05/16/2002 11:00PM

Fate of Fairplex meet still murky


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Officials from Fairplex Park and Santa Anita have met in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of moving the Los Angeles County Fair meeting in September to Santa Anita, but the potential move does not have the support of a key member of the California Horse Racing Board.

Commissioner John Harris said Thursday he would be opposed to changing venues this year.

"I think I would be opposed for 2002 on the premise that it would be too quick to have everyone have an opportunity to express their opinion on the viability of making the change," Harris said from his farm in central California.

"When you talk about changing things, it becomes a big issue. I think something like this should not impact this year's racing dates."

The Fairplex Park meeting is scheduled from Sept. 13-29 in Pomona.

In recent weeks, there have been talks between Jim Henwood of the Los Angeles County Fair and Jack Liebau of Santa Anita on the issue.

"There are no signed agreements," said fair spokeswoman Wendy Talarico. "We have our race dates and plan to race here unless another agreement is reached."

Liebau did not return a phone call seeking comment. Henwood is on vacation out of town, Talarico said.

As of Friday, the CHRB had yet to receive a license application from Fairplex Park officials. The applications are typically filed 90 days in advance of the meeting, officials said. Any change in venue must be part of that application, which is expected to be heard by the board at a scheduled meeting on July 25.

If the Los Angeles County Fair dates are run at Santa Anita in the future, the move would give the track as many as nine consecutive weeks of racing in the late summer and fall. Currently, the Oak Tree Racing Association runs a popular meeting from late September to early November that includes preps for the Breeders' Cup and the California Cup for statebreds. Oak Tree is scheduled to host the Breeders' Cup for the third time in 2003.

Other racing officials are waiting for further developments before making any statements. Thursday, Rick Baedeker, the president of Hollywood Park, declined to comment on the potential location change.

The presence of the Los Angeles County Fair meeting would leave little distinction between the start of the fair meeting and the Oak Tree meeting.

"It would really hurt us if they come to Santa Anita," said Sherwood Chillingworth, the executive vice-president of Oak Tree.

Riveria earns millionaire status

In an era when $1 million races are run nearly every month, a horse with earnings above the seven-figure mark is no longer a novelty. Last year, 21 horses earned $1 million or more.

Still, there was a sense of satisfaction for owner Edmund Gann and trainer Bobby Frankel after Riviera surpassed the $1 million mark in career earnings with a victory in an allowance race on turf.

Riviera missed all of 2001 with a tendon injury and was nearly retired to stud. The win by Riviera, now 8, on Thursday was his first since the Grade 1 Atto Mile at Woodbine in September 2000, a race that was supposed to have been a prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile. Earlier this year, Riviera finished sixth in two allowance races at Santa Anita.

"I was real disappointed in his last race," Frankel said. "I thought he got hurt again."

A winner of 10 of 20 starts and $1,001,093, Riviera will be pointed for an unspecified stakes. One option could be the $150,000 American Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf on July 4, a race that Frankel has not won since 1993 with Toussaud.

Frankel has one-two punch

Frankel is expected to have two starters in the $500,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile on May 27, one of three stakes here on Memorial Day. Frankel is expected to start Decarchy, the winner of the Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March who was second in the San Francisco Mile last month, and Thady Quill, who ran second in an allowance races here on April 24.

Other probables include defending champion Irish Prize, Casey Griffin, Ladies Din, Special Ring, The Tin Man, and Touch of the Blues, who won the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland last month.

There are two other Grade 1 races here next weekend - the $200,000 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap on Saturday and the $500,000 Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap on May 27.

Trainer Laura de Seroux has the probable favorite in both: Azeri is being pointed for the Milady, while Astra will start in the Gamely.