Magna Plans to Bid on Cal Expo Harness Lease

Magna Entertainment Corp. has expressed it intentions to bid on the lease of Cal Expo in Sacramento, Calif., and take over the 10-month-long Standardbred meet.

MEC, which already has two harness facilities in its stable of racetracks, was a surprise bidder when the California Exposition and State Fair board qualified applicants for a new three-year lease starting in August 2005. After specific bids are submitted in October, a decision is expected as early as Dec. 3.

MEC officials weren't immediately available for comment.

"No one knows what Magna wants to do," said Kim Hankins, the new executive secretary for the 300-member California Harness Horsemen's Association. "They run harness meets, too, so we're hopeful that's why they're interested."

Also in the running for Cal Expo is current meet operator Capitol Racing, and the new Sacramento Harness Benevolent Association headed by former California Horse Racing Board chairman Ralph Scurfield.

Capitol Racing, which started its 10th season at Cal Expo Sept. 24, has made Sacramento synonymous with California harness racing. Starting with just four weeks, the meet has expanded to nearly year-round and draws close to $1 million a night in total handle thanks mostly to export of its signal.

Capitol's races are broadcast on MEC's HorseRacing TV and the TV Games Network.

MEC owns two Thoroughbred racetracks in California--Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita Park--and plans to build a state-of-the-art facility in Dixon about 20 miles west of Sacramento. The company's lease on Bay Meadows expires at the end of this year.

MEC owns two Standardbred tracks: The Meadows in Pennsylvania and Flamboro Downs in Ontario, Canada.