Simulcast picture clouding up De Francis threatens to halt program without better deal HORSE RACING

November 17, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Baltimore horseplayers who have become accustomed to betting on televised harness races at night at Pimlico or Laurel thoroughbred tracks might have to find a new pastime.

Thoroughbred track owners and horsemen issued a joint resolution last night to shut down the cross-breed simulcasting program between the flat and harness tracks on Jan. 10, 1994, unless new terms can be negotiated giving the thoroughbred industry a larger slice of the gambling pie.

At the same time, the board of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association voted to kick in 2 percent of its share of the daily betting proceeds at Rosecroft Raceway. That's 1 percent, or about $200,000, less than Laurel/Pimlico owner Joe De Francis had requested it appropriate toward operating the facility as a daytime simulcast center.

This new twist prompted De Francis to say last night that he might shut down the entire inter-track program by the beginning of December.

Under the terms of the cross-breed contract, any dissatisfied party can pull the plug on the project after giving 15 days' notice and De Francis was clearly dissatisfied last night with the horsemen's offer.

"We can't keep bearing all the costs [at Rosecroft]," De Francis said, citing recent figures that through the first three quarters of this year Laurel and Pimlico showed a net loss of about $4 million. De Francis attributed the losses to a poor first four months before new betting programs were started in April and because the tracks have picked up the tab for the afternoon Rosecroft operation.

De Francis told the horsemen that estimated yearly revenues, split 50-50 between the horsemen and track management, will amount to about a $1.8 million profit. "But the horsemen have to contribute their fair share of the costs," De Francis said.

Richard Hoffberger, president of the MTHA, said the majority of the board felt 2 percent is enough. The offer exists retroactively from Aug. 1 until Jan. 9.

Ted Snell, president of Rosecroft, said that despite moves last night by the thoroughbred industry, "the inter-track program will continue. The state and the racing commission won't allow it to stop. Halting it would cause such a negative response from the consumer. Believe me, an agreement will be reached."

Court battle heats up

De Francis has been summoned to appear today in a Howard County attorney's office to give a deposition involving the contingency claim made by the Manfuso brothers, his estranged Laurel/Pimlico partners, against his late father's estate in Orphans Court.

But De Francis said last night that he doesn't plan to appear. "I've turned this matter over to my lawyers, and, as far as I'm concerned, it's a bunch of hogwash," he said. Herb Garten, attorney for the Manfusos, said De Francis could be cited for contempt if he doesn't appear.

Meanwhile, the Orphans Court judges are scheduled to convene this morning and could decide whether to grant the Manfusos' claim. That means the De Francis estate's assets could be frozen until the current Russian roulette dispute is decided. The Manfusos have offered to sell their stock in the tracks to De Francis for $8.2 million and want the De Francis stock guaranteed by the estate's assets.

Miscellaneous

Canton River rallied along the rail yesterday and won the $60,000 Rollicking Stakes. The horse might make his next start in the Maryland Juvenile Championship at Laurel on Dec. 11.

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