11/04/2003 1:00AM

Choctaw tribe buys Blue Ribbon

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Backstretch, LLC, a private company owned by the Choctaw tribe of Oklahoma, has purchased Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw from Race Horses Inc. The track was to be auctioned Tuesday, but Race Horses cleared a $3 million debt with the city of Sallisaw on Monday and then sold Blue Ribbon to the Choctaws for an undisclosed amount.

Heading the Blue Ribbon management team, according to a release put out by the Choctaws, will be Frank Deal, former general manager of Remington Park, and Blaine Story, a past president of the Oklahoma Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

There had been speculation in Oklahoma for almost a year that Deal and Story were working with the Choctaws to obtain Blue Ribbon, a small track that opened in 1984. The Choctaws operate a gaming facility about 25 miles from the track in Pacola.

Deal said that Backstretch LLC is seeking temporary approval from the Oklahoma Racing Commission to complete the 2003 meet at Blue Ribbon, which is scheduled to run through Nov. 23.

The Choctaws are not the only tribe in Oklahoma that has an interest in racetrack ownership. The Comanches might build a track in Lawton, Okla., a city of 90,000 located about 80 miles southeast of Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

The project is still in the planning stages and subject to a vote of the tribe's council, according to a spokesman for the Comanches.