FORT WASHINGTON -- At about 7 o'clock last night, Jerry Brittingham, president of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners' Association, stood in the paddock at Rosecroft Raceway and told assembled horsemen: "We've bought a racetrack."
Earlier in the evening, by a vote of 23-0 with three abstentions, the board of the harness horsemen's organization gave the OK for the association to borrow $10.6 million from the Bally casino corporation and the First National Bank of Maryland to purchase Rosecroft and its sister track, Delmarva Downs near Ocean City, from current owners Colt Enterprises. Part of the money borrowed from Bally will be used for start-up costs.
About two weeks ago, after a series of public meetings and the last-minute intervention of Bally, the board had given its approval to negotiate the loans.
"Now, we've got the money," Brittingham said. "We have letters of commitment from Bally and the bank to provide the financing and as a group we've agreed to the terms."
The horsemen have formally organized a Maryland subsidiary corporation, Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., to own and operate the tracks, and will notify the Maryland Racing Commission at a public meeting in Timonium today of their plans.
During the next 15 days the racing commission and a legislative review committee in Annapolis will scrutinize the deal, and if Cloverleaf, with Bally's help, is approved as the buyer, "then we go back to the commission on June 29 to receive a license and that afternoon go to closing with Colt," Brittingham said.
Brittingham, and Cloverleaf's executive vice president, Charles Lockhart, gave these details of the deal:
* The horsemen will borrow $6.6 million from First National to assume Colt's mortgage on Rosecroft/Delmarva. The length of the loan is seven years at a fixed interest rate of 10 percent.
* An additional $4 million, partially earmarked for start-up costs, is being borrowed from Bally at 9 percent interest over a similar seven-year period. Colt currently owes First National $8.1 million. But the horsemen are using $1.5 million from the Bally loan to pay down the principal on the $8.1 million Colt mortgage.
* Cloverleaf has agreed to sell half of Rosecroft/Delmarva to Bally for $4.8 million should casino legislation pass the General Assembly.
* Delmarva, which Colt has kept closed this season as a cost-cutting measure, will reopen July 6. "That's the target date," Lockhart said. "The fall-back date will be July 12."
* If business continues at its current rate, purses at Rosecroft will be maintained at their present level and possibly be raised about $1,000 per night at Rosecroft. The average total purse distribution per night will be $37,500 at Rosecroft, $12,000 at Delmarva.
* An interim board of four members -- Brittingham, president; veterinarian Roger Omwake, vice president; owner Frank Chick, secretary-treasurer; and attorney John Davey of the Prince George's County firm of O'Malley, Miles, Nylen and Gilmore -- will operate the track with Bally until Oct. 2.