agree he deserves as much respect as any horse. He is a battler, runs his heart out, and has given us many thrills. I love the geldings that stick around and throw it down every time. As to the eastern bias, I don't understand it, but I have been fortunate to personally enjoy many of Lava Man's performances. ( PS. I wasn't rooting for him to win his 3rd Gold Cup for personal reasons, but I gave him a standing ovation when he did. See next question and you'll know why. )

San Clemente, CA:
Mr. Shapiro, please tell me that you are related to the late "great" owners Mr. & Mrs. L.K. Shapiro of Native Diver fame? That horse and era in racing still sends chills up my spine!!! What a great horse he was... I am currently 53 years old and will never ever forget Harry Henson's call of his races... Chills....

Mr. and Mrs. L.K. Shapiro were my grandparents. I am 54 years old, so we grew up with the same thrills and chills, although I did have the advantage of a special perspective. It was that experience that has stayed with me all of my life and is the reason that I love this game as I do, and why I wanted to be connected to the sport. I think Harry Henson's ' And There They Go, Native Diver is going to the front...' is emblazoned in my brain.

Lake Forest, IL:
Hello Mr. Shapiro, Pick 6 carryovers and now the Super High 5 carryovers at So. California tracks are the talk of all the players at the OTB that I manage in Chicago. Last week at Gulfstream the pick 6 paid 4 of 6 and only $9,000 was carried over. Why is the Pick 6 (and now Super High 5) so successful in So. California and other major tracks like Gulfstream struggle to get anything in the pool worth playing ? Please enlighten me on any secrets! Thank you.

I honestly don't know why it is a California phenomenon. I would guess it is the size of our pools attracts people to wager on them, but honestly I just don't know.

Louisville, KY:
Everyone says that Hollywood Park will close by next year. I wish it wouldn't because Hollywood Park is a very historical track and can't afford to be torn down. Are you going to fight to keep it open?

I too wish Hollywood Park would not close. I have incredible memories of Hollywood Park, and my office was there for over 10 years when my family operated the harness meet there. I feel like I grew up there, and the thought of it being gone is, well, awful. But, I must admit that I think its days as a race track are likely numbered for a variety of reasons, including the inability for California to have alternative forms of gaming similar to other "racino" states. I don't think anyone relishes the notion of it being closed, but the property was sold for approximately $265 million and racing in its current state can't create enough income to justify the property remaining a track. I am hoping it will be a few more years, but that is a decision the owners of the property will make.

Louisville, KY:
What are you doing about the synthetic track issue that has hit southern California? Do you feel a switch back to dirt is the prudent thing for Santa Anita?

Wow, where do I start to answer this question!! First of all, Santa Anita is up and going and the track as of this writing is terrific from those I have heard from, lets hope it stays that way through the remainder of their meeting. We have put in place all the regulatory steps necessary to protect all possible situations as a precaution. As you likely know, I have been an advocate for safer surfaces for both horse and rider.. Lets not also forget the investment of Breeders, Owners, Trainers and fans, all who support this industry. We as an industry must do everything we can to provide the best possible surfaces to preserve and protect our most precious commodity, the horse. Honestly, I don't care what surface horses race on, we need to simply make every surface as safe as we possibly can. On February 20th the CHRB held a comprehensive Special Purpose meeting devoted to discussing our track surfaces, with all segments of the industry participating. Over 40 people addressed the issues from every perspective. I urge you to take the time to view this meeting. By the way, our meetings are web cast and you can see the meeting if you missed it by going to the CHRB website:

Los Angeles, CA:
I read recently that there may be a more conciliatory tone between the Indian casinos and the racetracks now that the casino vote has passed in favor of the four Indian tribes. Can you tell me why the casino operators would want to help the tracks, and if they did, how would they do it?

Honestly, I think you are right and wrong with respect to there being a more conciliatory tone with the tribes. Most of the California stakeholders did not 'fight' the tribes on the recent compacts, and I believe that the tribes recognizing that will be more receptive to working with racing to find ways to help racing. What form of help, be it subsidies, sponsorships, or not being opposed to new racing oriented games at tracks I don't know. No one knows, including me, what will transpire, but I was of the opinion that fighting the tribes on expanding their games at their reservations was not something I supported. We need to find 'win win' solutions.

New York, NY:
You have stated that "more science" is required relative to synthetic surfaces however you have not invited any scientists to the meeting. Why not?

Dr. J.P. Bardet, and Dr. Michael Peterson are both scientists and participated in the forum this week. Each of the manufacturers also uses does their own research and science, which those purchasing their product can and should review. Additionally, there are vets that are studying synthetic versus dirt surfaces at UC Davis in California, in terms of anatomy and injuries.

