It now appears likely that the Maryland Jockey Club is moving the site of its proposed racetrack in Virginia to Loudoun County.
Speculation intensified yesterday when Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis announced that he is holding two news conferences on Monday, one at Laurel and the other in Richmond, Va., to discuss amendments to the Virginia licensing application that he submitted Oct. 1.
Monday is the deadline for the amendment process.
De Francis declined to comment yesterday, saying he would address the topic at next week's briefing. But it seems doubtful he would schedule two news conferences to announce he is staying at the original site of the proposed track in New Kent County.
A source close to Maryland Jockey Club operations said the corporation has obtained an option to purchase a 250-acre parcel of land near Dulles Airport.
De Francis has been holding meetings with Loudoun County officials in the past few weeks to work out details, such as planning and zoning regulations. Efforts to reach George Barton, chairman of the board of supervisors for Loudoun County, were unsuccessful.
If the move to Northern Virginia is announced Monday, it is likely to be greeted with enthusiasm by local owners and trainers.
"Depending on details, the move will be well received by the horsemen, many of whom were critical of the original decision to locate in the Tidewater," said Alan Foreman, counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
Maryland horsemen think the New Kent location, situated between Richmond and Williamsburg, is too far to ship their animals and argue most Virginia horsemen already are located in the northern part of the state.
New York simulcasts cut
Starting tomorrow, Maryland betting outlets will drop the full-card simulcasts from Aqueduct.
De Francis said, "It's one thing to take the Saratoga races and the Belmont spring and fall meets. But it makes no sense to pay the same rate for the product New York offers in the winter. It is poor quality racing. They are cutting back to seven races and what they are offering is too expensive for what you get."
Full cards from Calder Race Course and Santa Anita Park will be simulcast today and tomorrow. Then on Tuesday, Laurel will start simulcasting the Gulfstream Park winter meet as well as the races from Philadelphia and Santa Anita parks.
"We want to give our fans the top quality simulcasts," De Francis said. "But from now on we're going to be choosy about what we take and make sure we get good quality for what we pay for."
Edgar Prado, now riding at Aqueduct, is appealing the seven-day suspension handed down to him this week by the Laurel stewards. Prado has been granted a stay of the suspension until a hearing before the Maryland Racing Commission.
Midnight tonight is the deadline for nominating yearlings and weanlings to the Maryland Million. All inquiries should be directed to Cricket Goodall at the Maryland Million offices in Timonium (252-2100). . . . For the second time in the past few weeks, the simulcast handle at Maryland's betting outlets exceeded wagers on the Laurel live card by about $30,000 yesterday.