Bay Meadows head: We’ll race to the wire

The president of Bay Meadows Race Course has vowed to run as long as possible at the 73-year-old venue — even suggesting that 2009 races are not out the question — although the racetrack still does not have a schedule for 2008.

The California Horse Racing Board failed to solidify a 2008 track schedule Aug. 22. But Bay Meadows President Jack Liebau said he is confident that at its next meeting Monday, the board will produce a schedule for racing in Northern California. Bay Meadows is asking to run all its races before the end of August.

“We have said over and over again that in 2008, we would like to stop running at the conclusion of the San Mateo County Fair, and that has remained our position,” Liebau said.

Although Liebau and the Bay Meadows Land Co. have said repeatedly that they can’t guarantee any racing beyond 2008, any snags in the redevelopment plan would open the possibility of racing in 2009, he said.

“If development is postponed and the project isn’t ready in 2008, we’d like to try to run in 2009,” Liebau said. “We’re only done when the venue is not available for racing.”

Liebau has agreed to keep its 900 stables open until the end of the year to house horses that compete around Northern California. At any given time, Liebau said there are between 500 and 700 horses at the track.

The housing gives the rest of the local horse racing industry a chance to find lodgings before Bay Meadows is torn down to make room for a mixed-use development with 750,000 square feet of commercial space, 100,000 square feet of retail and 1,067 housing units.

Many of the 1,425 stables at Golden Gate Fields and the 650 at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton are already occupied.

But Golden Gate Fields General Manager Robert Hartman said the “safe place” condition might be an underhanded way to justify the track closing early in 2008 if work begins on the redevelopment of the 83-acre site.

Representatives from the Bay Meadows Land Co. are working with the city to get the necessary approval and permits to begin redevelopment. But the uncertainty about the project — stemming from the lack of a specific demolition start date — has Northern California horse racing in a “holding pattern,” according to Hartman.

“The uncertainty of these dates is affecting our business, it’s gone on long enough,” Hartman said.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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