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Ruling frees De Francis to try Texas


Joe De Francis won Round 1 yesterday in his court battles with Tom and Bob Manfuso, his partners in the ownership of Pimlico and Laurel race courses.

The Manfuso brothers had sought injunctive relief to prevent De Francis, the chief operating officer of both tracks, and key employees from participating in any racing ventures in Texas.

However, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge H. Kemp McDaniel dismissed the Manfusos' motion after a daylong hearing Thursday.

The decision, issued in a ruling yesterday afternoon, opened the way for De Francis and Martin Jacobs, the tracks' executive vice president and general counsel, to testify in Austin on Monday on behalf of the Lone Star Jockey Club. That racing entity is seeking a license to build a Class I track in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is sponsored in the effort by the Maryland Jockey Club.

Bob Manfuso, a member of the board of directors of Hollywood Park as well as Pimlico and Laurel, is affiliated with Midpointe Racing, Inc., which is also seeking the Texas license. Midpointe's sponsor is Hollywood Park.

"If we had not won dismissal of this motion, I think it would have eliminated any chance for Lone Star to obtain the Texas license," De Francis said. "We would have been testifying under the threat of the impending litigation. Now, we are freed from all that."

Hearings for the Texas permit started earlier this week.

NOTES: Craig Perret, who won the Pimlico Special aboard Strike the Gold, tries for a unique Pimlico double today. He rides high-weighted Wilderness Song, winner of the Spinster Handicap at Keeneland Race Course last fall, in the initial running of the $250,000 Pimlico Distaff. Perret has finished second in the Preakness three times, in 1987 with Bet Twice, in 1990 with Unbridled, and this year with Alydeed. . . . Apprentice Freddy Castillo escaped serious injury in yesterday's ninth race after he fell from his mount, Sort O' Silent. Castillo complained of an arm injury, but was taken to Sinai Hospital, where he was treated and released. He had no broken bones.

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