For much of its 42-year history, the Washington D. C. International has been a race in search of a sponsor.
The hunt continues.
Race founder John D. Schapiro never could line up a major corporate entity to help defray costs for what traditionally has been an expensive show to put on.
Then in 1988, Anheuser-Busch, Inc. signed on as the race's sponsor during the Frank De Francis era of ownership of Laurel Race Course and for the past five years the stakes has been known as the "Budweiser International."
But no longer.
Last year Anheuser-Busch began curtailing part of its promotional budget allotted to racing. "They're looking for a younger crowd and feel the demographics for the sport are too old," said current track operator Joe De Francis, although he disputes that perception.
Last year, regional Budweiser distributors supported the race, but dropped out this year.
"We didn't go looking for a sponsor because we redefined the Turf Festival," De Francis said. The main International race was shortened from 1 1/4 miles to a mile, purses were cut, but a horse fair was added. "We'll see how it works out this year and go from there."
Meanwhile the race has reclaimed the name it went by for 36 years -- the Washington D.C. International.
High price, low price
When it became public know-ledge last week that the Manfuso brothers are offering to sell their shares in Laurel and Pimlico for $8.2 million to De Francis, the worth of the two tracks plus the Bowie Training Center was estimated at about $56 million.
But that doesn't take into account the 50 percent non-voting stock owned in Laurel by the Guida Group, which would not be involved in a transaction.
Estimates of the value of that stock amount to between $2 million and $3 million, making the value of the tracks closer to $60 million.
The price is considered low if Laurel/Pimlico ends up owning a track in Virginia; high, if it doesn't.
Another consideration is that the buyer of the tracks will face stiff labor negotiations next year when the current contract with employees of Local 27 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union expires.
Who ends up owning the tracks could depend on these considerations.
New best friend
Baltimore seemed like an odd location for De Francis to host a fund-raiser last week for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Mary Sue Terry. Track lobbyist Alan M. Rifkin explained it this way:
"They're old frieds. Joe was a Washington lawyer and Ms. Terry was the Virginia attorney general."
But a couple of weeks ago, a spokesman for Terry told the Washington Post that the candidate did not know Joe De Francis.
First Husband, then Asserche
Charlottesville, Va.-area breeder Peggy Augustus has many Maryland friends, all who were delighted when her 3-year-old colt, Husband, won the $1 million Rothmans International last weekend in Canada.
But that isn't the only stakes winner Augustus produced last week. Her Keswick Stables-bred Asserche won the Lieutenant's Lark Stakes at Laurel, although the purse, $25,000, the horse VTC won for current owner John Alecci is a bit smaller.
Augustus said the best part about winning the Rothmans is that she now can afford to keep her best mare, Star Standing, who is in foal to 1992 Horse of the Year, A. P. Indy.
"Before the race I needed to sell her to generate some income. But today, I withdrew her from the Keeneland [Fall Breeding Stock] sale," Augustus said.
Augustus is a commercial breeder. But when Husband failed to reach his reserve price of $300,000 as a yearling at Saratoga, she kept him, sent him to France and raced him herself.
Marlboro cards 12 live races on Wednesday at the Prince George's Equestrian Center, but is offering no full-card simulcasts. . . . Trainer Ron Cartwright is considering running Forry Cow How, owned by Eddie and Binnie Houghton of Chestertown, in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. . . . Trainer Donald Barr reports that track superintendent John Passero and his crew have been working diligently on the Bowie training surface "and now everybody is happy there." . . . The Manfuso brothers were host to a party for 300 friends last week at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase. Among racing notables present were Maryland Racing Commission chairman John McDaniel, trainer King Leatherbury, commissioner Carol McGowan, breeder David Hayden and commission executive secretary Ken Schertle.