About 300 people, including media, political and horse industry representatives from Maryland and Virginia, have been invited to Joe De Francis' news conference in Washington on Wednesday to discuss establishing a racing circuit between the two states.
Already the concept is Topic A from the grandstand to the backstretch of Laurel and Pimlico race courses.
De Francis wants to build a new track near Williamsburg, Va., and operate summer racing for about three months in the Tidewater area. Laurel would still race in the fall and winter and Pimlico in the spring. The whole system would be linked by an interstate off-track betting network.
Prominent Virginia trainer Jim Murphy said he looks forward to such a circuit, even if it means summering near Williamsburg. "Racetrackers are Gypsies. We don't mind moving around. I just hope I'm still around to be part of it."
However, sentiment among a number of other trainers is that De Francis has come up with a good idea, but picked the wrong site.
Don't expect large numbers of local horsemen to flock to Williamsburg, some trainers say, despite promises by Maryland horsemen and breeders' groups to support De Francis' plan.
Some trainers, who own Maryland farms, argue that they can't afford to move horses, employees and themselves out of state for three months. If they would stay in Maryland, they say, it is too far to ship to Williamsburg on a daily basis, which is about a three-hour van ride from Laurel and the summer weather there is too hot and humid.
A better plan, some say, is to locate the track in northern Virginia, near Washington. That way the large number of Virginia horsemen from the Middleburg area -- who already race in Maryland -- could stable year-round in their home state and the site would be an easier ship to-and-from Laurel and Pimlico.
Two shorter meets, one in the summer and one in the winter, would also be preferable to one long summer meet, they said.
De Francis said he is introducing his idea now "to get it out into the public forum."
He wants to get a jump on any possible competitors, such as Churchill Downs of Louisville, Ky., which is already deeply involved in operating a possible Virginia facility.
"This is a concept we have to fully explore before we file an application [to build a track]," De Francis said. "But we want to move on it as expeditiously as possible."
Here and there
Rosecroft Raceway president Ted Snell said he received "positive vibes" on a recent excursion to New England dog tracks and gaming casinos where he tried to sell the signal from Maryland harness tracks.
"We can link the two tracks -- Rosecroft and Delmarva -- into one package and offer a good year-round price," Snell said.
He added that "it's mind-boggling what's going on there. At Lincoln [dog track] on a Monday afternoon, there were 3,500 people. They have video lotteries, keno throughout the plant and they take thoroughbred signals from coast-to-cast as well as offering a live afternoon dog card."
Jockey Pat Day, and his wife, Sheila, will be guests of Virginia Kelley, mother of president-elect Bill Clinton, at the presidential Inauguration in Washington, Jan. 20.
Mrs. Day operates a dress-making boutique in Crestwood, Ky., and is making Mrs. Kelley's inaugural ball gown.
Mrs. Kelley is both a longtime race-goer and friend of the Days.
The Shoals Bar and Restaurant in Cambridge on the Eastern Shore could become the site of the state's first OTB parlor. The Cambridge City Council is expected to give final zoning approval this week to the project.
Gala Spinaway is just one well-known local older horse that was missing yesterday from the Walter Haight Handicap lineup.
Graham Motion, assistant to trainer Bernie Bond, said the multiple stakes winner "is recuperating from a number of problems that started to catch up with him. He is on the farm (Glade Valley in Frederick) for the winter."
Privacy, the Oliver Goldsmith-bred stakes winner, that the Howard County horseman sold to Bert and Diana Firestone for a reported $900,000 several years ago, went through the Keeneland sales ring a couple of weeks ago. As a broodmare, she hasn't produced much. She sold for $5,500.