Statement at meeting on Magna disputed

Commission's McDonough says Foreman `misspoke' on wording of agreement

Horse Racing

September 15, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Maryland Racing Commission chairman Tom McDonough yesterday disputed part of the testimony presented by Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association representatives at Tuesday's commission meeting on Magna Entertainment Corp.'s plan to cut Maryland racing from 220 days to 112.

At Tuesday's meeting, MTHA executive secretary Wayne Wright and attorney Alan Foreman said a pre-existing agreement between the MTHA and track owners requires Magna to run five days of live racing each week through Belmont Stakes day in June 2006.

"Alan misspoke," McDonough said. "The agreement says, up to five days. As I read it, that means Magna can fulfill its obligation by running as few as one day. It's a matter of interpretation. What I think Alan was talking about was the intent of the parties at the time the agreement was made."

The agreement was forged during another difficult time for state racing, when the Maryland Jockey Club was proposing to move Virginia's Colonial Downs' racing dates from September to June and July and to shut down Maryland racing to accommodate that move.

McDonough's differing interpretation of the agreement did not seem to surprise Foreman. During the commission meeting, Foreman said Magna's plan was asking "Maryland horsemen and breeders to pay for all of Magna's [business] failures, not only in Maryland, but everywhere else."

"And they have been emboldened to do it here because they believe they have a compliant racing commission that will rubber-stamp their plans," he said.

It was a comment commissioner Alvin Akman later called insulting, adding: "Magna has not had an easy time with this board ... and if it was true, they [Magna] would have done this long ago."

But yesterday, Foreman stood by his statements to the commission.

"In the first place, the chairman shouldn't be weighing in," Foreman said. "He wasn't in the room when this document was drawn up. But every year since it was agreed to, the tracks have raced five days a week, which speaks to the intent. ...

"Tom is arguing Magna's case, saying they can run less than five days and be in compliance. We read it as saying not more than five without permission.

"It's very technical, but I think it is an argument over nothing. There are more important issues out there. ...

"And what can't be debated is that Magna is proposing stopping racing here on Preakness Day and the agreement says racing must run through Belmont Day 2006. That's three weeks out of the calendar. You can't argue with that fact."

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