Va. track could help Maryland's

January 07, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Could a summer-long half-mile thoroughbred racing circuit return to Maryland?

That thought has crossed the minds of officials connected with operating the state's two half-mile ovals at Upper Marlboro and Timonium, if the Maryland Jockey Club, operators of Laurel and Pimlico race courses, is successful in its bid to build a track in Virginia.

In his business plan presented earlier this week to the Virginia Racing Commission, Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis said would run 102 dates at a proposed Loudoun County, Va., track from mid-June to mid-October, starting in 1996 if he is awarded the license.

During that 17-week period, there would be no live racing in Maryland.

The half-mile operators could step forward and fill that void.

"It's food for thought," said Southern Maryland horsewoman Marilyn Ketts, who was instrumental in 1988 in getting racing revived for two days each fall at the defunct Marlboro Race Track in Upper Marlboro. The facility, now known as the Prince George's County Equestrian Center, is owned by the state and operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Ketts, a member of the board's Citizens Advisory Committee, said she is going to introduce the proposal at the panel's next meeting on Tuesday. "We'd love to have all those summer dates," Ketts said. "I think it would be fantastic for Marlboro. Why should Maryland horse people have to go to Virginia, especially the ones stabled at Pimlico? I've been talking to a lot of horsemen in this area and they feel like I do. The state is going to lose a lot of revenue if live racing leaves Maryland for four months each year. Everyone in the county [Prince George's] has been behind us in operating for a couple of days each fall, and I think they would be behind us now. We'll have a meeting first to see if such an idea is feasible, and then we'll go from there."

Howard M. "Max" Mosner Jr., general manager at Timonium, said he isn't sure what his track might do, but requesting more dates each summer is a possibility.

"We've had a couple of discussions," Mosner said. "I've got guys on my board that still think night [thoroughbred] racing is the way to go. But for now, we've decided not to play "what if" games. First, we have to see who comes out in control of the tracks." In two weeks De Francis either buys out his partners the Manfuso brothers or sells to them. "And, secondly, the potential of a track in Virginia, is still years away," Mosner said.

De Francis, who addressed a meeting of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemens Association last night, said he is checking state law to see if the other Maryland track operators could apply for those days if he moves to Virginia. During that time frame, he still plans to simulcast races back to Maryland and its off-track betting outlets.

The MTHA, which voted last year in favor of a combined Maryland-Virginia circuit, supports De Francis' proposed plans for Loudoun County.

$1 million for Jacody

Arnold and Sharon Mekiliesky, a Reisterstown couple who owned the 4-year-old filly, Jacody, in partnership with Donna Donovan, have sold the horse to Saudi Arabian interests for $1 million.

"Everybody is standing around with their mouths open," Donovan said last night from her winter home near Gulfstream Park. Each time Jacody won a stakes last year for the partners, who raced her most of the year in Maryland, the price escalated.

Finally, when the contract was presented to bloodstock agent Don Brawer in Florida a couple of weeks ago with the $1 million price tag, he returned it with the money.

Neither Donovan nor the Mekilieskys knew the buyer's name. "The filly is supposed to stay with us at Gulfstream," Donovan said, "until she is shipped to Saudi Arabia."

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