Ocean Downs Raceway, a harness track on Maryland's Eastern Shore, was told last week by the Maryland Racing Commission to make certain changes in its operation or perhaps be denied racing dates for 1986.

This marks the third time Ocean Downs has been told to take steps to alleviate its problems, which have involved fire safety violations, poor lighting near the finish line and sanitary violations.

In October, the commission advised Ocean Downs that it would not be granted its 1986 racing dates unless improvements were made. Last week, commission chairman E. William Furey advised Ocean Downs President John Howard Burbage by letter that, "We are so displeased with your record of management that it is highly doubtful that a license would be issued to your existing management group even if the deplorable conditions and system deficiencies were to be corrected."

Burbage, contacted by phone at Ocean Downs yesterday, said, "It's the same way every year for the last 15 years. We are making improvements. I've been out of town on business and am waiting for the commission to set up another meeting (after one in December was canceled)."

Commissioner Ernest Colvin said, "We allot racing dates in December . . . Ocean Downs has not gotten any to date . . . there may not be racing there this year."

Hope Me Die, a 7-year-old gelding, came around horses in the stretch to win the feature race at Laurel Race Course yesterday by a length over Duxun Limited. It was a head farther back to longshot Little Shotgun.