Laurel Park operator Joe De Francis invoked a racetrack exclusion policy yesterday when he prevented former track owner Bob Manfuso from entering the track grounds for the Maryland Million.
Manfuso was involved in an incident with De Francis' sister, Karin, on Friday night when he allegedly yelled at her in the lobby of the Baltimore Country Club during the Million's pre-race gala.
De Francis told Manfuso at the party that he would not be allowed on track grounds yesterday. When Manfuso and his attorney, Herb Garten, showed up at the owners' gate at about the fourth race, they were met by guards and were prevented from entering.
Garten met with track officials while Manfuso waited in the parking lot in his car. Garten reached an agreement with De Francis that will allow Manfuso to enter track grounds starting today if he writes a letter of apology to Karin De Francis.
Karin De Francis, Laurel's vice president of marketing, would not comment on the matter.
One horse owner at the party, C. Oliver Goldsmith, said Joe De Francis "came close to pounding" Manfuso and had to be restrained.
Former Maryland Racing Commission chairman John H. "Jack" Mosner Jr. attended the affair and said Manfuso "sought out" Karin De Francis. "I hope he does the right thing and apologizes to her," Mosner said.
Manfuso is the De Francises' former partner in ownership of the track and was bought out by them after a bitter and protracted legal battle last year.
Joe De Francis said yesterday that "Bob Manfuso can say anything he wants to to me, but when he picks on my family, I'm not going to stand for it. He won't say these things to my face but has to tell them to my little sister."
Manfuso declined to comment yesterday when he and Garten were approached in the Laurel parking lot.
"This is a private conversation. Leave," Manfuso said.
Earlier, Manfuso's partner, Katy Voss, said that Manfuso's conversation with Karin De Francis had lasted "all of 45 seconds" at the Maryland Million party. "He did tell her that she and her brother did nothing to support the Maryland Million when they didn't buy anything at the benefit auction," Voss said.
But Voss said she didn't think that was reason enough to prevent Manfuso from attending yesterday's race. "We have guests here for lunch and a ton of horses that we bred are racing on the program," she said. Two of them, Quite Porper and Golden Tent, placed in two of the races.
Because Laurel is private property, track owners have the right to exclude anyone from entering the grounds, De Francis said.
"When Bob Manfuso owned these tracks, he probably used the exclusion provision more than anyone in the history of Maryland racing," he said. He added that it was unfortunate the incident happened on Maryland Million day.
"But Bob knew full well that he was not going to be allowed on the grounds," De Francis said. "He was told at the party and was called again [yesterday] morning. It was his decision to show up and cause a scene. He can't go around treating people this way."