05/29/2002 11:00PM

Stronach son plans Wash. track


AUBURN, Wash. - Andy Stronach, son of racetrack mogul Frank Stronach, said Wednesday that he wants to build an new track for turf racing in Point Roberts, Wash., just across the border from British Columbia.

Stronach announced the plans of his new company, EQTAH, at a meeting of the Washington Horse Racing Commission. Also at the meeting, Las Vegas real estate broker Eric Nelson, who recently signed an agreement to buy Spokane's Playfair Race Course, told the commission of his plans to restore racing to Playfair in 2003.

Stronach and Scott Wagner, the chief financial officer for EQTAH, an acronym for Equine Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, Arabian, Appaloosa, and Harness, told the commission they would like to build three turf courses with temporary rails and erect tents for fans and temporary stalls for horses. The only permanent structure on the property, which is in the process of being optioned, will be a 20,000-square-foot building housing a restaurant, bars, and a simulcast wagering center.

Wagner said the track would draw fans from Vancouver, which is less than 20 miles from Point Roberts. Hastings Park, recently purchased by the Woodbine Entertainment Group, is in Vancouver. Wagner noted that the track will be able to offer simulcast wagering directly into U.S. pools, which cannot be done in Canada because of I.R.S. rules. The track would also be the only one in the Northwest to offer turf racing. Plans call for the track to race two days a week for 20 weeks a year.

Stonach said EQTAH will submit an application for a license to race at the end of June. He said the simulcast wagering building would be completed in the fall, and that first simulcasting and then racing would begin "as soon as possible."

Nelson leases Playfair

Nelson and former Playfair owner Jack Pring told the commission that they have finalized a deal in which Nelson will buy the track and the 66 1/2 acres upon which it sits with a 10-year lease-to-own agreement. Nelson said he hopes to complete the purchase within three years.

Nelson promised to submit an application for a license to race at Playfair, along with the $50,000 filing fee, on June 3. The track will be eligible to begin offering simulcast wagering as soon as the license is granted, which could happen within two months if no obstacles arise.

Nelson also informed the commission that he has contracted to bring 50 Instant Racing machines to Playfair on a trial basis, should the machines be deemed legal in Washington. Currently in use in Arkansas, the machines allow for parimutuel wagering on videos of previously run races.

Nelson said his next step will be to negotiate a contract with eastern Washington horsemen, which he predicted will be done within 10 days. He said his goal is to begin racing at Playfair, which has been dark since 2000, in mid-September 2003.