Colonial Downs dates stir ire of Maryland officials Fair's Mosner critical of Timonium meet conflict

March 25, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The spirit of cooperation between the Maryland and Virginia thoroughbred circuits -- tenuous at times anyway -- turned downright antagonistic at yesterday's meeting of the Maryland Racing Commission.

The ill will stemmed from a conflict in dates of the seven-week thoroughbred meeting at Colonial Downs, the track between Richmond and Williamsburg, and the traditional 10-day season at Timonium during the Maryland State Fair. Timonium runs Aug. 29 to Sept. 7. Colonial Downs plans to run Aug. 26 to Oct. 12.

"We do not want Virginia running against us," said Jack Mosner, treasurer of the Maryland State Fair. "That creates weaknesses on both ends of the circuit. Why do people want to commit suicide?"

He also criticized Virginia and Maryland racing officials for not including Timonium management in early discussions.

"Nobody had the decency or courtesy to come talk to us before this happened," Mosner said.

Colonial Downs opened last fall as a cooperative venture with the Maryland Jockey Club. Pimlico and Laurel Park did not race for six weeks so that Maryland horsemen would support the inaugural meet at Colonial Downs.

This year, Colonial Downs' season will be one week longer because it plans on cutting back from five to four days per week -- but not reducing the overall number of racing days. So it tacked on the additional week at the beginning -- in direct conflict with Timonium.

Commissioner C. Frank Hopkins, an outspoken opponent of Virginia racing, called it "abominable a case of the tail wagging the dog."

Commissioner Carol M. McGowan said she has received a lot of "flak" from people in the racing industry who feel as if "Virginia is calling the shots" and Maryland is getting the short end of the deal.

After lengthy discussion in the Ruffian Room at Laurel Park, the commission voted to arrange a meeting between delegations of Maryland and Virginia commissioners. But E. William Furey, chairman of the Maryland commission, said he didn't know what his group could do to persuade Virginia to change its dates.

Lenny Hale, a Maryland racing official who serves as racing secretary at Colonial Downs, said the conflict shouldn't hurt Timonium because Colonial Downs will run different kinds of races that will attract different kinds of horses.

Colonial Downs' much-ballyhooed turf course will be ready this year, Hale said. Timonium runs all its races on dirt.

And Marty Jacobs, general counsel of the Maryland Jockey Club, said he would rather Colonial Downs not conflict with Timonium -- "but I think we've made the best of what could be a horrible situation."

He meant what could have happened if a rival company had built a track in Virginia and was competing year-round.

Pub Date: 3/25/98

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