07/03/2007 12:00AM

Bay Meadows gets exemption


The California Horse Racing Board voted 5-0 in a special telephone conference call Tuesday to waive its mandate that racetracks must have a synthetic surface to operate in 2008, agreeing to a one-year exemption for Bay Meadows.

According to Jack Liebau, president of Bay Meadows Racing Association, the next step will be to reach an agreement on dates for Bay Meadows to race in 2008. Questioned after the conference call, Liebau said that the dates would play a pivotal role in whether the track would race next year, and that dates earlier in the year would be beneficial.

Representatives of Golden Gate Fields, Bay Meadows, and the Northern California fairs have met to try to work out a 2008 schedule, but nothing has been drawn up as Golden Gate Fields awaits the status of its project to install a Tapeta synthetic track.

Tuesday was the final day for groups to file petitions to stop Golden Gate Fields from beginning immediate installation of the surface. The track has city permits to install the track and is donating the dirt from the main track to the city for youth ball fields. As of noon Pacific time on Tuesday, no injunction had been sought, but a request could be made any time before the closing of business hours for the city of Albany, the site of Golden Gate Fields.

The California Horse Racing Board has mandated that all tracks running meets of four weeks or more have a synthetic surface installed by Jan. 1, 2008. It rejected a request for a two-year exemption by Bay Meadows at a meeting last March, prompting an announcement from Bay Meadows that the track would not seek dates to race in 2008. In May, state Sen. Leland Yee, whose San Mateo district includes Bay Meadows, successfully had the racing board's funding withdrawn by a Senate subcommittee. Track management and the board later began discussing the compromise of a one-year exemption.

On the Tuesday's conference call, the racing board's chairman, Richard Shapiro, its vice chairman, John Harris, and commissioners Marie Moretti, John Andreini, and Jess Choper all voted in favor of the exemption. Commissioners Jerome Moss and John Amerman did not participate.

Liebau said that Bay Meadows had been adding polymer fibers to its main track dirt surface to soften the track and make it safer for horses.