Colt Enterprises, the operator of financially troubled Rosecroft and Delmarva raceways, announced last night that it will cancel more than $1 million in stakes races, including the July 1 Messenger Stakes, the first leg of pacing's Triple Crown.
The company released a statement saying that preliminary business projections show that "cash funds will not be available" to pay for purses for the races.
About a month ago, Rosecroft dropped one live racing card per week and reduced purses in order to cut costs and stay in business.
The canceled stakes, carded for 3-year-olds in the pacing and trotting divisions, included the $200,000 Colonial Trot, April 1; the $225,000 William E. Miller Memorial, May 13; the $150,000 John W. Miller Memorial, June 10; the $325,000 Messenger Stakes; and the $115,000 Colonial Lady, July 29.
Although the purses for the stakes are partly funded by nominating payments from horse owners, the track is still responsible for contributing about $300,000 in purse money for the events, said Rosecroft publicist Jerry Connors.
Two rich 2-year-old stakes, the Smullin Memorial and the Miss Rosecroft Stakes, are still tentatively scheduled, but might be cut later, a source said.
All the canceled races were scheduled to be run at Rosecroft.
A recently released audit performed for the Maryland Racing Commission showed that the two harness tracks lost $6.2 million in 1994. Although the majority of the losses were attributed to onetime items and depreciation, the tracks reported more than $15 .8 million in liabilities and $4.6 million in assets.
Colt is threatening to file for bankruptcy protection unless a deal to sell the tracks to the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association, an organization of harness owners and trainers, is consummated.
The company has been trying to dispose of the tracks for two years, but no legitimate buyer surfaced and the horsemen's group decided last fall to try to work out a deal.
The agreement with Cloverleaf originally was scheduled to be concluded by May 9, but the deadline has been postponed until June 30.
Jerry Brittingham, president of Cloverleaf, said there "is no contractual way for us to prevent Colt management from canceling these stakes. Naturally, we'd like to have them here, but we view it as a temporary setback. We expect them to be back at Rosecroft next year."
Rosecroft president Ted Snell said he and track racing secretary Billy Perkins and the Hambletonian Society are working on placing the stakes at tracks outside of Maryland.