Harness horsemen meet today on compromise on later thoroughbred TV

January 12, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Operators of Laurel and Pimlico race courses are hoping that harness horsemen will agree to a compromise at a meeting in Annapolis today and allow electronic thoroughbred races to be simulcast daily until 7:15 p.m.

In turn, the thoroughbred tracks will card 12-race televised Standardbred programs each day from Freehold Raceway in Freehold, N.J.

The agreement will go into effect if, and when, the thoroughbred and harness tracks initiate a 90-day cross-breed experiment. Under the inter-track arrangement, thoroughbred races will be simulcast during the afternoon at Rosecroft-Delmarva raceways and then harness races will be televised nightly at Laurel-Pimlico.

The simulcasts will be used to supplement live cards.

Under present state law, thoroughbred races must end at 6:15 p.m.

But if the time slot is moved to 7:15, it would allow a couple of extra thoroughbred races to be simulcast daily from California.

Thoroughbred tracks and horsemen would receive the commissions from the California simulcasts and harness operators and horsemen would get the proceeds from the Freehold races.

Harness horsemen will meet this afternoon to discuss the compromise, which was worked out yesterday at a meeting of the Maryland Horse Coalition at Laurel Race Course.

But none of the inter-track initiatives can take place until the General Assembly, which convenes tomorrow, passes some new racing legislation. A bill will have to be passed that allows Maryland tracks to commingle pools on full-card simulcasts from tracks in other states, such as California and Florida, which have different takeout formulas.

Staff shake-up

Don't expect Joe De Francis to name a new racing secretary today, when he announces changes in his senior management staff at a noon news conference.

No decision has yet been made concerning who will replace departing Larry Abbundi.

Abbundi called De Francis about 7 a.m. Sunday and resigned after news reports surfaced announcing the appointment of Lenny Hale as the new vice president of racing operations.

"Larry certainly wasn't forced or encouraged to resign," De Francis said. "He has been a valuable asset to this organization for a long time and has a wealth of racing knowledge. He just felt it was a good time to step down. It was an amicable parting."

Abbundi, 66, has been a racing secretary at Maryland tracks for 27 years. His last day on the job is Jan. 24.

Double legislatures

De Francis now has to deal with two state legislatures-- not only Maryland's General Assembly, but also the one in Virginia.

The 38-year-old track operator is going full speed ahead with plans to build a new track in the Old Dominion.

"We are in the process of getting a lobbyist to represent us in Richmond [the state capital]," De Francis said.

The most urgent item on the legislative agenda is the effort to change the present "one-to-one simulcasting" law.

The law currently stipulates that for every simulcast race offered, there must be one live race.

The Virginia Racing Commission is apparently considering a bill that would allow unlimited simulcasts if 150 days of live racing are carded.

"Getting the 'one-to-one' law changed is imperative for any operator that wants to build a track in Virginia," De Francis said.

The Virginia General Assembly convenes a 60-day session this week.

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