Davis, CA:
Chairman Shapiro, You and the current members of the CHRB Board have been justifiably praised for your holistic approach to improving the safety of horse racing (toe grabs restrictions, mandatory synthetic surfaces, and improved drug testing policies). Will the CHRB Board to continue in this role of leadership, and follow the recently enacted Ontario Racing Commission medication rule that "suspends" any horse for 90 days that tests positive for a non-therapeutic drug (i.e. a banned Class 1, 2 or 3 drug and/or excessive total carbon dioxide levels)? Keep up the good work!

Thank you, it is very much appreciated to be praised for our efforts. We are in the final throws of approving the RMTC guidelines for medication penalties. These guidelines are intended to be fair and provide equal treatment to all, but they are also quite severe for repeat offenders and those that choose to cheat.

Henderson, NV:
We know that the composition of these synthetic surfaces includes many known carcinogens and causers of lung disease. Are you at all concerned about the long term health consequences for jockeys as they are exposed to years of breathing the fine particles ground up during races?

Of course we are concerned that jockeys or anyone be exposed to known carcinogens. However the studies I am aware of pertaining to our tracks do not show that such a risk exists.

Dry Ridge, KY:
A commentary in the Blood Horse 12/11/07 "Oh Me, Oh Myectomy" written by Cot Campbell, talks about how a few of his younger trainers are running up huge vet bills on the horses in their care. He mentioned this trend is becoming alarmingly high. Do you think trainers should be forced to disclose treatments and procedures to the betting public?

My concern here is at what point do we draw the line at disclosure to the wagering public? I believe in full transparency, but let's say in a workout prior to a race the horse lost a shoe, should that be disclosed? I will tell you that I firmly support that horses should have medical records that are transferred with the animal when it changes ownership. To do this will be difficult and would require some legal indemnities except for fraud type issues.

Since race commission labs can NOT test for cobra venom {which is 1,000 times stronger than morphine} nor can they test for carbidopa or levadopa, when are race commissioners going to implement pre-race security detention barns so that there is integrity?

I'm not qualified to answer this question with regards to medication testing, but if you write Dr. Scott Stanley at the Maddy Lab UC Davis. With respect to pre-race detention barns, there are many trainers and owners who do not support this as it would upset the horses by taking them out of their environment. I don't think we are ready to tackle that issue at this time.

Newark, DE:
When your term of Chairman expires on July 26th, do you have any plans of being involved in the horse racing industry? Do you own any race horses?

When my original term expires I would hope to remain involved in the industry it is my passion. At this time I own half of one racing horse, and have a mare and her 2-year-old, yearling and soon a foal.

Del Mar, CA:
Are you satisfied with the investigatory abilities of the CHRB and/or TRPB in cracking down on potential drug cheats stabled at racetracks or off-site training centers? If not, what can be done to improve in this area?

This is a very difficult question for me as I don't think I am ever satisfied as long as anyone tries to cheat. However, I think it is a very small percentage that try, and they soil the game for all of us. The Investigators have an incredibly tough job. We don't have enough of them due to budget issues, and they have to "police" so many venues. In California, the law requires that our Investigators be Peace Officers, and that too makes it more difficult as many Peace Officers don't walk in with "horse sense" having not worked on the backside before.

Albuquerque, NM:
What do you see as the principal reason that the California foal crop has taken such a precipitous decline in numbers in the last year reported?

Economics plain and simple. The cost of raising horses has become so expensive that until we can get our purses up it will remain challenging.

Miami, FL:
Do you have any concerns about what happens to California racing if Magna Entertainment's financial problems worsen? Is there anything the CHRB can do if MEC files for bankruptcy?

Of course. Magna is a major player in California and it would have a huge impact if something happened to them.

Sunnyvale, CA:
Has there been any progress in finding a replacement for Bay Meadows by 2009? I've heard Pleasanton could stable more horses to compensate for the loss of Bay Meadows as a training center. I've also heard Pleasanton could receive additional racing dates. Either possibility would require capital improvements, and 2009 is only 10 months away.

It appears you are well informed. As it stands now, there is not a final determination as to the closure of Bay Meadows but the operators of the track have indicated 2008 is the last year for this venerable racing venue. The industry stakeholders are meeting to review all alternatives, and I expect we will hear from them very soon as you are correct time is becoming critical.

Baltimore, MD:
I commend the effort the California Horse Racing Board attempting to create safer racing surfaces, but in saying that do you stand behind the deadline that was placed on all tracks in California? All synthetic surfaces put in use in California have experienced issues. It seems the catastrophic injuries are down, but has any data been recorded on non catastrophic career ending injuries. Sources at one track claim they have taken more horses off in the horse ambulance during training than before an artificial surface was installed. Do you have any information, or could you comment on any new injuries being discovered? At Golden Gate there was a rash of breakdowns before maintenance procedures where changed could some of these issues been reduced by having experience in maintaining a product rather than rushing to install a new product?

