04/08/2004 11:00PM

Two groups compete for Bay Meadows dates

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - Magna Entertainment Corp. and a group from the Bay Meadows Land Company each applied for racing dates in northern California for 2005 at the California Horse Racing Board dates committee meeting Thursday in Sacramento.

The proposals will force the CHRB to decide which of the two groups runs the 2005 race meets at Bay Meadows.

The Magna proposal is to run at Golden Gate Fields for 102 days, from Dec. 26, 2004, to May 15, 2005. Magna would then hold a one-month meet at Bay Meadows, from May 18 to June 19, and race there again from Sept. 1 to Dec. 19 for a total of 107 days at Bay Meadows.

The Bay Meadows Land Co., which owns Bay Meadows and has leased the track to Magna since 2001, now has its own management team in place and wants to run the track itself. Magna's current lease at Bay Meadows runs through Dec. 31, 2004.

The Bay Meadows Land Co. proposal would maintain the current racing schedule, under which Magna would operate a meet at Golden Gate from November through late March. The Bay Meadows Land Co. would then race at Bay Meadows from March 30 to June 19 and from Sept. 2 to Oct. 30. Then racing would return to Golden Gate Fields.

The Magna proposal would alter the schedule of racing at northern California's two major tracks, Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows, although both tracks would be open for the same amount of time as currently scheduled.

F. Jack Liebau, who resigned as Magna's director of California racing in January and is currently working as a consultant for Bay Meadows Land Co., made the company's presentation.

Liebau said the Magna dates proposal was not viable because Golden Gate would race for 133 continuous dates from November 2004 through May 15, 2005, pushing back the start of the Bay Meadows meet, which usually begins in early April.

Golden Gate Fields vice president Peter Tunney said the Magna presentation was in response to a request by horsemen to more equally distribute dates between the two tracks during the November to March rainy season.

"This is a horsemen's issue," he said. "The horsemen agree the wet weather should be spread between both tracks.

"For the past three years in the 100-day meets at Golden Gate, we've averaged 40 off tracks. They've averaged about two at Bay Meadows."

A proposed initiative that could lead to slot machines being installed at racetracks is one of the factors that has prompted Bay Meadows Land Co. to want to run its own racing meet rather than lease the facility to Magna.