Racing board to discuss Bay Meadows track status

Bay Meadows stakeholders will get a chance to discuss the fate of the legendary track with the state horse racing board on May 22.

But after demanding the meeting for almost two months, no one seems to know what to say.

On March 22, the California Horse Racing Board denied a waiver for Bay Meadows track officials that would grant a two-year release from a law requiring that major tracks install synthetic running surfaces to protect horses and jockeys. Without the waiver, Bay Meadows will not be able to obtain a license for any races beyond this year’s winter season, effectively closing the track at least a year early.

Adam Keigwin, spokesman for Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco-San Mateo, said his office is dismayed that the item is only up for discussion.

“Never seen an item just for discussion, there’s usually always possible action,” Keigwin said. “What if the discussion becomes fruitful and they decide they want to do something?”

Yee has been a vocal critic of the board, calling for Chairman Richard Shapiro’s resignation and leading the charge that effectively eliminated the board’s state funding unless they meet with local and state leaders over concerns, including Bay Meadows.

Shapiro has said throughout the past discussions that he would like to see track owners find a way to install the synthetic surfaces and continue racing, in hopes of preservingthe legacy, local funding and jobs that Bay Meadows provides. Twenty-five horses died from injuries sustained at Bay Meadows in the most recent racing season.

“At the present price, estimated to be $8 to $10 million, we can’t install it,” said Bay Meadows President Jack Liebau. “It’s just economically impossible.”

The entire complex — which hosted legends such as Seabiscuit in its 73 years — is slated to be redeveloped by the Bay Meadows Land Company beginning in 2008.

Shapiro said he hopes the discussion topic, which encompasses the status of Bay Meadows and the future of horse-racing dates around Northern California, will reveal some way to compromise and save the track from closure.

“We all know things are up in the air, so it’s a discussion item for the industry to advise the board so we have a viable racing season [in Northern California],” he said.

The California Horse Racing Board meeting is set for May 22 at 1 p.m. in the California Department of Water Resources Auditorium, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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