02/25/2005 1:00AM

Portland's fate hinges on new simulcast bill


PORTLAND, Ore. - Senate Bill 929 was introduced in the Oregon legislature recently, and its passage is considered essential for the survival of horse racing at Portland Meadows.

The key provision of the bill, which is sponsored by the Senate Judiciary Committee at the request of Magna Entertainment Corporation, would allow Portland Meadows to conduct simulcast wagering at the track and its satellite locations on a year-around basis.

As the law is currently written, a track may only conduct simulcast wagering during its live race meet. Traditionally, Portland Meadows conducted statewide simulcast wagering during its mid-October through late April meeting, and Multnomah Greyhound Park ran the simulcast system the remainder of the year.

Magna, which has operated both tracks since 2001, determined that the simulcast system would only support one track. Magna consequently announced the closure of Multnomah in December, and it ceased to operate even as a simulcast center after last Monday, Feb. 21.

With only one major track now operating in the state, Magna wants the current restriction on simulcast wagering eliminated so that Portland Meadows can operate the statewide simulcast system, and benefit from it, year-around.

Dog racing, incidentally, will never return to Oregon if another bill passes at the current legislative session. Senate Bill 889, which is sponsored by three senators, would ban greyhound racing in the state.

Another provision of the bill would change the requirement that a track run 80 days of live racing per year in order to conduct simulcasting. The new requirement would be 720 live races. That is the same as nine races per day for

80 days, but it would give the track more flexibility in making up races when programs, or parts of programs, are canceled.

HBPA auction to aid lobbyists

The Oregon division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association intends to do its part to support the bill. In conjunction with its annual awards banquet on March 5, which it co-sponsors with the Oregon Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the HBPA will stage silent and live auctions to raise money for its lobbying efforts.

Dave Benson, Oregon HBPA president, said items are still coming in for both auctions, but silent auction items already include a set of four Goodyear tires, a baseball autographed by Hall of Fame pitcher and current Kentucky senator Jim Bunning, a collection of Dick Francis books and tapes, jockey articles signed by Gary Stevens and Victor Espinoza, gift baskets, and a breeding to a reserve world champion Paint stallion.

Among the live auction items already procured are a live foal guaranteed breeding to dual classic winner Real Quiet, halters worn by Ghostzapper, Awesome Again, Unbridled Song, and Real Quiet, a Fred Stone limited edition print of Fusaichi Pegasus, and numbered prints by other equine artists.

The silent auction will begin in the turf club at 1 p.m. on March 5, and the live auction will begin immediately following the last race at approximately 4:30.

Knightsbridge Road preps for Speed

Trainer Debbie Van Horne said Knightsbridge Road is on track for the six-furlong Governor's Speed Handicap after working five furlongs in 1:04 last Sunday.

"He has come around very quickly," Van Horne said. "He is a 5-year-old now, and he seems better than ever."

Knightsbridge Road, who has won two stakes and placed in nine others at Emerald Downs, has earnings of $145,798 from 4 wins in 27 starts.