03/30/2007 12:00AM

Bay Meadows president rejects compromise


SAN MATEO, Calif. - F. Jack Liebau, president of the Bay Meadows Racing Association, dimmed any hopes that the track would race next year by rejecting on Friday the possibility of a compromise with the California Horse Racing Board over a requirement to install a synthetic surface by Jan. 1.

After meeting with Northern California horsemen on Thursday, Richard Shapiro, chairman of the racing board, said he would ask the board to consider a one-year exemption for the track if Bay Meadows guaranteed it would remain open for racing in 2008.

On Friday, Liebau responded by saying: "He knows we are not going to do that. He's posturing. There's no way the [Bay Meadows] Land Company can make that understanding. It has a fiduciary duty to its investors."

At a meeting last week, the board voted 4-2 to deny a request by Bay Meadows for a two-year exemption from the new requirement, which the board imposed for safety reasons. At the meeting, Bay Meadows officials would not promise the track would remain open for the two years. Afterward, Liebau said Bay Meadows would not request racing dates for 2008.

Shapiro, who voted against the two-year exemption, said Thursday that the vote did not rule out a compromise.

"We were asked to vote on a specific item," he said. "That didn't foreclose the opportunity to look for some alternatives."

Shapiro floated the compromise at a private meeting with horsemen at a hotel here on Thursday night.

The Bay Meadows Land Co., which owns the track, has said it plans to develop the 100-acre property for residential and commercial purposes in the next few years, and Liebau said the company would not spend the estimated $8 million needed to install a synthetic surface.

Liebau contended that the board was wrong in denying the track's initial request for a two-year exemption.

"It's a simple question - it's the most important question," Liebau said Friday. "Is it in the best interest of racing to shut down Bay Meadows on Nov. 4? Shutting Bay Meadows down one day earlier than need be seems not in the best interest of racing."

Bay Meadows, which opened in 1934, is scheduled to close at the end of its fall meeting, on Nov. 4. Liebau said no decision had been made on whether to keep the barn area open past that date.

Liebau said he explained the track's position to Bay Meadows employees at a meeting last Sunday, citing static revenues and rising expenses that make the track only one-third as profitable as it was five years ago.