04/02/2002 12:00AM

Deal near on New Jersey dates


New Jersey horsemen and racetracks are close to reaching a deal that will reinstate a plan to run 141 live racing dates at Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands this year, state racing officials said Tuesday.

The deal, which is expected to be finalized later this week, would put to rest fears of a simulcast blackout this summer. New Jersey horsemen, who were enraged by a decision by the New Jersey Racing Commission this winter to allow Monmouth and The Meadowlands to run only 120 live dates, had threatened to withdraw their approval for simulcasting if the live racing season was not extended.

Horsemen and track officials have been meeting over the past two weeks to hammer out the deal. Monmouth Park is scheduled to start its live racing meet on May 11.

"We've had a great number of meetings, and at the last one we all left with something on paper that we could take back to our people," said Bruce Garland, vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns Monmouth and The Meadowlands.

Garland declined to provide specifics, but said the authority's lawyers had contacted the horsemen on Tuesday morning about approval of the deal.

Dennis Drazin, the legal counsel to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said on Tuesday that he believed a deal would be finalized by Friday.

The 21 live racing dates would be added by scheduling five-day weeks at Monmouth in May and going to six-day weeks for several months in late summer and early fall. The Meadowlands meet would be extended from Nov. 16 to Nov. 23, officials said.

The agreement also calls for the authority to provide horsemen with $3.3 million in purse supplements, officials said.