01/31/2003 1:00AM

Oak Tree and Fairplex near dates deal


ARCADIA, Calif. - A proposal that would feature concurrent racing at two Southern California racetracks on a Sunday in September is expected to be submitted to the California Horse Racing Board later this month.

The Oak Tree Racing Association, which runs a fall meeting at Santa Anita, would like to open its meeting on Sunday, Sept. 28, three days before its scheduled opening on Wednesday, Oct. 1.

The Sept. 28 date is booked as the closing day of the Los Angeles County Fair at Fairplex Park in Pomona. County fair officials will ask to extend their meeting by one day, and finish on Monday, Sept. 29, as partial compensation for competition on Sept. 28.

Discussions between the two groups are expected to continue in advance of the CHRB meeting Feb. 21. A major topic is a potential payment to Fairplex Park for lost revenue from Sept. 28. The two racetracks are approximately 20 miles apart.

"We're pretty close to a deal," said Sherwood Chillingworth, the executive vice-president of Oak Tree.

For Oak Tree, the Sept. 28 program would reduce the backlog of Breeders' Cup prep races that are currently scheduled for the first five days of the meeting. Officials hope the plan will reduce the number of Southern California horses shipping out of state for Breeders' Cup preps.

According to Chillingworth, the Sunday program would include four major stakes that are preps for the Breeders' Cup - the Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap, the Yellow Ribbon Stakes, the Oak Leaf Stakes, and possibly the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile. The Breeders' Cup will be held at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

In addition to CHRB approval, legislation is needed to allow an expansion of racing dates. No opposition is expected, racing officials said.

The proposal was discussed at a CHRB meeting on Jan. 23 by Chillingworth and Jim Henwood, the chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Fair. At that meeting, Oak Tree proposed running two days - on Sept. 27-28. Much of that discussion centered on a cash payment for Fairplex Park to offset revenue losses from the competition.

"If things work out well for everyone, no dollars will be exchanged," Henwood said. "Otherwise, Oak Tree will write us a small check and that will make us whole."