It might be next month before the Virginia Racing Commission decides who will be awarded the license to build the state's first pari-mutuel racetrack.
Originally, the board was supposed to make the choice by Sept. 28. But apparently it is having such a tough time choosing among the applicants that the five-member panel might take advantage of a 30-day extension provided by state law and wait until October to name the licensee.
"My guess is that the commissioners might say that they need to have one more meeting before they vote," said Don Price, the board's executive director. "There are still a lot of unanswered questions."
Price thinks that at the commission's regular monthly meeting in Richmond on Wednesday, the board "might name a definite date when the announcement will be made and that time could go into the first part of October," Price said. The possible delay seems minor in the overall 5 1/2 -year period that it has taken Virginia to get this far.
Last week the commission mailed all applicants a notice requesting answers to five detailed questions involving financing, plans for turf racing and whether the applicant is willing (and capable) of placing $1 million in escrow until construction of the new plant is completed.
The track will be located in one of four places -- in northern Virginia near Manassas, in the greater Richmond area or in the Tidewater, either in Virginia Beach or Portsmouth.
Although the Maryland Jockey Club lost its bid to build a track near Leesburg when Loudoun County citizens voted down the plan last month, Pimlico/Laurel management will be involved in operating the thoroughbred meet at the Richmond site if the Stansley Management Group from Toledo, Ohio, is awarded the license.
That means that the plan of Maryland track operator Joe De Francis to conduct a two-state thoroughbred racing circuit is still possible. It would mean shutting down live racing at Pimlico and Laurel in the summer and running at the Richmond location. De Francis told the commission last month that he had conducted serious negotiations with all of the applicants since the Loudoun defeat but could not forge a partnership with any of the groups except Stansley's.
Union to seek contract changes
Pimlico/Laurel and Timonium management groups have received notice from Buddy Mays officially advising them that the union which represents the bulk of track employees wants changes and modifications in its existing contract which expires Dec. 31.
Mays represents Local 27 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which is made up of mutuel employees and various other personnel, including security and admission workers.
No meetings have been scheduled, but they are expected to start after the Oct. 1 Maryland Million.
Health care and increased use of tellerless betting terminals at -- the tracks are expected to be among the major issues involved in the negotiations. Given the financial status of Pimlico/Laurel, which is imposing purse cuts on horsemen and planning to shut down the Pimlico barn area for training during the winter, contract negotiations with the union are expected to be tense.
Concern is Canadian-bound
Pimlico-based Concern, Maryland's richest thoroughbred in 1994 with more than $700,000 in earnings, is scheduled to race next Sunday in the Molson Export Million at Woodbine Race Course.
Trainer Dick Small said that the Robert Meyerhoff-owned 3-year-old will work at Pimlico on Tuesday and then be vanned the next day to Canada.
Jerry Bailey, who finished second on Concern in the Travers Stakes, will ride the horse.
Paradise Creek coming to Laurel
Trainer Bill Mott told Pimlico/Laurel racing officials last week that Paradise Creek, winner of the Early Times Turf Triple and the recent Arlington Million, will make his next start in the Oct. 15 Washington D.C. International at Laurel Race Course.
"Right now, we're planning on running in the International," Mott said from his stable headquarters at Belmont Park. "If all continues to go well, we'll be there."
The son of Irish River has won seven of eight 1994 starts and has earned $1,320,871. Pat Day, who won the Preakness this year on Tabasco Cat, is the horse's regular jockey.
D8 The International will be run this year at 1 1/4 miles.