It's novice vs. pros in race to operate Va. track

September 16, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

RICHMOND, Va. -- Jeffrey Taylor, a dentist from Covington, Va., might be considered the least likely of six applicants to be awarded a license to build Virginia's first thoroughbred racetrack.

He is the only potential licensee -- in a group that includes experienced racetrack operators from Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio and Puerto Rico -- who has never run a pari-mutuel facility.

But Taylor indicated in Richmond yesterday that he may file a detailed licensing application with the Virginia Racing Commission before the board's Oct. 1 deadline.

Taylor wants to build a track on land in New Kent County -- halfway between Richmond and Williamsburg -- that is also the site selected by the Maryland Jockey Club, operators of Pimlico and Laurel race courses.

dTC The Virginia board held its final meeting yesterday before it begins accepting applications and starts to evaluate potential licensees, a process that is expected to take as long as six months.

The panel voted to have a liberal amendment policy, allowing applicants to add to their original applications through Jan. 3.

"This doesn't mean we are going to accept dummy applications that can be totally transformed by January," said board chairman John Shenefield, a lawyer who lives in Great Falls, Va., and practices in Washington.

Shenefield said amendments are necessary because there could zoning changes or because potential sites of off-track betting parlors could change after a Nov. 3 election.

In November, voters in Arlington and Alexandria in Northern Virginia will decide whether to permit OTB parlors in their communities. Last year, voters in Falls Church and Fairfax City rejected OTB outlets. Richmond and Virginia Beach voters have approved OTB parlors.

Board member Arthur Arundel said yesterday that the panel could approve more than one application.

"There is nothing that prohibits us from granting two licenses," Arundel said. Such a scenario would likely include construction of a harness track at one end of the state and a flat track at the other.

However, Shenefield said he thinks each of the six applicants plans to be the sole operator of a single Virginia track.

The other principal players -- all present at yesterday's meeting -- included:

* Churchill Downs president Tom Meeker, who said the Hampton Roads Sports Authority has granted funding for his proposed track in Virginia Beach. "We're all set in every respect," Meeker said.

* Joe De Francis, of Pimlico/Laurel, said he has settled on the New Kent location for the Maryland Jockey Club's proposed track, although the possibility of switching to a site in Loudoun County may be considered during the amendment period.

* Bill Miller, executive vice president of the Virginia Racing Associates, which is planning a track in Portsmouth, where plans have been approved for his project.

* Arnold Stansley, general manager of Toledo Raceway in Ohio, and Fred Kohler, representing James J. Wilson's Virginia Jockey Club also were present. Stansley prefers the New Kent site. Wilson, who operates El Comandante Race Course in San Juan, Puerto Rico, wants a site in Prince William County near Gainesville.

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