De Francis blasts Manfusos Denies claims made in reported lawsuit

March 07, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Laurel-Pimlico track operator Joe De Francis minced few words yesterday in responding to a report that Tom and Bob Manfuso, his co-owners in the two tracks, have filed another suit against him in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

"This is a big pile of garbage and nothing more than harassment," De Francis said.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Manfusos have asked the court to make a declaratory judgment concerning the validity of a stockholders agreement that allows either side to buy the other out after Oct. 1. The paper also reported that the Manfusos, in the suit, charge De Francis and Martin Jacobs, a minority owner and the track's chief legal counsel, for condoning improper bookkeeping practices and are seeking more than $300,000 each in damages.

De Francis said he had no knowledge of the suit before it was reported.

"If indeed they [the Manfusos] did file suit, it was submitted late on a Friday afternoon and then they called the Washington Post," De Francis said. "How bush league."

He added: "I can unequivocally state that under no circumstances whatsoever will the Manfuso brothers ever get control of Laurel and Pimlico. There is no way, and I repeat, no way, that they can force me to sell to them, and I will rot in hell before I do."

The Manfusos filed a similar suit against De Francis and Jacobs last year, but it was dismissed by the court. De Francis counter-sued, saying that since the Manfusos had initially sued him, they had breached a stockholders agreement containing the buyout clause.

"That suit is not scheduled to be heard until March 1994," De Francis said.

The partners have been struggling for control of the two tracks since the late Frank De Francis died in August 1989. That is when Joe De Francis assumed his father's roles as president and chief operating officer. He, his family and Jacobs own the majority of voting stock in the two tracks.

Neither of the Manfusos could be reached yesterday for comment.

Cormorant's Flight wins

Cormorant's Flight won her second straight stakes victory yesterday at Laurel by defeating Bocamis by three lengths in the $60,000 Politely Stakes.

The 3-year-old filly previously won the Jameela Stakes on Jan. 30 by 9 3/4 lengths, but had a harder time holding on yesterday at the seven-furlong distance.

"She was rank early and I had a hard time getting her to relax," said jockey Mike Luzzi. "But when the other horses came to her [at the top of the stretch], she kept going. I was real pleased with the way she hit the ground and extended herself at the end."

Luzzi rode four winners yesterday, including victories in the first, fourth and 11th races.

NOTES:Maryland stallion Corridor Key sired his first stakes winner when Silver Key defeated Asset Impression Friday night in the $50,000-added Cherry Hill Mile at Garden State Park. . . . Mighty Game drew the attention of the Laurel fans yesterday when he broke his maiden in the seventh race, running six furlongs in 1 minute, 10 2/5 seconds.

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