06/05/2002 11:00PM

CHRB postpones Fairplex decision


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 as soon as possible 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 commissioner Marie Moretti abstaining from voting.

The proposal was placed on the agenda because the Los Angeles County Fair faced submission of its license application by June 15. The Fair has now been given a waiver until 10 days after the special meeting to submit its license application.

Santa Anita and Fairplex reached an agreement last month for the Sept. 13-29 Los Angeles County Fair meeting to be run at Santa Anita. The agreement needed CHRB approval before it could be enacted.

The proposal met with widespread opposition within the industry. Del Mar, the Oak Tree Racing Association, which operates a meet at Santa Anita starting immediately after the conclusion of the Los Angeles County Fair, and Hollywood Park all spoke out against the move.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California also spoke against the move. A poll of trainers by the California Thoroughbred Trainers found that group opposed by a 3-1 margin the group's executive director Ed Halpurn said.

Board Chairman Alan Landsburg chided all parties for submitting materials too late for board members to study them and said in the future all materials on matters discussed by the board would have to be submitted seven days before meetings to be considered.

James Henwood, president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Fair Association, said that despite the agreement 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."

Del Mar spokesman Craig Fravel said he believed moving racing from Fairplex to Santa Anita created "a number of legal questions."

Oak Tree spokesmen said if Santa Anita did acquire the Fairplex dates, Oak Tree would keep options open to file a suit to prevent the running of races at Santa Anita before its meeting.

Oak Tree director Sherwood Chillingworth said, "Seventeen straight days at the track before another meet is bound to hurt us."

Jack Liebau, president of Magna California operations, disputed complaints by Del Mar and Oak Tree that the races to be offered during the 17-day meet would impact their meets. He pointed out the average purse at Del was $55,000 and $46,000 at Oak Tree. The average purse at the proposed fair meeting would be $23,000.

He said that a proposed condition book had been written to show that races wouldn't conflict and said if there were concerns from Del Mar or Oak Tree, those races would be eliminated.

He said 10 turf races had been written but those races would not be run if they impaired the newly planted turf course.

He also disputed the contention that a live meet just before the Oak Tree meet would necessarily affect Oak Tree's handle.

Chillingworth spoke of a "concentration of power" by Magna, which owns Santa Anita, and Hollywood Park president Rick Baedecker noted that should racing be held at Santa Anita instead of Fairplex, Magna would control five of the seven daytime licenses, outside of the California Authority of Racing Fairs, in California.

In other actions, the Board:

*approved licenses for Del Mar and fairs at Vallejo (Solano County) , Santa Rosa (Sonoma County), Bay Meadows (San Mateo County), Ferndale (Humboldt County) and Sacramento (State Fair).

*approved Truesdail Laboratories with a primary drug testing contract for the 2002-3 fiscal year.

*prohibited possession of the drug EPO.