John Franzone's term as chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission expired last weekend. But the outspoken owner of thoroughbreds has not stopped talking about Maryland racing.
"This idea of blaming the governor, the speaker, Bill Rickman [president and CEO of Delaware Park] or the racing commission for the troubles of Maryland racing is nonsense," Franzone said. "If you go into a restaurant and nobody's there, do you blame the health department for not allowing the restaurant to grow? No, you blame the restaurant because the food stinks and the service is lousy."
FOR THE RECORD - In yesterday's editions, the time was incorrectly reported for the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's sale of 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age at Timonium Fairgrounds. The "under-tack show" is at 10 a.m. today, but the sale itself begins at noon tomorrow.
Franzone declined to criticize the Maryland Jockey Club directly, but he said that troubles with Maryland racing began years ago with widespread customer neglect, not this year with loss of the purse supplement.
"The real reason the business is in free fall is because as the industry squabbles, the customer has been forgotten," said Franzone, who remains a member of the commission.
"Where is the customer service? Where is the marketing? What happened to telephone-account wagering and building new OTBs? What happened to the major renovations at the tracks?" he asked.
"The question shouldn't be, `What happened to the purse supplement?' The question should be, `Hey, potential customer, what is it going to take to put you in our racetrack today and, more important, what do we have to do to get you to come back?'"
In the past three weeks, four men have died who were deeply associated with Maryland racing:
John J. Lenzini Sr., a long-time trainer in Maryland, died Monday at age 80. He had retired earlier this year. In the 1970s, he twice ranked fourth among the nation's leading trainers.
On June 27, Milton "Muggins" Feldman died at age 89. He had worked as a publicist at numerous tracks, including Bowie, Pimlico, Laurel and Havre de Grace.
On June 17, Italo H. Ablondi and Robert L. Beall died. Ablondi, 71, was a prominent lawyer and member of the ownership group Non Sequitur Stable.
A notable breeder, Beall made a name for himself in the early 1980s as breeder, owner and trainer of the sprinter Dave's Friend, the first Maryland-bred to earn $1 million.
MATCH (Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships) reaches its midpoint today with the $150,000 Caesar Rodney Handicap at Delaware Park. It is the third of six races in the division of 3-year-olds and older running long on turf. The 10-horse field features horses trained by Bill Mott and Bobby Frankel and one ridden by Kent Desormeaux.
"We're starting to bring in some serious horses," said Alan Foreman, founder of the regional series.
The connections of City Zip, a Belmont-based horse running in the 3-year-old sprint division, have zeroed in on the series in hopes of winning the overall championship, Foreman said.
MATCH recently instituted a $10,000 bonus to the jockey earning the most points in the series. It will also pay bonuses of $510,000 to winning owners and trainers. Check out the series' Web site, www.matchseries.com.
Around the tracks
One of the six stakes added (as 22 were cut) to the Pimlico-Laurel Park schedule was a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds named in honor of the late trainer Sonny Hine. The $75,000 Sonny Hine Stakes will be run Nov. 22.
Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's sale of 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Timonium fairgrounds.
In recent issues of Thoroughbred Times, the weekly racing magazine, its staff ranked the top 12 jockeys and trainers. Maryland fared well with three trainers (Michael Dickinson, Tony Dutrow and Tom Voss) and four jockeys (Ramon Dominguez, Mark Johnston, Travis Dunkelberger and Rick Wilson) among the nation's elite.
Tim Capps, editor and publisher of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine, wrote the ninth in a series of 30 books about great horses published by Eclipse Press. Capps wrote the book on Spectacular Bid, "the greatest horse ever to look through a bridle."
Artillery Man rules
New York trainer Linda Rice judged the recent Maryland Horse Breeders Association annual yearling show. This was the 67th time the breeders' group held the competition.
Of the 132 Maryland-bred yearlings entered, Rice selected Artillery Man, a bay colt by Carnivalay out of Miss Rolla Punch as grand champion. The colt is owned and was bred by Ginny and Frank P. Wright. Michael Peterson is Artillery Man's groom.
As reserve champion, Rice chose Just A Chip, a colt by Not For Love out of Palisade Lady. He is owned by Sarah and Edwin Merryman and was bred by Suzanne S. Bell. Just A Chip's groom is Candy Hartsow.
Not For Love, who stands at Northview Stallion Station, received the Worthington Farms Challenge trophy as the sire whose offspring earned the most points in the competition. Not For Love sired two class winners.
Here are the top finishers in the six classes:
Class I: colts and geldings foaled in Maryland before April 1, 2000, the produce of mares covered in Maryland in 1999.