Timonium officials upbeat about meeting

On Horse Racing

June 14, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Timonium Race Course officials were not happy about this year's schedule conflict with Colonial Downs, Va., but developments indicate that the York Road plant will not suffer a lot.

"We let the powers that be know our feelings," Timonium general manager Howard "Max" Mosner said. "But we really didn't have any control over the matter.

"We can't dictate the Virginia racing schedule, so I understand how it happened. But I think they're going to hurt more than us."

Colonial Downs is awash in financial problems, but Timonium has been thriving since the introduction of simulcasting several years ago.

And the track at the state fairgrounds has the full support of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which supplies the majority of its runners.

The MTHA and the Maryland Jockey Club have approved a new arrangement by which all purse money from Timonium will be placed in the same pool with Laurel Park and Pimlico.

"They're not holding us responsible for any overpayment," Mosner said. "Since simulcasting has allowed us to increase purses, it was advisable to use the same schedule as the mile tracks."

Because it does not run as many stakes, allowance and high-priced claiming races, Timonium's daily purse average will remain short of those at Pimlico and Laurel Park.

"The total dollars will still be less, but now we'll have horses that run for $11,500 at the mile tracks running for the same amount here," Mosner said. "There will be year-round purse activity, and we're really happy about it."

Three of Timonium's lesser stakes will carry $40,000 purses this year, up from $30,000.

A suggestion was made to double the amount offered the trainers for bonus money. But it will stay at $5,000 for the overall leader.

"Because the purses are more attractive, the horsemen didn't feel we needed to do that," Mosner said.

The Timonium meet starts Aug. 29.

Colonial Downs trouble

Meanwhile, the disintegration of Colonial Downs' financial base continues, and track chairman Jeffrey Jacobs is partially blaming the Virginia Racing Commission.

He said "regulatory pressure" forced him to pay subcontractors who helped build the track some $5 million that was to be a safety net for shortfalls.

Jacobs last month distributed a lengthy letter to Virginia's horsemen's groups asking for monetary concessions to enable him to keep operating.

He is estimating that the track could lose $4 million this year and "without a correction, Colonial Downs will run out of cash flow," according to Jacobs.

The current harness meet is running well below projections for attendance and handle ($58 per capita betting). Also, two new off-track betting sites are not performing well, and the corporation's stock has plummeted to new lows.

In addition, two cases are still on the arbitration front -- the battle with the primary contractor, Norglass, Inc., and the issue of the 2 percent of the total handle (excluding live harness racing) that Colonial pays the Maryland Jockey Club to operate the thoroughbred meeting.

The racing commission agreed to appoint former chairman John Shenefield as the arbitrator for the track-MJC matter, which involves approximately $3 million annually.

Among the concessions Jacobs is asking horsemen is to reduce live cards to seven races, with the additional money slated for purses to be used as operating capital.

He contends Colonial Downs is facing "a bleak future" without support from the commission, horsemen and Maryland.

Charlie Dunnavant, president of the harness horsemen, said Jacobs is "blaming everybody but management, and maybe management is the problem."

Jockey-horseman talks drag

Negotiations on a new simulcast agreement between the Maryland Jockey Club and the state's horsemen and breeders organizations drag on.

"We haven't talked in a while, but we're due to meet this weekend," said Wayne Wright, executive secretary of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "But the discussions are ongoing."

Jockey Club president Joe De Francis and Maryland's harness interests settled on a revenue-sharing proposal four months ago. Rosecroft Raceway threatened to "pull the plug" on intertrack telecasts in April, but backed off when its share of the take was raised temporarily.

Match race not likely

De Francis' suggestion for a $2 million match race between Skip Away and Silver Charm at one of his tracks will be rejected.

Silver Charm's trainer, Bob Baffert, said he wasn't interested because "I don't want to run him in the heat" and because owner Bob Lewis does not like match races. "Our match race will be November in the Breeders' Cup."

Sonny Hine, trainer of Skip Away, had been campaigning for such a race but has given up the chase.

Pub Date: 6/14/98

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