You have asked a series of questions here, and they all deserve answers. I hope that you will take the time to watch the web cast of our Special Purpose Meeting held this week which hopefully addressed most of these questions. For me the bottom line is that we as an industry have an obligation to strive for the safest possible surfaces. I am certainly disappointed in some aspects of Synthetics to date, but I still believe they hold promise for both the present and the future. Maintenance is key, as shown at Golden Gate, and it would appear to me that differing climates dictate different protocols. Again, please go to watch the web cast of our meeting on this subject and I hope your answers will be better addressed.

Lawrenceburg, KY:
It is a given that racehorses adjust their skeletal structure based on the amount of stress they incur from the surface over which they train. Is it widely understood that every time the surface over which horses train and race is changed, that racehorses need a period of time to adjust to this new surface and that every time it is changed the risk of injury increases?

This sounds like a statement not a question. But, as a layman, I tend to agree with you.

Arcadia, CA:
If Bay Meadows runs next year will they be required to install a synthetic main track or will you give them another one-year waiver if they request it?

Ah, I was wondering if this was going to be asked! Honestly, that is a decision that the full Board will have to consider when and if it is raised. I'm not going to speculate.

Lexington, KY:
Do you believe that a properly built, well-maintained dirt track can be a safe surface?

Absolutely. I also think that the volume of activity is critical to any surface. If the same dirt or synthetic ovals are used day in and day out, and not refreshed, they all will lose their resiliency. The base of every track needs to be good and level, and the cushion needs to provide sufficient protection and bounce for the horses. There are many other factors including composition of the soil, slope, etc, but the answer to your question is yes.

Louisville, KY:
Thanks for taking questions Mr. Shapiro. The game we all love is under intense pressure because of the rampant use of legal and illegal drug use. Is there a way to stop the problem of drugs in our game?

Well, I admit I am more of a purist and am disappointed that we permit some drugs now that are commonly used. I have heard arguments on both sides of the issue, and honestly, I still believe that some drugs like Lasix and Clenbuterol that have therapeutic benefits are used more as performance enhancers than for what they were originally intended for. I think the incidence of Class 1 drugs, those that have no therapeutic benefit are very rare. But let's face it, we have to do a better job of policing ourselves or the public will lose confidence in our game.

San Antonio, TX:
On Saturday, February 16 at Santa Anita before the last race of the day, I noticed the Pick 6 will pays. The will pays showed 4 horses that if they were the winner would achieve a winning 6 of 6 ticket. The problem was that the payoff totals made no mathematical sense. Can you explain why one horse showed a will pay of 424,000, two horses showed a will pay of 420,000 and the last horse showed a will pay of 211,000. Is this another example of an insecure tote system that many horseplayers suspect of being tampered with after the close of betting?

Kirk, I am going to suggest someone from Santa Anita answer your query. We both will be interested in the answer. However I do not think we will find that there was a problem with the integrity of the tote system.

Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, U.K.:
Dear Mr. Shapiro, Hi there! You are doing a great job! How many people are actively involved in getting Santa Anita ready for The Breeders' Cup? Have you decided what surface to use? How long will it take to get it put down satisfactorily? Do you think the majority of horses will act ok on the surface with Santa Anita being the host to the next two Breeders' Cups?

I really don't know how many people will be involved in getting the Great Race Place ready for the next two Breeders' Cups, but I can assure you it will be polished and ready. On our side of the pond, there is no more beautiful track. I don't know what the exact surface will be for Breeders Cup given the difficulties of late, but I am confident that the management of Santa Anita along with the horsemen will ensure that a safe and great surface is ready to host these wonderful events. I am also confident that horses from all over the globe will enjoy our climate, the environment and our racing surfaces. I can hardly wait!

Arlington Heights, IL:
Thanks for taking our questions Richard. I've read so many wonderful things over the years about the importance of Native Diver to the state of California and the love people had for him. Forty years later, in your opinion, how does the sentiment for Lava Man compare or differ?

Now do you really think I can be objective? Well, I will try. At the time Native Diver raced there was no simulcasting and no off track wagering, so everyone was at the track. The stands were packed, and it was common to have no less than 50,000 people in attendance when he raced. Track operators used to say that an extra 10-15,000 people would show up when he raced. Add to that his style of going to the front and saying catch me if you can, added to the excitement of see this nearly jet black horse in front. Lava Man has been an exceptional racehorse, and I try not to miss any of his races. We need stars in the game, we need people horses and both of these horses had that quality. There is no doubt people love to see Lava Man, but the game is different today.

