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San Luis Rey Downs training center likely to remain open - Preliminary lease accord will retain thoroughbred training center

Although Magna Entertainment Corporation (MEC) will be terminating its lease to operate the San Luis Rey Downs Thoroughbred Training Center as of March 15, a corporation led by San Luis Rey Downs general manager Leigh Ann Howard will be operating the training center following the end of the MEC lease.

“We’ve agreed in principle,” Howard said. “We just have to get everything set up so there’s a smooth transition from one company to the other.”

At one time Magna Entertainment Corporation owned the land in addition to operating the thoroughbred training center. Three years ago MEC sold the land to MI Developments, Inc., while also agreeing to lease the facility from MID.

In addition to the revenue from renting stables to trainers, San Luis Rey Downs had also received a subsidy funded by an off-track wagering tax. The board that distributes that funding opted to reallocate those payments as of Jan. 1, 2010.

The subsidy was also eliminated for Fairplex Park in Pomona other than for the period during which Fairplex operates a three-week meet in September. Fairplex will continue to stable horses during its meet but no longer stables horses year-round.

After the decision to end the subsidy, MEC activated its option for an early termination of the lease, which otherwise would have expired at the end of June. Howard and various partners began the process of forming the management corporation and leasing the land from MID.

“We’re all feeling pretty good about it,” Howard said. “We’re optimistic that things are going to work out.”

Howard expects the details to be finalized by March 15. “Certainly finalized enough to keep the track operating,” she said.

Howard has no immediate plans to increase lease fees for trainers, although she notes that such an increase might be necessary in the future. “Hopefully there’s not going to be any major changes,” she said of the new management ownership.

“I think it’s very good for the people who have horses here, and it’s very good for the breeders and the owners that in the San Diego and Riverside area just want to watch their horses develop into runners,” Howard said of the facility being able to continue.

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