08/30/2001 11:00PM

Portland meet canceled

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Oregon horsemen were dealt a major blow on Friday when Magna Entertainment, which operates Portland Meadows, abruptly and unexpectedly announced that Portland's upcoming race meet was being canceled.

Magna, which reached a three-year agreement to lease Portland Meadows earlier this year, said that the Environmental Protec-tion Agency had rejected the company's plan to improve drainage on the backstretch, forcing the company to bar access to the grounds. The track was scheduled to start a live race meet on Sept. 20 and open for training on Sept. 1. The backside could hold 850 horses, officials said.

The closing leaves local trainers and owners with few options to race their horses. Emerald Downs outside of Seattle, Wash., is closing in two weeks, and many of the horses that would have raced in Portland are unable to compete for purses in northern California or at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

"A few may be able to go to California, but very few," said Dick Cartney, the executive director of the Oregon Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "I guess some could go to Phoenix, but that's getting a lot tougher too. I suppose some of these people are going to go out of business. Turn them out, sell them wherever they can, and move on."

Karl Wilson, the general manager of Portland Meadows, said Friday that the track hopes to reopen next year for a short spring meet. But details for any fallback plan have not yet been worked out.