State panel approaches tracks' sale cautiously


Horse Racing

July 24, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission said yesterday that more information is needed before the panel decides how to approach approval or disapproval of the $117 million sale of the state's thoroughbred tracks to Magna Entertainment Corp.

"We haven't even seen the application yet," Lou Ulman said. "There are all kinds of questions as to what their intentions are with some specificity. We might have to ask for a lot of additional information."

Some members of the commission have said they will request bonded guarantees on proposed upgrades to Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park after previous promised improvements to the tracks by the De Francis family never took place.

"We haven't really talked about what we're going to ask for and I don't have an opinion yet," Ulman said. "I would like some guarantees, but the first step is to see what kind of conditions we want. I don't expect any kind of quick approval."

Ulman's major focus at the moment is to protect the Preakness at Pimlico.

"I don't see the existing laws going far enough to do that," he said. "That is a crucial issue."

`Magic's' next weighed

Trainer Nancy Alberts said Ohio Derby winner Magic Weisner is "tentatively set" to run in the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 4 at Monmouth Park, but that she is also considering the $600,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park six days later.

"I don't know if I can get [jockey Richard] Migliore for the Haskell," Alberts said. "He's scheduled to ride a horse he has won five in a row on at Saratoga that same day.

"He has a lot of confidence in Magic and fits him well. But I'm sure I can get a top jockey if he can't ride."

Smiles at Colonial

Summer racing dates are obviously agreeing with Colonial Downs.

The Virginia track closed its sixth season last night with its overall handle up by 18 percent over the notable improvement gained with the first hot-weather meeting in 2001.

"We've had a very good meet," said general manager John Mooney. "The turf course has held up well, our stable area was filled and even the on-track handle and attendance are up considerably."

Aided by 14-horse fields that made betting more attractive and 95 percent of its action on the grass, on-track attendance rose by an average of more than 300 patrons daily and the daily on-track handle average climbed by approximately $25,000.

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