After the International Turf Festival -- a series of six races worth $1.45 million in purses -- was run at the end of last month at Laurel Race Course, the purse overpayment to the state's thoroughbred horsemen mushroomed to approximately $2.5 million, a jump of more than $1 million in a month's time.
Overpayment occurs when money paid out to the horsemen is too high and exceeds the percentage of betting revenues allocated to the purse account. The current high overpayment has some horsemen concerned that a purse cut looms.
An alternative would be to curtail paying all starters in each race a minimum $100 fee, a move management adopted last year and one that is endorsed by many horsemen. Its elimination could save as much as $275,000 annually.
At the monthly meeting of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association held earlier this week, track operator Joe De Francis said that based on current business projections, a purse cut is not necessary and that the overpayment will be reduced to zero in 14 months (by Jan. 1, 1995).
During the past two months, purse money and state-bred funds combined have shown about a $500,000 increase over 1992, De Francis said. If that trend continues, the overpayment gradually will be reduced.
Track officials are expected to meet today to discuss what to do with the Turf Festival -- whether to continue it and move the races to a different spot on the calendar or revamp it in other ways. There is even some sentiment to drop it entirely.
Meanwhile, De Francis met with his staff yesterday to discuss the horsemen's offer to pay 2 percent of their betting revenues toward the cost of operating Rosecroft Raceway in the $l afternoons as a thoroughbred simulcast outlet.
Trainer Dick Small testified that management at Pimlico is still negligent in the way it handles morning starting gate procedures even after one of his horses, Fox Brush, was killed by electrocution on April 1.
Small's testimony came at an administrative hearing yesterday in Baltimore before the Maryland Occupational and Safety Hazard Agency, which investigated the incident.
Small said he showed the judge photographs taken months after the occurrence that showed an electric cable used to charge batteries on the gate lying in a pool of water.
Small is contesting a fine of $3,500 levied against him by MOSHA for allowing his exercise rider, Richard Clayton Beck, to ride in an unsafe area even though his lawyer, Ned Halle, said he had no control over the situation.
No ruling was issued yesterday.
Court hearing delayed
Rosemary Ford and Charles M. Coles Jr., judges of the Orphans' Court for Howard County, issued an order yesterday that upholds the validity of a contingency claim filed against the estate of Frank De Francis by the Manfuso brothers.
But the judges delayed discovery of the depositions and production of documents in the case until after Jan. 12, 1994, the date when Joe De Francis is due to decide whether he will purchase the Manfusos' stock in Laurel/Pimlico. The judges also rescheduled a hearing in the case from Dec. 1 until Jan. 26, 1994.