06/06/2002 11:00PM

California delays fair ruling


SAN MATEO, Calif - The California Horse Racing Board on Thursday postponed a decision on a controversial proposal for the Los Angeles County Fair to conduct its 17-day 2002 racing meeting at Santa Anita instead of Fairplex Park in Pomona.

The board voted unanimously to hold a special meeting sometime this month in the Pomona area to discuss the issue. The vote was taken after a motion not to allow the move was defeated in a 3-3 vote, with one commissioner abstaining.

Santa Anita and Fairplex reached an agreement last month to run the Sept. 13-29 fair meeting at Santa Anita. The deal needs CHRB approval.

The deal has faced opposition from much of the local racing industry. Del Mar, the Oak Tree Racing Association, which operates a meet at Santa Anita, and Hollywood Park all spoke out against the move, as did the Thoroughbred Owners of California. A poll of trainers by the California Thoroughbred Trainers found that group opposed by a 3-1 ratio, the group's executive director, Ed Halpurn said.

At Thursday's meeting, Alan Landsburg, the board's chairman, chided all parties for submitting materials too late for board members to study them.

James Henwood, president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Fair Association, said that despite the deal to conduct racing at Santa Anita, the fair "remains committed to the business of horse racing. We are not looking to sell our dates, divide up our dates, or abandon our dates."

Oak Tree spokesmen said that if Santa Anita did acquire the Fairplex dates, Oak Tree would consider filing a suit to prevent the running of races at Santa Anita before its meeting. Sherwood Chillingworth, director of Oak Tree, said, "Seventeen straight days at the track before another meet is bound to hurt us."

Jack Liebau, president of California operations for Magna Entertainment, owners of Santa Anita, said the races to be offered during the 17-day meet would not hurt other major California meets. He pointed out the average purse at Del Mar is $55,000 and $46,000 at Oak Tree. The average purse at the proposed fair meeting would be $23,000.

Hollywood Park president Rick Baedeker noted that should racing be held at Santa Anita instead of Fairplex, Magna would control five of the seven major daytime racing licenses.

In other actions, the board:

* Began the process to prohibit possession of the drugs erythropoietin and darbepoietin, two blood-enhancing agents that many in the industry believe are in widespread use in racing.

* Received a report that $46.5 million had been wagered through advance deposit wagering from Jan. 25-May 26, 5.3 percent of the total combined California handle of $877 million.

* Was notified that the California Authority of Racing Fairs had reached an agreement with Youbet.com to offer Internet wagering on fair racing beginning June 12 in Stockton. Negotiations continued with XpressBet and TVG.