11/13/2002 12:00AM

State approves Maryland sale

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The Maryland Racing Commission unanimously approved a plan to sell a controlling interest in Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course to Magna Entertainment at a meeting on Wednesday.

Magna reached an agreement to purchase a majority share in the tracks earlier this year by buying out the partners of the Maryland Jockey Club. The deal valued the two tracks at $117.5 million. With Pimlico and Laurel in the mix, Magna will have operating control over 13 tracks in the United States

Under an agreement that was part of the acquisition deal, Joe De Francis, the chief executive of the MJC, will remain in his position at the tracks and be in charge of day-to-day operations.

Pimlico and Laurel annually hold 220 days of live racing. Pimlico is the home of the Preakness, the second race in the Triple Crown and the MJC's biggest revenue generator.

At the Wednesday commission meeting, officials of Magna and the MJC told commissioners that the Preakness will remain in Maryland. De Francis, in an interview on Wednesday, said the Preakness may have to be moved to Laurel Park temporarily if Magna decides to pursue a massive renovation project at Pimlico.