12/13/2012 4:52PM

Fair Meadows, in switch, to conduct live racing in 2013

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Fair Meadows in Tulsa, Okla., has reversed itself and will conduct live racing in 2013, track official Ron Shotts said Thursday. The track, which operates a mixed meet each summer at fair grounds facilities in Tulsa, last month made plans to cease operations after the fair board entered into a sponsorship agreement with a local Native American tribe that called for discontinuing live racing.

But at a board meeting Wednesday night, the panel expressed a desire to renegotiate the contract with the Muscogee Nation, of Creek origin, and the tribe agreed to enter into renegotiations, said Shotts, the director of racing for Fair Meadows. The board also voted to accept previously awarded race dates for 2013 in a move to be officially recognized by the Oklahoma Racing Commission on Monday, according to Shotts.

“We are going to go ahead and race in 2013,” he said Thursday. “The commission chairman was there last night, and they are going to have a special meeting Monday morning to approve our license. We don’t have to resubmit anything. The chairman said they would approve it Monday morning.”

Shotts said plans are to conduct a 34-date mixed meet from June 6 through July 27 next year. It will feature 12 races a day, including a total of 170 races for Thoroughbreds and 170 races for Quarter Horses, Shotts said.

A call to the Oklahoma Racing Commission was not immediately returned Thursday.

The decision to race again will be welcome news to many. Fair Meadows has raced for 24 years and would have been the second recent racetrack closing in Oklahoma behind Blue Ribbon Downs in November 2009.

“I think probably for the patrons that come, they’re pleased with the [decision],” Shotts said. “Obviously, the horsemen in the state are extremely pleased with the results, and I’m personally pleased for all my employees that will still be employed. I think there’s quite a few people pleased about it.”

Fair Meadows does not have gaming like other tracks in Oklahoma because it receives payments from four tribes not to operate a casino. That revenue has helped the track fund purses of about $110,000 a card even though ontrack handle on live races has plunged to about $30,000 a day since four tribal casinos have set up shop near Fair Meadows.