Hale returns in management post Appointment is first step in De Francis' reorganization

January 09, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Lenny Hale, a native Baltimorean and former senior vice president of the New York Racing Association, is returning to his home state to run the racing departments at Laurel and Pimlico race courses.

Track operator Joe De Francis acknowledged Hale's appointment to a senior management position at his tracks yesterday and said that he will give more specific details at a news conference at Laurel at noon Tuesday.

"This is the first significant step in a major reorganization of my management team," De Francis said.

He would not comment on how Hale's presence would affect Timothy Capps, current vice president of racing, or longtime racing secretary Larry Abbundi.

But it is believed that Capps will take over a new post as vice president of communications, overseeing simulcasting and marketing.

It is unclear whether Abbundi, who met with De Francis briefly after the races yesterday, will retain his job.

Hale, 47, is a lifelong horseman with a national reputation as a top racing executive who worked his way up from a job on the starting gate at Florida tracks to overseeing racing departments at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga racetracks. He recently was fired from his job at NYRA tracks after 17 years because of "internal conflicts" with board chairman Allan Dragone. "Basically, I wasn't a 'yes man,' " Hale said.

When reached yesterday, Hale said he is ecstatic about returning to Maryland.

"I couldn't be happier," he said. "I'm not a New Yorker. I'm a Baltimore boy coming home. It is exciting because there is the possibility of a new circuit being formed between Maryland and Virginia. I could be involved in the building of one of the last major tracks to be built in this country [in Virginia]. And I want to work hard right now to bring Maryland racing back to what it used to be."

Hale said some of his priorities are to bring in out-of-town stables to beef up the current decline in horseflesh; to re-design race condition books and stakes schedules; and ultimately "my major goal is to bring the Breeders' Cup to Maryland. I think we have to start thinking big again," Hale said.

He added, "I want to listen to what all owners and trainers have to say. I want to sit down with everyone that wants to sit down with me. It doesn't mean I'm going to solve everyone's problems, but they are going to have someone to talk to."

His appointment was hailed yesterday by leaders in Maryland's racing industry.

"This is a great move. One of the better things to happen to Maryland racing," said J. W. Y. "Duck" Martin Jr., president of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association and a newly elected member of the Jockey Club.

"Lenny is well-respected and is liked by trainers and owners," said Richard Hoffberger, president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "He did a super job in New York. He is a horseman and he knows what makes horsemen tick."

Katy Voss, who serves on a number of horsemen's boards, said she thinks Hale "brings a hands-on approach to all facets of the racing program and I think he can pull it all together. We need his 'can-do' attitude."

Hale said he plans to keep a horse at Laurel and ride out daily to talk to horsemen. "I want to get to the other tracks [Pimlico and Bowie] at least once a week. To start with, I plan to be at the track seven days a week."

When Hale was fired from his New York job, more than 70 trainers signed a petition to get NYRA management to reinstate him.

The New York racing department gave him a testimonial dinner earlier this week.

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