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Businessmen buying into sport

It takes a brave soul nowadays to want to own a racetrack. Just ask Frank Stronach, whose Magna racing conglomerate has bled red ink.

But two businessmen, Jerry Campbell and Halsey Minor, are stepping up in these uncertain times. Last month, Campbell debuted Pinnacle Park in Detroit. Michigan had lost its only thoroughbred track in 2007 when Magna shuttered Great Lakes Downs.

Campbell has earmarked $142 million in a phased-construction plan. Outdoor grandstand seating is being used until a 4,000-seat enclosed clubhouse is ready in 2009. But without a casino license, it remains to be seen if racing revenue alone will keep Pinnacle afloat.

Internet entrepreneur Halsey Minor is smitten with horse racing and wants into the sport in a big way. While Bay Meadows and Hollywood Park will close soon and face the wrecking ball, Minor wants to reopen a Miami track, Hialeah Park.

Minor has the deep pockets to do it. He has a Mark Cuban-like, Internet-fed bank account. Current Hialeah owner John Brunetti holds the key to getting a deal done. Brunetti has no interest in selling Hialeah, nor does he have the bankroll to reopen the track, which he closed in 2001.

Any fan who has been to Hialeah knows it’s a track worth saving. If returned to prime condition, it immediately would regain a spot as one of the country’s most beautiful racetracks.

Considering what has happened lately at the two other Miami-area tracks, Calder and Gulfstream, south Florida horseplayers might welcome back with open arms a revitalized Hialeah. And so would an army of horse owners and trainers.

It also would be interesting to see Minor at work. If he thinks the way Cuban did in energizing the NBA, Minor could help fill a leadership void so lacking in the racing industry.

Regardless, it’s great to see two successful men with a passion for horse racing want to be a part of the solution.

• CELL PHONE BAN — Horse and sports bettors appear to be in the last legs of the much-dreaded cell phone ban in Nevada race and sports books. The Nevada Gaming Commission will review the issue at its next meeting in Carson City on Aug. 21. The Nevada Gaming Control Board already has recommended a repeal of the ban.

• TOURNAMENTS — Local tournament action returns next week at Red Rock and the Las Vegas Hilton. Red Rock will host a $40 sub-qualifier for the National Handicapping Championship on Thursday. The Pick the Ponies 34 will be at the Hilton Superbook from Aug. 21 to 23.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com.

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