12/18/2003 1:00AM

Ohio sets racing dates for 2004

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The Ohio Racing Commission at its Thursday meeting granted Ohio's three Thoroughbred tracks a total of 449 racing dates for 2004.

Beulah Park will begin its winter-spring meeting on Jan. 10 and run through Kentucky Derby Day on May 1. The fall meeting at Beulah will run from Sept. 18 through Dec. 21 for a total of 140 days of racing.

Thistledown will begin its 187-day season on April 8 and race through the end of the year, with racing to be conducted Thursday through Monday.

Thistledown will begin its meeting a month later than in recent years and will run about two weeks longer.

River Downs will run 122 days from April 9 to Sept. 6, with its traditional six-day-a-week schedule kicking in the last week of April. Wednesdays will be dark.

Beulah Park's dates were in doubt until just before the meeting, when last-minute negotiations with the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association over export-signal fees proved successful.