De Francis details Md.-Va. racing plan

March 17, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

RICHMOND, VA — RICHMOND, Va. -- If he isn't awarded the license to run Virginia's first thoroughbred horse racing track, Joe De Francis said yesterday that the only other applicant for the track license he would work with is Arnold Stansley, a Toledo, Ohio, harness operator who wants to build a track in New Kent County, about 25 miles east of here.

The owner of Laurel and Pimlico race courses told members of the Virginia Racing Commission that if either he or Stansley ran the Virginia track, there would be an interstate-racing circuit. Under a plan agreed to by Stansley, De Francis said he would shut down live racing at Maryland tracks for 102 days during the summer when live races would run at the New Kent track.

Tracks in both states would participate in a simulcast swap. For eight months, the Maryland live races would be telecast at no charge into the Virginia track and its six off-track betting outlets. The rest of the year, Virginia's live races would be telecast at no cost into Maryland tracks and OTBs.

Stansley said the arrangement would generate about $185 million annually from betting on simulcasts in Virginia, with $11.1 million for purses and $100 million in Maryland, $8 million for Laurel/Pimlico purses.

De Francis said he could not form such an alliance with Jim Wilson's Virginia Jockey Club, which wants to build in Prince William County and compete with Laurel/Pimlico. "And I've gotten almost unanimous feedback from Maryland horsemen who say they don't want to go all the way to southern Virginia." Southern Virginia is where Churchill Downs (Virginia Beach) and the Virginia Racing Associates (Portsmouth) want to build.

The only other applicant, Jeffrey Taylor, plans to build on the same site as Stansley and run a mixed-breed summer meet.

Virginia commissioner Robin Traywick Williams asked how De Francis could guarantee participation by Maryland race interests an interstate circuit.

"I would request that the state [give him the OK to] race in Virginia and then provide incentives for our horsemen to race here," De Francis said.

The Virginia commission wrapped up its week of site visits and public hearings on the proposed tracks yesterday by looking at Stansley and Taylor's New Kent site.

Later at a public hearing, overwhelming local support was expressed for racing at the New Kent location.

The commission will hold final hearings June 6-8.

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