Shutdown plans are re-emphasized

September 06, 1995|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Despite objections from some horsemen, including perennial leading trainer King Leatherbury, Pimlico/Laurel operator Joe De Francis told horsemen at a meeting in Laurel last night that he definitely plans to shut down live racing for a three- to six-week period next year in order to strengthen purses.

"That's the range -- a minimum of three weeks to a maximum of six weeks," De Francis said. "The idea is to continue to simulcast while we shut down live racing during a slack time so that we can build up purses to attract horses during a peak period, specifically the spring meet at Pimlico."

De Francis is looking at closing during August and September, but has not ruled out shutting down for shorter blocks of time throughout the year.

He hopes to analyze figures, submit a plan to horsemen by mid-October and finalize the 1996 schedule with the board of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association at its November meeting.

"Shutting down at all scares me," Leatherbury said. "No matter when you do it, you are going to lose horses because owners will insist that they run elsewhere. That's the economics of racing in the 1990s. Shutting down is going to be very detrimental."

Instead, Leatherbury suggested the tracks stop paying purse bonuses during the slow business months in order to conserve money for the spring.

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