07/22/2004 11:00PM

Santa Anita dates unsure

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DEL MAR, Calif. - A dispute over whether Santa Anita will conclude its upcoming winter-spring meeting on April 17 or 24, 2005, was not resolved at Friday's dates committee meeting of the California Horse Racing Board but is expected to be addressed by the full board next month.

The dates committee will report its recommendations in August to the full board, which will finalize the racing dates for 2005.

Santa Anita officials argued before committee members Sheryl Granzella and Marie Moretti that the Los Angeles Turf Club season should be extended a week to give the track 17 full weekends.

Under a proposal developed by racing board staff members, Santa Anita would start on Sunday, Dec. 26 and finish on Sunday, April 17. The track would run 82 days, two fewer than this year.

Hollywood Park would run

April 20 to July 17 and Nov. 9 to Dec. 19. Del Mar would race from July 20 to Sept. 7, and Fairplex Park would race from Sept. 9-25.

Santa Anita's president, Jack McDaniel, said Santa Anita wants to run 17 full weekends through

April 24. He feared that a shorter meeting would cost the track revenue and affect purses.

Granzella and Moretti did not offer a resolution at the conclusion of the meeting.

"We'll gather all this information, chew it out, and make a recommendation to the board at the August meeting," Granzella said.

Under Santa Anita's proposal for a later finish, the starting dates of the other meetings would be pushed back one week. The proposal was not warmly received by Hollywood Park, which would have its fall meeting extended until Dec. 24. Under the racing board's proposal, Hollywood Park would end on Monday, Dec. 19.

In recent years, Hollywood Park's meeting has ended as early as a week before Christmas to create a brief holiday break.

"By racing the last few days before Christmas, we are the least popular people in town,' said Hollywood Park's president, Rick Baedeker.

Bay Meadows operator not named

The northern California schedule was set without debate.

Golden Gate Fields will run 103 dates, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 30, May 11 to June 19, and Oct. 19 to Dec. 19. Bay Meadows will run 104 dates, from Feb. 2 to May 8 and Sept. 2 to Oct. 16.

It is still unclear whether Magna Entertainment or the Bay Meadows Racing Association will run the 2005 Bay Meadows meets. Magna has a lease on the track that expires at the end of 2004, and the Bay Meadows Racing Association, headed by former Bay Meadows president Jack Liebau, has indicated it wants to take over in 2005.

Mike Marten, spokesman for the racing board, said the board can award dates for a circuit without knowing who will operate a meet. The issue of who will have the license for Bay Meadows will be decided in September at the earliest, Marten said.

* At Thursday's board meeting, racing executives informed the board that recent legislation has led to an average daily savings of $3 per horse for workers' compensation policies paid by trainers. In late May, the takeout on exotic wagers was raised one-half of 1 percent in an effort to offset workers' compensation policies.

- additional reporting by Matt Hegarty