Commission goes to whip, seeking inter-track deal Racing chairman scolds harness tracks, horsemen

November 19, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

FORT WASHINGTON -- Maryland Racing Commission chairman Jack Mosner has never sounded so enraged.

"I am damn fed up with your nickel-and-dime battles," he told harness track officials and horsemen at the board's monthly meeting yesterday at Rosecroft Raceway.

"If you are so content to wallow in the status quo," Mosner added, "then I'm going to table all items on today's agenda [regarding requests by the harness industry]."

It is the first time in recent memory that a commission chairman has held up requests, in this case regarding the rescheduling of a couple of dark days and some regulation changes, at a public meeting.

What so provoked Mosner as well as the other six commission members is the failure of the standardbred tracks and horsemen to agree on terms between themselves that would initiate a 90-day inter-track simulcasting experiment with their thoroughbred counterparts.

It's a move the harness industry has long sought in order to regain a presence in the Baltimore market. But now it is one the industry seems reticent to start.

Laurel thoroughbred races would be simulcast at Rosecroft in the afternoon and the Rosecroft harness races would be simulcast at Laurel and either Pimlico or Timonium Race Courses at night.

Officials of Colt Enterprises Ltd., which operates Rosecroft and Delmarva Downs, want the horsemen to share equally in the cost of the experiment. But the horsemen want the same kind of deal that thoroughbred track operator Joe De Francis struck with his horsemen-- essentially no cost-sharing unless the tracks lose money.

The horsemen have indicated a willingness to try the experiment, but so far Colt Enterprises wants no part of it.

There is uncertainty among all parties since Rosecroft and Laurel are located not that far apart and no one knows for sure how the handle at the various tracks would be impacted.

Commissioners began criticizing the harness horsemen and track managers during a presentation delineating the dire straits of Maryland's harness industry.

Jerry Brittingham, president of Cloverleaf, the organization representing standardbred horsemen, and the association's director, Charles Lockhart, said that the number of owners, breeders and horses as well as handle, had shown substantial drops.

"What we are now down to is the bare foundation [of the industry]," Brittingham said.

"Well then," said vice chairwoman Carol McGowan, "you better take care of this [the simulcasting arrangement that could generate additional revenues] before you take care of anything else."

Added commissioner Ordell Braase: "You better get your act together."

Mosner made a similar threat last month when thoroughbred track managers and horsemen reached a stalemate in negotiating the same kind of inter-tracking deal.

"The thoroughbreds had their battle and they settled it," Mosner said. "But I'm going to recess this meeting and when I re-convene it [later this afternoon], I want the matter settled."

Rosecroft president Ted Snell took issue with what he termed Mosner's "harsh" remarks. He showed a tape of the fire that destroyed a portion of Rosecroft's grandstand last December and said "we're lucky to be here, or you wouldn't have been able to scold us."

Snell said he and the horsemen have reached agreement on a number of issues, including financial arrangements regarding proposed off-track betting parlors. He said he will be visiting a number of dog tracks in New England later this week to persuade them to simulcast the Rosecroft races.

"But," he acknowledged, "inter-tracking between the two plants [Rosecroft and Laurel] has been a problem."

A harness official said yesterday that Rosecroft management doesn't want to try the inter-track experiment because they fear that the Laurel thoroughbred races in the afternoon would far out-handle the Rosecroft races at night at Laurel and give the thoroughbreds further dominance of the sport.

That official also said harness officials resent the number of thoroughbred-oriented commissioners on the board and feel the commission is being pressured by thoroughbred operators to move on the inter-track deal.

Representatives of Rosecroft and Cloverleaf met late yesterday afternoon to discuss the situation. It is hoped that an agreement between the two might be reached by early next week.

Almost lost in yesterday's fracas was the board's approval of the 1993 racing dates.

The thoroughbred aspect of the sport reverts to a 1990 type of schedule where the Pimlico spring meet ends earlier in order to allow more use of Laurel's turf course during the summer.

Pimlico will then run a late summer split meet before and after the 10-day Timonium meet.

1993 racing dates

Thoroughbred

Laurel: Jan.1-March 25

Pimlico: March 25-June 9

Laurel: June 10-Aug. 4

Pimlico: Aug. 5-Aug. 27

Timonium: Aug.28-Sept.6

Pimlico: Sept.7-Oct.6

Laurel: Oct. 7-Dec. 31

Marlboro (2 days): Oct. 20, Oct. 27

Harness

Rosecroft: Jan.1-Dec. 31 (238 nights, dark Thursdays in August, dark Dec. 22-25)

Delmarva Downs: April 2-Sept.5

Steeplechase

Fair Hill: May 31 (Memorial Day) and Sept. 6 (Labor Day), plus two other days

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