De Francis, Texas group to pursue track in Dallas

December 04, 1991|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Evening Sun Staff

Joe De Francis, hoping eventually to expand his racing empire, today announced he is joining forces with the Lone Star Jockey Club, a group of Texas entrepreneurs who plan to build a major race track in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

De Francis, chief operating owner of the state's two thoroughbred tracks, formally announced today that he has "accepted an invitation" by the Lone Star Jockey Club "to assist it in seeking a Class I racetrack license."

The possibility exists that Maryland could one day be simulcasting and commingling the betting pools of its thoroughbred races to a new track in Texas.

But first, De Francis and his partners must beat out formidable California interests, which also are trying to grab a foothold in the expected Texas racing boom.

Actual completion of the track is at least two years away, said Marty Jacobs, executive vice president and general counsel at Laurel and Pimlico.

The Lone Star Jockey Club must first be granted the license to build and operate the track.

Young De Francis is following in the footsteps of his father, the late Frank De Francis, who started discussions with potential track operators several years ago when Texas first passed a referendum allowing pari-mutuel thoroughbred racing.

But only recently did Texas lawmakers amend legislation that lowers the state's share of the takeout and allows simulcasting and common-pool wagering. These steps make it feasible for operators to actually start building quaility racing facilities.

Plans are already under way for tracks in Houston and San Antonio. Now the third major area in Dallas and Fort Worth is up for grabs, but De Francis and his partners could have a real fight on their hands just to land the license.

R.D. Hubbard, the racing entrepreneur and corporate raider who recently seized control of Hollywood Park in a hostile takeover from former majority stockholder Marje Everett, also wants the Dallas-Fort Worth license.

So far, Hubbard hasn't idenitified his Texas connections.

De Francis is working with Preston M. Carter, Jr., a Dallas real estate developer and oilman James C. Mussleman to obtain the license and build the track.

De Francis, who currently is in Tuscon attending the University of Arizona Racing Industry symposium, could not be reached for comment.

He will serve as a consultant to the Texas group and will not be moving from the Maryland area or give up any of his current duties at Laurel and Pimlico, Jacobs said.

De Francis stated, in a press release, that "I want to stress that my role in this project will be to assist Lone Star Jockey Club in designing and developing a first class facility, and in putting together a top-flight management team to operate the facility."

He added, "My participation will result in many long-term benefits for Maryland racing if the Lone Star Jockey Club is successful with its license application."

Applications for the license must be submitted by Dec. 31, Jacobs said, and then the Texas Racing Commission will have until April 30, 1992, to grant the license.

The chief benefit to Maryland racing could be a potentially rich Western simulcast outlet.

There is currently one track located in the Forth Worth area. It is called Trinity Meadows Raceway and is located in Willow Lake, nine miles west of Fort Worth. It is considered a minor league facility, although daily betting averages approach $800,000.

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