06/25/2002 11:00PM

Fairplex meet to stay put

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LOS ANGELES - The California Horse Racing Board on Wednesday refused to allow the 2002 Los Angeles County Fair racing meet to move to Santa Anita. At the end of a three-hour meeting, the board voted 4-1 for racing to stay at Fairplex Park - at least for this year.

Fair officials said they may request a venue switch to Santa Anita in the future, but say they now will run at Fairplex for the upcoming meeting, which runs from Sept. 13 to Sept. 29.

Last month, the Los Angeles County Fair Association reached an agreement with Santa Anita to conduct the Fairplex meeting there. The Fair Association had proposed running 17 consecutive days at Santa Anita.

The deal was opposed by much of the California racing establishment, including Del Mar, Hollywood Park, the California Thoroughbred Trainers, and the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

The commissioners heard both sides of the argument from industry officials Wednesday, including an impassioned plea by more than 15 horsemen to leave racing at Fairplex Park. Those owners and trainers said they relied on Fairplex to offer racing for their lesser stock.

CHRB chairman Alan Landsburg was the only commissioner to vote in favor of the change. Commissioners Marie Moretti, Roger Licht, John Harris, and John Sperry opposed the move, Sheryl Granzella abstained, and Bill Bianco was absent.

"I don't think you can reinvent yourself by going to Santa Anita for 17 days," Harris said. "I think as an experiment it would be a failure."

After the meeting, James Henwood, the chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Fair Association, said the venue for future meetings at Fairplex Park would hinge on discussions with industry officials in the fall. He called for further funding of Fairplex Park as a training facility as a show of industry support.

Fairplex Park currently is closed as a training facility. Its offtrack stabling funding was cut in half, to $1.5 million, after funds were diverted to offset costs at the San Luis Rey Downs training center in northern San Diego county.

Fairplex Park will reopen as a training center on July 28 in advance of the race meeting.