Rosecroft meeting not in jeopardy, track president says

January 10, 1991|By Marty McGee

While Mark Vogel and his financiers met to resolve their differences yesterday, members of the Maryland Racing Commission -- assembled for their monthly meeting at the Timonium Fairgrounds -- had little substantive discussion about Vogel's future.

Vogel owns Maryland's two harness tracks -- Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, Prince George's County, and Delmarva Downs, near Ocean City. Six days ago, officials at First National Bank of Maryland froze the track's operating accounts while initiating foreclosure proceedings on a $10.9 million loan. Although the move aggravated a tenuous situation, Rosecroft and Delmarva president Jim Murphy said yesterday that Rosecroft's meeting, which opens tomorrow night, is "in no way" jeopardized by the problems.

"The horsemen's account has not been touched, and arrangements have been made with First National to allow us to operate the track under normal conditions," Murphy said.

Paul Mark Sandler, Vogel's lawyer, refused to comment on yesterday's developments between the bank and Vogel. On Tuesday, bank officials said they would not be able to comment throughout the dealings.

On Tuesday, Sandler said, "We had a very productive meeting with the bank, and we remain confident that harness racing will be unaffected by Mr. Vogel's personal matters. We are going to continue meeting with the bank to reach a satisfactory conclusion."

At the commission meeting, Tom Russow, who represents Rosecroft employees as president of Local 27 of the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union, told the commission his office had received complaints of bounced paychecks. Russow also expressed anger regarding the tracks' pension fund for employees and a delinquent group health-and-welfare premium.

Russow said the employees' 1990 pension fund, worth about $278,000, "wasn't there." The money is amassed from one-fourth of 1 percent of the yearly betting handle.

"This disturbs me to no end," Russow said.

Murphy attributed the problems to the recent freeze, and assured Russow that provisions had been made for payment of employees and the benefit premium, and that reimbursement of the pension fund was coming. The pension payment, due Jan. 31, has been budgeted to be paid by April 1, Murphy said.

Commissioner John H. Mosner Jr., attempting to allay Russow's fears, said the tracks' budget projections for 1991 showed a "very healthy cash flow" and "are more than adequate" in regard to Russow's concerns. "The 1990 pension fund is budgeted in as a fixed racing expense," Mosner said.

Russow's appearance led to the only instance in which Vogel's financial woes were addressed in any length by the commission.

In other business, the commission:

* Was asked by representatives of the newly formed Maryland Standardbred Horsemen's Association to consider sanctioning an election between the MSHA and Cloverleaf Standardbred Association for horsemen's representation. Cloverleaf represents harness horsemen in the Middle Atlantic area.

After lengthy debate, parties for both sides agreed to attempt to negotiate the differences that led to formation of the splinter-group MSHA. "The harness industry sure has enough problems now," said Mosner. "I suggest putting it on the back burner."

* Gave management of Laurel and Pimlico race courses permission to scrap the late Pick Three in favor of a late Daily Double. The two Daily Double races will have flexible placement on programs after the sixth race, said Marty Jacobs, Laurel/Pimlico vice president and counsel.

"The late Pick Three has produced marginal returns," he said when asked why the wager was being replaced.

The change begins Saturday.

* Approved Monday, Feb. 4, as a makeup day for Tuesday's Laurel program, which was canceled because weather conditions made the track unusable.

* Deferred discussion on proposed Lasix rule changes for thoroughbreds; the proposals attempt to make Maryland rules uniform with other states in the region. Included is a proposal to allow Lasix for 2-year-old horses and one that would quantitate time and amounts of Lasix treatment.

Alan Foreman, counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said: "There was quite a bit of debate at the MTHA meeting [Tuesday] whether these uniform rules are good or bad for Maryland [horsemen]."

* Sept. 8 is the date for the sixth Maryland Million. The nine-race program, which offers $1 million in purses, will be run at Pimlico.

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