With a Saturday deadline to land a seat on the National Thoroughbred Racing Association board of directors fast approaching, the Maryland Jockey Club has rejoined the NTRA, and its president, Joe De Francis, will take a seat on the NTRA board.
The Maryland Racing Commission on Thursday abruptly cut off testimony concerning construction of a racetrack in the western part of the state so opposing sides could work on an agreement to expedite the tedious process. William Rickman Jr., who wants to build the track in remote Allegany County, offered to write a letter of credit to guarantee its financial viability and stability. Rickman, who owns and Delaware Park and Ocean Downs, a Maryland harness track, is the only applicant for the license to construct the track.
In a tense meeting that exposed deep divisions within Maryland's racing community, the state racing commission on Wednesday rejected a plan for ceasing Thoroughbred racing for five weeks this summer so that horses can compete in Virginia. The commission voted 6-2 against the proposal advanced by the Maryland Jockey Club and a task force representing segments of the racing industry in Maryland and Virginia. The plan called for Pimlico and Laurel Park to close for racing from June 10 to July 14 while Colonial Downs, the struggling track near Richmond, conducted a 25-day summer Thoroughbred meet.
For the first time since its inception in Maryland in 1990, the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash will be run this year in the fall instead of the summer. The $300,000 race, one of only two grade I six-furlong events in the country, will headline a "fall festival day" of a half-dozen stakes Nov. 17 at Laurel Park, said Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club.
On Wednesday, representatives of the Maryland Jockey Club will ask the state's racing commission for permission to cease racing at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park for parts of June and July so that Thoroughbreds can race at Colonial Downs. The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association doesn't support the plan.
Virginia horsemen have two weeks to secure a loan that will allow Colonial Downs to pay an average of $200,000 in purses daily during a summer meet. The two-week deadline also applies to resolving a racing dates conflict between Virginia and Maryland.
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The NTRA board of directors, during a teleconference meeting Thursday, ruled that a "sufficient number" of racetracks in the Mid-Atlantic region must rejoin the NTRA by March 31, or the region will lose its seat on the board. Elections for other racetrack seats will be held the week of Feb. 5, though tracks that aren't members by that date will not be eligible to vote.
Veteran racing executive Leonard (Lenny) Hale has left his post as vice president of racing for the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park and Pimlico Racecourse. According to a statement from MJC, the organization reached an "amicable parting" as of last Saturday, Jan. 20.
Colonial Downs has received approval to race in June and July this year, but the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association voted earlier in January to maintain the status quo: race in Maryland in June and July, and in Virginia in September. The head of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association says that position hasn't changed, but a board member contends the majority of Maryland horsemen wouldn't mind spending June and July in the Tidewater region.
The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association has recommended that Maryland's racetracks maintain a schedule whereby there is a shutdown in September. That throws the decision on Colonial Downs dates back to the Virginia Racing Commisssion.
An alliance led by the Maryland Jockey Club has dropped plans for building a horse track in Western Maryland and instead plans on constructing two off-track-betting parlors in that remote region of the state. This shift in strategy would leave William Rickman Jr. as the lone applicant for building the track.
The Maryland Jockey Club announced Friday a reorganization of its executive board, including the hiring of Louis J. Raffetto, who will become the MJC's chief operating officer effective Jan. 1, 2001. The MJC also announced new titles and responsibilities for three current members of its board.
Residents of Western Maryland jammed a ballroom Wednesday at their local Holiday Inn to speak their piece about a horse track proposed in rural Allegany County.
After an 8 1/2-month shutdown for remodeling, the much-maligned Poor Jimmy's off-track betting parlor in Maryland reopened Sept. 15 with a new name, a dramatically new look, and the prospect of serving as a model for other OTBs around the state.
With the blessing of Gov. Parris Glendening and the state General Assembly, the Maryland Jockey Club raised the pari-mutuel takeout on races at Laurel Park, effective July 1.
The Maryland Jockey Club has loaned $5.1 million to the owner of Rosecroft Raceway to buy Ocean Downs.
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