Commission approves '97 race dates Va. 30-day summer meet would alter configuration

November 14, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Racing Commission yesterday routinely approved the state's thoroughbred tracks' racing dates next year without addressing the possibility of a 30-day summer meeting in Virginia.

Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis has said he will conduct simulcast-only racing at Laurel Park and Pimlico if Colonial Downs, currently under construction in New Kent County, Va., is ready to operate by the target date of June 29.

De Francis' group is under contract to manage the thoroughbreds at the Virginia plant whenever it opens.

Ken Schertle, executive director of the commission, said the dates submitted yesterday are not etched in stone.

"We can't say to Laurel and Pimlico, 'You have to race today,' " said Schertle. "But we can say to Laurel and Pimlico, 'You may not simulcast today.' So, they would have to come back to us with a new request."

Martin Jacobs, general counsel of the Maryland Jockey Club, said reports of the progress at Colonial Downs are optimistic.

"We're committed to the track whenever it starts," said Jacobs. "When we think of the options, the time to conduct their meeting is probably September."

Bally's gets offers

The ball is back in the court of Bally's, the casino company which has been managing Rosecroft Raceway and Ocean Downs for Cloverleaf Enterprises, Inc. after providing a $10.6 million loan for the horseman's group to buy the tracks.

Cloverleaf, strapped with a $10.1 million debt, presented Bally's with three counterproposals to the latter's bail-out offer, which was rejected on Oct. 29.

One would guarantee five years of live racing at the two tracks in exchange for Bally's acquisition of 100 percent ownership.

Another would allow Bally's to acquire Ocean Downs for $2 million and guarantee live racing there for 40 days annually.

A third would sell Ocean Downs to an unspecified group for $1.5 million with Cloverleaf retaining an option to regain control if gaming comes to the track.

Bally's would receive a 15 percent option in the latter two cases, giving it control in exchange for the reduction of Cloverleaf's debt.

Harness dates set

The commission also agreed to Rosecroft's request for 156 days of live racing and 113 simulcast days and Ocean Downs' request for 66 live days and 203 simulcast days.

But unless Cloverleaf and Bally's reach some sort of agreement, there is doubt as to whether the harness tracks will still be in business.

Rosecroft will operate live racing only twice a week from January through March, and its horse population has declined 50 percent.

Maryland racing dates

Jan. 1-Feb. 24: Laurel

Feb. 25-March 31: Pimlico (at Laurel)

April 1-June 9: Pimlico; Memorial Day: Fair Hill

June 10-July 21: Laurel

July 22-Aug. 22: Pimlico

Aug. 23-Sept. 1: Timonium

Sept. 2-Oct. 6: Pimlico

Oct. 7-Dec. 31: Laurel

Pub Date: 11/14/96

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