05/02/2004 11:00PM

All turf, all the time - for 4 days at least


When did Atlantic City Race Course get relocated to the French countryside?

The track, founded by Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and other celebrities in 1944, will run for all of four days this year, spread out over two weeks. All the races will be run on the grass, with two of the racing days devoted exclusively to steeplechases. That kind of schedule sounds more like racing on the outskirts of Paris than racing near the Jersey Shore boardwalk.

And by the way, betting on the track's races will only be available on track.

This is the Atlantic City Race Course of 2004. The track, which opens on Wednesday, has held abbreviated race meets for three years in order to retain its simulcast license, and, due to the high costs of providing uplink services for simulcasting to sites out-of-state - and, in this case, other sites in New Jersey - none of the track's races will be offered outside of the track's grandstand.

"We'll make a go of it," said Sal Sinatra, the racing secretary.

Atlantic City is owned by Greenwood Racing, also the owner of Philadelphia Park, humble home of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones. Greenwood purchased Atlantic City in 2001 when the track's future looked in doubt.

In order to be able to offer simulcast wagering year-round under New Jersey law, Atlantic City must run 10 days of live racing each year. Technically, it will, although six of those racing days will be run at Monmouth Park. Purse revenues derived from simulcasting at Atlantic City during the year goes to Monmouth's racing program.

Atlantic City's opening-day card will feature six steeplechase races, with entries being taken by the National Steeplechase Association. The track will then close for six days before opening again on May 11 for two consecutive days of flat racing for Thoroughbreds. Seven races will be offered each flat-racing day.

Then there's a six-day break, with a final day of steeplechase racing on May 19, including the Grade 3 Don LeVine Memorial Stakes. The steeplechase days are being held with a two-week break in order to give horses who raced on the first day of the meet a chance to run back on the last day.

"The NSA is trying to give horses an opportunity to become eligible for the steeplechase races at Saratoga, so they thought that was the best schedule," Sinatra said, referring to the regular jump races held at Saratoga Racecourse in upstate New York during its six-week summer meet.

Post time is 2 p.m. Eastern every day, with races run every half-hour.