01/03/2003 12:00AM

Horsemen sign Playfair deal

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SEATTLE - A group representing eastern Washington horsemen, the Organization for the Preservation of Northwest Racing, and Eric Nelson, who has been licensed to operate Playfair, have reached a purse agreement that should clear the way for Playfair to begin conducting simulcast wagering in the near future.

Jay Healy, president of the horsemen's group, said he signed a contract on Thursday that calls for minimum purses of $2,500. Healy said the contract also gives horsemen one-third of all breakage and that his group will be paid $5,000 per month to administer the purse account.

Nelson said he signed the contract and sent it on to the Washington Horse Racing Commission on Friday.

The commission is expected to accept the contract and grant Playfair's request for a 40-day 2003 racing season when it meets Thursday, Jan. 9.

Playfair will have a green light to conduct simulcast wagering as soon as it receives racing dates. The track's request for racing dates had been held up by a condition of its license, which required that Nelson sign a purse contract with the horsemen.

Nelson hopes to reopen the track for simulcast wagering in February and for live racing in September.