Low-key panel session expected

Raffetto's request for specific dates waits on deal with horsemen

Horse Racing


All sides in the negotiations over Maryland horse racing dates for the coming year said they expect today's state racing commission meeting to be a quiet one.

Lou Raffetto, chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said again yesterday that he will simply ask for all the available racing dates next year, with the idea of coming back next month with specific date requests after an agreement is reached with the state's horsemen.

"We all get along," Raffetto said. "We're all on the same page. We just don't agree on how the problem should be solved."

Two months ago, Magna Entertainment Corp. surprised the local racing community by asking for just 112 days of live racing at Laurel and Pimlico in 2006. Since then, Magna has withdrawn that proposal and, at the direction of the commission, been negotiating with the horsemen and breeders toward an arrangement all sides can live with.

Friday, Raffetto said he believes a compromise will be reached for 170 to 180 days and the agreement will include keeping the barns at Laurel, Pimlico and the Bowie Training Center open throughout 2006.

But during last Wednesday's meeting, the horsemen and breeders were again surprised when the jockey club brought up an expired agreement concerning expense contributions that the horsemen and breeders shared until June 2004.

"I didn't know the revenue-sharing expense contribution was tied to the meeting on working out the racing dates," said Billy Boniface, president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

"Last year, we stopped paying the 6 percent services fee, and we've been using that money to provide $5,000 bonuses for Maryland-bred horses [in maiden and allowance races].

"I was a little upset. I wish I had known that was going to be part of the discussion. As it was, I was unprepared to talk about that subject."

Boniface said he will be at today's meeting to explain to the commissioners that the negotiation process has been delayed, "not because I'm an obstructionist, but because I have to go to the board."


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