Horse Racing

CHRB Spat Outbursts About Ferndale’s Future


Following a recent embezzlement arrest and a series of resignations by Humboldt County Fairgrounds Association executives, California Horse Racing Commission (CHRB) commissioner Thomas Hudnut on Thursday questioned whether the rider half a mile in Northern California known as Ferndale could operate the traditional race in late August in 2023.

Jim Morgan, legal counsel for the Humboldt County Fair, immediately offered assurances that Ferndale’s race would not be affected by the ongoing crime audit and regulatory overhaul.

And another CHRB member, vice president Oscar Gonzales, was quick to jump to Ferndale’s defense, accusing Hudnut of delivering a “low hit” simply for having raised his question about the relevance of the matter. finance and management of the fair.

That heated exchange grew out of a seemingly routine agenda item during the December 15 monthly meeting.

Back in October, the CHRB voted in a race date calendar 2023 for NorCal, largely reflects the framework from the 2022 schedule.

The only exception was that the board delayed deciding whether Ferndale would once again have to race for the second time in two weeks with overlapping competition from commercially licensed Golden Gate Fields.

The CHRB is prepared to decide on that matter on Thursday. But permit applicants have collectively asked for another month to try to strike a compromise so that the commissioners don’t have to impose. One major issue concerns stability.

But since that last CHRB meeting, Ferndale police on November 15 arrested the fairs association’s accountant, Nina Tafarella, on charges of embezzlement from the fair and another nonprofit. .

Then, on December 5, Rich Silacci, the general manager of the equity association, abruptly resigned. He claimed that his resignation was unrelated to the embezzlement arrest and that he had made the decision in advance based on work burnout.

Based on a story December 6 in the California-based North Coast Journal, “the fair’s books are currently being examined for evidence of embezzlement. Three longtime directors of the equity association have also resigned in the past few weeks, leaving four positions on the board.

The magazine wrote that according to Silacci’s final report to the board, the auditors were still looking at transactions worth several years, but the association’s bank statements showed a healthy balance. ‘just over a million dollars’, close to or before the balance that stood for the previous year.

“Given the mess at the Humboldt County Fair that we read about in the press recently, could Humboldt County hold the fair next summer?” Hudnut asked.

“Will it have enough staff?” Hudnut continued. “And maybe Humboldt should take a year off from racing?”

Morgan replied: “The answer is, we will handle the mess. I’m not sure about the extent of the problem when it broke out. Humboldt is committed to organizing the fair this year, next year and every year.

“Members have resigned, yes,” explains Morgan. “And general manager, that position will be renewed with a new individual. But the fair is still operating as usual and they are ready to move forward.”

Hudnut said he is confident that next month Morgan will be able to back up those guarantees with a more detailed plan for Ferndale’s race, especially as the board still has to vote on how to handle the potential date coincides with Golden Gate.

“Unless otherwise, I would have doubts about Humboldt’s ability to continue an effective race next summer,” said Hudnut.

Gonzales then spoke up.

“I don’t think it’s fair to ask if Humboldt is ready for the race,” Gonzales said. “Of course they are prepared to race. There have been some developments [pains].

“TOC just had some turmoil in their organization not too long ago,” Gonzales continued, referring indirectly to the resignations earlier this year of both the chairman of Thoroughbred Owners of California and a board member. board of directors. “I don’t see anyone asking if the TOC is suitable to represent.

“All organizations have their ups and downs. This is horse racing. And I don’t appreciate the low shots there,” Gonzales said, directing his remarks to Hudnut.

“I resent that,” Hudnut retorted. “I don’t think they’re condescending when you ask legitimate questions about what’s been in the press.”

Gonzales replied: “They are fit to race and they just need a little time to work things out. That is all.”

President Gregory Ferraro, DVM, then intervened to stop the controversy.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask them to resolve the issues next month, let us know the current status,” Ferraro said, announcing that discussion would be on the agenda. January.

Concluding, Morgan emphasized that “Humboldt is addressing and addressing the issues clearly. And I’m optimistic that we’ll get around that and be in the running for many years to come.”


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