Portland, OR:
Why not one good state of the art dirt track in California? Say Santa Anita. It seems like it would add something to California racing over the long run.

I have said repeatedly I am not opposed to a dirt track, so long as it is as safe as possible. The reason our Mandate was a rule, not a law, was to provide flexibility if necessary. We need to keep our minds open always to finding the best possible surfaces for the benefit of everyone.

Los Angeles, CA:
Why has the CHRB refused to pass rules which ban the barbaric practice of heel nerving horses in California?

The Board has heard this matter and deferred making a decision on this subject awaiting more input. This matter is on our agenda for February 28th. So you know, this procedure is not widely viewed as barbaric, but rather, most bets believe it to be of benefit to a horse that has a chronic issue with pain. It is a partial neurectomy, which means that only one of many sensory nerves is deadened. Many horses that have had this procedure lead productive healthy lives in many equine disciplines, the issue facing us is whether we should allow it in horse racing.

Salinas, CA:
Can you tell us why the ADW Premier Turf Club hasn't been approved in California. They have some wagering features that I think would be great to use, if I were able to utilize their services.

I don't know this ADW company, and to my knowledge they have not applied to be licensed in California. They also need to work out an agreement with the California horsemen and a track so they have content to wager on in California.

Los Angeles, CA:
Thank you for taking the time for this forum. As the main representative of the California racing community, what will you do to prevent the destruction of Hollywood Park? And what will be done to get a Breeder's Cup back at its inaugural track? I believe your mission statement includes preserving, improving and promoting racing here in California. Thank you.

There isn't really anything I, or the CHRB, can do to save Hollywood Park. It is privately owned, and the current owners paid around $265 million for the property. Unfortunately, the current economics of racing don't support that value, so they will look to other ways to achieve an acceptable return on investment which likely will mean redeveloping the property for non racing purposes. I wish it wasn't so, but without alternative revenue streams similar to many other tracks around the country ( racinos ) I don't see much light for saving this wonderful institution.

Harrisburg, PA:
Why didn't the CHRB ban Patrick Valenzuela for life a long time ago? Doesn't Valenzuela's situation send a bad message about the horse racing industry when we give a jockey dozens of chances to get clean?

We are a governmental agency and as as such we don't have the right to take actions that would violate anyone's constitutional rights. We are required, as we should be, to allow for due process, and in cases like this third parties beyond our control or jurisdiction will decide matters. People don't realize that many cases are decided by Administrative Law Judges that are part of our State judicial system, not the CHRB. Personally, if racing was organized differently similar to other sports, we could make decisions about issues like this, and I would be much happier and I think it would be better for the sport. It is very frustrating!

Lexington, KY:
Mr. Shapiro thank you for taking the time to answer all our questions. I am sure the biggest topic of discussion today will be the synthetic surface in California. How do you feel about big owners such as Zayat leaving California because of the synthetic? Has there been more owners/trainers that moved tack?

I have never met or spoken to Mr. Zayat and only read his comments. I think he has made a mistake and would enjoy the opportunity to discuss it with him some day. I am unaware of other owners leaving the state; to the contrary, we have some of the biggest names in the game out here for the first time.

Louisville, KY:
Thank you for taking the time to join the forum. My question is conditioned on a hypothetical, albeit a plausible one. In the best interest of the safety of the horse, if it is determined in the next few years that one form of synthetic track is safer than the others in terms of eliminating more non-catastrophic, race ending injuries, would the CHRB take the next step and mandate that all tracks shift to that particular form of synthetic surface? Why or why not?

I don't think we can dictate what vendor should be selected by anyone, that would not be proper for a Governmental agency. However, it there is a component that is found to be unsafe, we could decide, after proper hearings and deliberations, that something should not be permitted. Its kinda like the Jockeys whips, we don't tell them what brand to buy, but we have lots of rules on how long, fat, and other features they can have.

Studio City, CA:
How much longer must we wait for additional off track betting locations? I recently was shut out at Hollywood Park due to a 90 minute wreck on the 405.

Legislation was signed into law at the end of last year that will permit new mini satellite locations. I know that some people are working on this, and in fact at our next Board meeting this will be discussed. I suggest you watch our meeting on the web.

Reno, NV:
Hello Mr. Shapiro, Concerning the drainage problem at Santa Anita: Are we to assume that the designers and installers of the cushion were totally unaware of the possible (and now real) drainage problems when you signed on to have it installed?

This is a difficult question because I am angry over what happened at Santa Anita. Cushion Track assured us the track would be great, they assured us it would drain, and they assured us they would stay on top of the installation and performance of the surface. In my mind, none of that has proven to be true. They are MIA and have been for a long time. It appears they used sand that has silt and clay, which everyone knew was wrong. If they had used the proper sand, I do not believe we would have the problems at Santa Anita.

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