03/17/2008 12:00AM

Thistledown in dates deal


Ohio's horsemen and the owner of Thistledown racetrack near Cleveland have reached an agreement that will keep the track open for a 122-day meet in 2008, according to the executive director of the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

The agreement with the track's owner, Magna Entertainment Corp., will provide for live racing on a Thursday-through-Monday schedule from May 1 to Sept. 8, according to the horsemen's group's executive director, Dave Basler. The meet will go to a four-day per week schedule from then until Oct. 25.

Basler presented the agreement at a meeting of the Ohio Racing Commission on Monday. The agreement needs the approval of Ohio's four harness tracks, the state's two other Thoroughbred tracks, and the state's harness horsemen's association. According to Basler, all of the parties agreed to approve the plan at the meeting under questioning from the commissioners.

Magna Entertainment, which has lost almost $400 million over the past three years, is attempting to sell Thistledown as part of a plan to shed money-losing properties to pay down its debt. No buyers have emerged, however.

Magna officials did not return calls on Monday.

"This gives horsemen a chance to run this year and gives Magna more time to find a buyer," Basler said.

The agreement calls for three days to be added to the meet if ontrack handle at Thistledown is within 4 percent of the 2007 levels through July 31, Basler said. The days would be added to the meet after the track goes to the four-day schedule.