Joe De Francis, chief operating officer of Maryland's two major thoroughbred tracks, has acknowledged that he is serving as a consultant to a group of Texas entrepreneurs who hope to build a $95-million thoroughbred track in the Dallas-Fort Worth .. area.
De Francis said he is not an investor in the project. "What I'm doing is lending my expertise," De Francis said yesterday by phone from Tucson, where he is attending the University of Arizona Racing Industry symposium.
De Francis released a statement that said he is assisting the Lone Star Jockey Club "in designing and developing a first-class facility, and in putting together a top-flight management team to operate that facility."
Lone Star Jockey Club is a partnership comprising Preston M. Carter Jr., a Dallas real estate developer, and oilman James C. Musselman.
Lone Star is one of six groups that have publicly acknowledged plans for operating a Class I track in the Dallas area. But Carter said yesterday that the only other group he regards as a major contender to obtain a license to build a facility is one formed by R. D. Hubbard. Hubbard won a proxy battle last year to take control of Hollywood Park from former major stockholder Marje Everett.
Bob Manfuso, part owner of both Laurel and Pimlico race courses, also serves on Hollywood Park's board of directors. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
"I've known R. D. forever," Carter said yesterday. "Financially, we have about the same resources. But from a management point of view, I'd stack up the expertise of the Maryland Jockey Club against his management team any day. This is something I've been working on for 15 years, but really hot and heavy for the last seven to eight months. We have a proposal that we're submitting to the Texas Racing Commission that is five volumes thick. Besides, I'm a Texan and R. D. is from Kansas."
Carter predicts a daily average handle of $1.8 million for his proposed track and an average daily purse distribution of $153,000. He has purchased two 300-acre sites in Dallas and Grand Prairie and said that he plans to have the track open by 1994.
Carter said he talks to De Francis "every day on the phone. He has helped design our track, helped with the financial structuring and with simulcast problems. He will help with other matters, such as staffing and security."
License applications must be submitted to the Texas board by Dec. 31. Carter said he expects approval by June or July.
Texas passed a pari-mutuel wagering bill in 1987. Since then, three Class II tracks offering thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing have been built. There are also two greyhound tracks with another one under construction. Licenses have been granted to two groups to build Class I tracks. They are the Sam Houston Park in the Houston area and Retama Park in San Antonio.
By forging ties with the fledgling Texas racing industry, De Francis hopes Maryland racing will benefit from future simulcast contracts, a coordinated stakes schedule and a possible sharing of horses between the states.