02/27/2003 1:00AM

Jersey request: Fewer dates


New Jersey racetracks and horsemen have reached an agreement to apply for 120 live racing dates at Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands this year, a substantial reduction from the 146 live racing dates awarded to the two tracks by the state's racing commission.

Bruce Garland, the vice president of racing for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which owns Monmouth and The Meadowlands, said Thursday that an application for the new dates has been sent to the New Jersey Racing Commission, which meets next March 19. Citing legal requirements for the establishment of offtrack betting and account wagering, the commission had earlier awarded 146 dates even though the tracks and horsemen opposed that number of dates.

Under the agreement, Monmouth's 92-day meet would run from May 24 to Sept. 28. The Meadowlands meet would run for 28 days, from Oct. 2 to Nov. 8.

Track officials blamed a 141-day live racing schedule last year for diluting purses and pushing horsemen out of the state, contributing to a 10 percent drop in betting on Monmouth's races and a 20 percent decline at The Meadowlands. The authority also lost a $12.7 million purse subsidy from the state in 2002.

Current legislation in New Jersey prohibits offtrack betting or account wagering unless 141 live racing dates are conducted each year. Garland said that the authority and horsemen have agreed to push for an amendment to the legislation that would lower the requirement to 120 days.

Frank Zanzuccki, the executive director of the racing commission, said the commission would not grant any offtrack or account-wagering licenses under the existing dates agreement unless the law is changed.