Horse groups reach accord Tentative agreement will return simulcasts

December 03, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Representatives of the state's thoroughbred and harness racing industries reached a tentative settlement yesterday that is expected to end their feud over the division of revenue from televised races.

Joe De Francis, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, said: "We have agreed to a short-term understanding that will allow us to turn the signals back on, hopefully by Friday.

"And we have a statement of principles that in the long term will radically alter the way we have done business."

Nighttime thoroughbred simulcasts at Rosecroft Raceway and daytime harness racing simulcasts at Laurel Park and Pimlico have been suspended since midnight, Nov. 15, when a temporary "facilities-use" extension between the parties expired.

The state's off-track betting parlors also have received only thoroughbred races before 6: 15 p.m. and harness races afterward.

Details of the final agreement are not yet available because it is subject to approval by the boards of directors of Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., the horsemen's group that operates Rosecroft, the

Maryland Thoroughbred Horseman's Association and the breeders organizations of both groups.

But the major thrust is the elimination of what De Francis called the "rather cumbersome baton pass going on."

Under the old system, the Maryland Jockey Club supervised the network at all sites during the day; Cloverleaf was in charge at night. Now, each will operate its own facility.

That was a key item for the harness interests, who wanted to control their destiny. Implementation will eliminate unwieldly personnel changes.

"One of the focuses we had was to try to solve the problem of how to get control of our own shop. This does that," said Cloverleaf president Gerry Brittingham.

According to De Francis, who had proposed arbitration to end the impasse, all the revenue will be pooled and divided according to figures to be announced after ratification by the various boards.

"In the long term, this will be greatly beneficial to all," he said. "It will allow us to offer additional signals, and for every signal to be bet through live tellers and tote machines.

"It will also facilitate the addition of more OTB facilities and move racing here into the 21st century."

The boards of Cloverleaf and the standardbred breeders' group are scheduled to meet within the next week. But final approval by the thoroughbred organizations may be delayed because many members will be attending a racing symposium in Arizona this week.

But early indications are that the agreement will fly.

"I think everybody desires an equitable agreement that allows everybody to move forward," said Richard Hoffberger, president of the MTHA.

"There is a need to understand that at some point there is a necessity for cooperation across the board," said Tim Capps of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horse Breeders' Association.

"I would hope all would recognize the efforts that have gone into the negotiations," said Brittingham. "I think everybody will benefit."

That includes racing fans, who have been inconvenienced by longer drives or shut out of betting races at certain tracks during the impasse. By Friday, they will have all their options back.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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