08/31/2004 11:00PM

Meet could be Magna's last

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Bay Meadows' 70th anniversary racing season begins a 49-day run Friday with a new racing secretary and an unsettled situation regarding which group will operate the track in 2005.

Magna Entertainment Corp. will conduct what could be its final Bay Meadows meeting. The company has conducted racing at Bay Meadows since 2000, but the Bay Meadows Land Co., which owns the track and the land it sits on, has indicated it wants to take over racing operations in 2005. Magna leases the track from the land company, and the lease expires Jan. 1, 2005.

While 2005 racing dates have been granted to Bay Meadows, the California Horse Racing Board has yet to determine whether Magna or the land company will run the track next year.

C. Gregory Brent, the former racing secretary at Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, and several tracks on the northern California fair circuit, has been appointed racing secretary for the Bay Meadows meeting. Tom Doutrich, who served as the racing secretary at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields in the past year, recently resigned.

"Greg has stepped up to bat," said Peter Tunney, who heads Magna's northern California racing operation.

Bay Meadows also lost its general manager when Bernie Thurman resigned in July. Tunney, former general manager at Golden Gate Fields, will act as general manager for the Bay Meadows meeting.

Magna has opted to forgo what has become a Bay Meadows hallmark, night racing on Fridays. Tunney said field size has been a problem on Friday nights in the past and that racing during the day would offer more simulcast possibilities for the live Bay Meadows races.

Sixteen stakes worth $1.1 million will be contested. The highlights of the meet, which ends Nov. 7, are the Grade 3, $150,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on the turf Oct. 2 and the $100,000 Bay Meadows Derby, also at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, on Nov. 6.

Two other $100,000 races will be run: the California Turf Championship at one mile on Labor Day and the California Sprint Championship at six furlongs Sept. 11.

* Eight 3-year-old fillies meet in Friday's feature, a $40,000 optional claimer at six furlongs. Vaca City Flyer brings a three-race win streak into the race, and Factual Lady has won both of her career starts.