Delaware could emerge winner

October 23, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

One of the ironies of the planned Maryland-Virginia thoroughbred circuit that would link Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course with the proposed Colonial Downs south of Richmond is that it could mean the revival of Delaware Park.

Horsemen who live in the northeast corridor of Maryland, namely Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties, as well as other trainers located as far south as the Bowie area, have expressed adamant opposition to shipping their horses to the Virginia track.

They feel it is simply too far for them, even if purses in Virginia could be higher.

Hall of Fame trainer Henry Clark, who operates a farm in Butler and stables at Pimlico, said "no way" when asked last week if he'll go to Virginia.

"I'd rather go to Delaware Park," he said. "The mosquitoes will eat you up in Richmond in the summer."

At least a dozen other trainers have echoed Clark's sentiments.

In addition to being closer, Delaware Park is installing slot machines that could be in operation by the summer of 1995 and might boost purses there by as much as 50 percent, said Bill Rickman Jr., the track's part-owner and acting general manager.

Daily average purse distribution at Delaware is now $56,000, compared with the $120,000 to $146,000 daily average range at the Maryland tracks and the projected $140,000 daily average at the proposed Virginia facility.

Even if the slot machines are a success at Delaware, daily average purses there might only rise to as much as $75,000.

But an official at the Delaware plant said last week he is "ecstatic" about recent developments. "If Maryland closes down in the summer and moves live racing to Virginia, and if Philadelphia Park also shuts down its live meet in the summer, then it means we'll have a viable live circuit that includes Delaware again," said Maury Korn, the track's director of operations.

"We're going to accommodate all the Maryland and Pennsylvania horsemen that we can that want to come here."

Rickman added: "I don't see how the Maryland-Virginia circuit can hurt us, and it gives Maryland horsemen a choice. They can come here, or, if they want to ship farther and run for the higher purses, they can go to Virginia."

Laurel/Pimlico officials have conducted studies and don't foresee a mosquito problem at the New Kent County location. They have also indicated they will give stabling preference to horsemen who compete exclusively on the Maryland-Virginia circuit.

"What kind of coercion are you going to use to force us to run in Virginia?" one trainer asked Lenny Hale, Laurel/Pimlico vice president of racing, at a meeting of Pimlico horsemen last week.

"Heck, we can't coerce you to run in Maryland now," Hale said. A recent study showed that some Maryland outfits already run as many as 25 percent or more of their horses at out-of-state tracks during the summer.

Virginia Jockey Club plans appeal

One of the losers for the Virginia license, the Virginia Jockey Club headed by Jim Wilson of Middleburg, is planning to appeal the state racing commission's decision to award the license to the Stansley Management Group that will operate the Richmond track in conjunction with Laurel/Pimlico.

Lawrence Framme, Wilson's attorney, said, "There is so much vTC outrage being expressed by Maryland and Virginia horsemen that we feel we must appeal."

Northern Virginia horsemen, in particular, wanted the track located in their part of the state, where most of the current thoroughbred population is located. Wilson's proposed site was in Haymarket, in Prince William County near Manassas.

"We also think the commission totally ignored the main premise of the Virginia racing statute, which says a track should be built mainly as a benefit to Virginia's horse industry," Framme said.

The commission argued, however, that the best way for a Virginia track to succeed is to forge a relationship with Maryland.

Any legal action taken by Wilson might have to wait until after the Nov. 8 general election.

Prince William County residents must support a referendum allowing a pari-mutuel track to be built in their jurisdiction.

Failure to pass a similar referendum in Loudoun County, also located in Northern Virginia, doomed efforts by the Maryland Jockey Club to build a proposed track near Leesburg.

Patriotically comes to Maryland

When the stallion Salutely, who sired two Maryland Million winners earlier this month, recently died, Phyllis and Bill Dixon, major shareholders in the horse, immediately looked for a replacement.

They found one in Louisiana.

Last week, the Dixons shipped Salutely's 15-year-old brother to Maryland from the John Franks Farm near Shreveport and will stand him at Green Willow Farm in Carroll County.

Phyllis Dixon said the horse has sired one winner of more than $700,000 and that she plans to breed 15 of her mares to him.

Patriotically was bred in Cecil County by Allaire du Pont and is a son of her champion Maryland-bred mare, Politely.

'Dream weekend' at Fair Hill

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