Simulcasting backed, but for a price Pimlico must stay open, horsemen say

September 02, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

LAUREL -- Maryland thoroughbred horsemen agreed last night to back an inter-track simulcast deal between Laurel-Pimlico and Rosecroft Raceway.

But one big contingency was attached to the plan: Track operator Joe De Francis, who sought the inter-tracking deal, must keep Pimlico Race Course open for training this winter.

By a 7-2 vote, with one abstention, the board of directors of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association passed the proposal, even though De Francis rejected a similar offer from a horsemen's committee a week ago.

MTHA board member Jerry Robb said that he is convinced that all Maryland horsemen must work together to force management to keep Pimlico open "because we all [including Laurel and Bowie trainers] are going to be squeezed if Pimlico shuts down."

"The last thing this management needs to do is to chase horses out of Maryland, and that's what is going to happen if Pimlico closes. It's up to us to save this management from themselves. From the way they are doing business, it seems to me they are on a suicide mission to destroy Maryland racing."

The simulcast proposal the horsemen accepted calls for a 90-day experimental period of inter-track wagering between Laurel-Pimlico and the Rosecroft harness track. Horsemen won't have to pay expenses connected with the inter-track operation, but if there are losses, they will help pay for them out of any profits they might have made. Additionally, the horsemen can stop the experiment if there are substantial losses.

"This was the suggestion of the committee that was set up to study the Pimlico situation," MTHA board member Timothy Boyce said. "It [the inter-tracking] should help generate funds to keep Pimlico open. Even though it was turned down once, maybe with the backing of the full MTHA board, he [De Francis] will re-consider it."

Pimlico horsemen staged a two-day boycott of the Laurel entries three weeks ago to protest De Francis' decision to shut down the track for training for about 4 1/2 months starting Nov. 1. De Francis said he needed to close Pimlico during the off-season to cut costs.

Timothy Capps, vice president of racing at Laurel and Pimlico, attended last night's meeting. "I can't comment on what Joe [De Francis] will do. But I see no reason why he would reverse himself," Capps said.

De Francis could not be reached last night for comment.

Alan Foreman, counsel for the MTHA, said that De Francis will be notified by letter of the board's action.

"If he rejects our proposal, then that aspect of off-track betting [the initial step of inter-tracking between Laurel-Pimlico-Rosecroft] is dead. It's clear Joe [De Francis] has a big problem on his hands."

Under state law, management and horsemen must agree before any OTB deals can be made.

The horsemen also voted to request management to make definite stall allocations by Sept. 15 if Pimlico is to be shut down. Capps said that track management should be able to meet that request.

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