State simulcast negotiations stalled Harness horsemen unhappy

no deal seen until January

November 13, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

The deal to simulcast races between the state's thoroughbred and harness tracks has hit another snag.

It was hoped that a Laurel Race Course-Rosecroft Raceway inter-tracking operation would be functioning by the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday period.

But harness horsemen are now balking at financial terms being negotiated with the management of the standardbred tracks.

It doesn't seem likely that a simulcasting arrangement, where thorougbred races would be shown at Rosecroft Raceway in the afternoon and harness races at Laurel Race Course at night, will be instituted until January, said Ted Snell, Rosecroft's president.

At first, thoroughbred horsemen and Laurel-Pimlico operator Joe Francis could not agree on financial arrangements this past summer. The issue became entangled with De Francis' decision to shut down Pimlico for winter training and it took a couple of months to resolve the matter.

Now the harness horsemen are unhappy with the deal proposed Colt Enterprises Ltd., the company that operates Rosecroft and its sister track, Delmarva Downs.

Colt officials want the horsemen to share the simulcasting costs, as well as splitting the proceeds 50-50.

But Charles Lockhart, executive director of Cloverleaf, the organization representing harness owners and trainers, said his group wants the same kind of deal that De Francis struck with his horsemen.

Thoroughbred horsemen pay no share of the costs during a 90-day trial period and will only dip into their profits to help defray costs if the thoroughbred tracks suffer a loss. At any time, either side can halt the inter-tracking experiment.

There is uncertainty on all sides since both Rosecroft and Laurel are not located that far apart and no one knows how the handle will be impacted.

Snell said De Francis' arrangement works well for the thoroughbred people "because their handle is typically three times higher than ours and they will essentially be operating only one facility [Rosecroft, although the races will also be shown at Delmarva Downs. But Snell said expenses there will be minimal].

"We expect to handle less and will have to operate two facilities -- Laurel and Pimlico, although we have no guarantee we will be going into Pimlico."

An alternate Baltimore-area site is Timonium Race Course. Snell said he meets with Timonium officials next week to discuss that possibility. Despite the problems, Snell said he is confident the situation will be resolved "although not as quickly as turning on a spigot."

Lockhart added that expanding harness racing into the Baltimore market is critical. "We just have to find an equitable way to try it."

NOTES: Jockey Joe Rocco was shaken up, but not seriously injured, yesterday after Missionary Band, his mount in the seventh race at Laurel, collapsed and died after crossing the finish line. Rocco was flipped over the horse's head. The 2-year-old filly, the second foal out of stakes winner Wainee Church, "was dead when she hit the ground," according to steward Jean Chalk. It is believed the horse suffered a heart attack. . . . Baltimore County bloodstock agent Donald Litz was at Laurel yesterday, almost fully recovered after a recent automobile accident. Litz was knocked unconscious and needed stitches sewn in his head after a deer jumped onto his car on Interstate 70 near Frederick about three weeks ago. . . . Fans at Freehold Raceway bet $44,000 on the initial Rosecroft card simulcast to the Freehold, N.J., track earlier this week. Rosecroft president Ted Snell said he was pleased with the figure. "We are only a secondary signal there," he said. Snell added that signals from both Maryland's thoroughbred and harness tracks will be received in about 12 Atlantic City casinos in about six months.

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