Dover's extended season is hurting Rosecroft more

On Horse Racing

March 24, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Rosecroft Raceway has been struggling to compete since Dover Downs acquired slot machines three months ago . . . and is losing the battle.

"Things are worse than we had anticipated," said Rosecroft president Dennis Dowd. "We thought Dover would be closing and we'd be picking up horses. That didn't happen."

Dover extended its meeting from March 17 to April 28 and is scheduled to program up to 70 races weekly until its closure.

With a purse structure almost double Rosecroft's ($70,000 to $37,000 daily) luring them, many horsemen are continuing to race in Delaware.

"Usually just before a meet ends, people start to wander elsewhere," said Dowd. "We thought we'd start to get horses two weeks ago. Instead they stayed."

To make matters worse, Dover's cards will be simulcast into Delaware Park when the in-state thoroughbred track opens next month. Delaware Park will drop Rosecroft's signal, costing the Maryland track more needed revenue.

Rosecroft still is suffering on its Saturday cards with five- and six-horse fields and will run only four live programs weekly instead of the planned five during April.

"And the product certainly isn't what we'd like it to be," said Dowd. "The quality will not rise until we get more horses."

Unlike the state's thoroughbred tracks, Rosecroft did not have a good year financially in 1995 and then was thrust head-on into the Delaware threat.

Dowd said Freehold Raceway in New Jersey also is losing horses to Dover, where horsemen believe they can catch softer fields.

"This is a mess," he said. "At least the legislature has promised to look again at the Racing Reform Act and the slot issue, sending it into summer study.

"I think they very much see our plight."

Rosecroft and/or Delmarva Downs is scheduled to race year-round, but Dowd said that could change. After Dover closes, Delaware will be quiet until September, when Harrington Raceway (where slots also will be running) opens.

A taxing proposal

Joe De Francis bristles when it is suggested in the legislature that the proposed slot machine bill is designed solely for the enrichment of the tracks and horse interests.

"That's insane," said the president of Laurel Park and Pimlico. "That is so totally wrong it is not even worthy of a response."

De Francis points out that his operations would pay "the highest taxes of any gaming operation [35 percent] in America, so this is not a bill designed to enrich the operator but to enliven the industry as a whole.

"I wish people who say these things would talk to the other 20,000 people involved [in racing employment]."

Taxes on gaming in Nevada are 6 percent, in Atlantic City 8 percent, De Francis points out. Casino operations in the Midwest pay 20 percent, still far below his suggested output.

Simulcasting Cigar

The Maryland Jockey Club will be offering simulcast wagering Wednesday on the $4 million Dubai World Cup featuring Cigar.

All sites, including off-track betting parlors, will receive the race with post time at 10 a.m. Gates open a half-hour earlier.

The event will include a special early card from Suffolk Downs starting at 10: 30 a.m., and the program page from Dubai will be placed in the Laurel main program.

L Advance wagering will be available on the Dubai race Monday.

Looking ahead

Despite soaring profits last year, De Francis does not expect the good fortune to continue.

"We're already down substantially from the first quarter last year," he said. "A lot of it had to do with the weather, but we're still off."

With head-to-head competition from the Delaware slots coming against the Pimlico spring meet, Maryland is expected to suffer somewhat.

But Alan Foreman, attorney for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, does not expect massive defections to Delaware.

"I think most Maryland horsemen want to support what's happening in their state," said Foreman. "I don't think you'll see much happening, at least not until Delaware comes out with a second [condition] book."

Pub Date: 3/24/96

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