09/12/2005 12:00AM

Louisiana talks continue

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Negotiations among Churchill Downs Inc., Louisiana Downs, and the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association continued Monday, with no announcement concerning specific plans to hold a meet at Louisiana Downs as a substitute for the Fair Grounds season wiped out by Hurricane Katrina.

If and when the three parties reach an agreement, the matter will come before the Louisiana Racing Commission, according to Charles Gardiner, the executive director of the commission. Gardiner said late Monday afternoon that he knew of no agreement between the three parties involved in the negotiations.

"As a matter of fact, I think as of this morning there was still some distance between them," Gardiner said.

On Saturday, Sean Alfortish, the president of the Louisiana horsemen's group, had said there existed "an agreement in principal to run the Fair Grounds meet at Louisiana Downs." Alfortish said the meet would last about 40 days, a compromise between Churchill Downs Inc.'s initial informal proposal of an 18- to 20-day meet, and Alfortish's plan to race at least 45 days this winter.

"We expect to have an official plan by Tuesday morning to present to the racing commission," Alfortish said.

Gardiner said he believes the commission would approve the plan presented.

"I think it would likely not be something the commission would be opposed to," he said. "More important are the legal issues involved in moving the meet."

Gardiner said the commission hoped to obtain a waiver from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco granting permission to abdicate the approved 2005 racing schedule and move the Fair Grounds meet, and its $8 million purse account, to Louisiana Downs. Failing that, a waiver would have to be obtained from the state legislature.

Gardiner said a commission meeting would be called "very quickly" once the commission is presented an official agreement. The commission normally operates out of New Orleans, but has set up a satellite office at Evangeline Downs. Three of the 13 commissioners who are from the New Orleans area have not yet been contacted since Katrina struck the region on Aug. 29.

- additional reporting by Mary Rampellini