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Mediator may be called for Md.-Va. partnership De Francis, Stansley locked in contention


RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Racing Commission might have to step in as a mediator between sparring partners Arnold Stansley and Joe De Francis and try to salvage a proposed Maryland-Virginia horse racing circuit.

Times have changed since the commission awarded the license 14 months ago to Stansley to build Colonial Downs halfway between Richmond and Williamsburg and populate it with thoroughbreds from the Maryland tracks, which would shut down during the summer.

Since the deal was made, Delaware Park, which is set to start operating 1,000 slot machines next month and could boost its horse racing purses back to major-league levels, has re-emerged as a principal player and is more advantageously placed geographically to draw Maryland horses.

That's among the developments that have caused Stansley some queasiness and a desire to re-open negotiations with De Francis.

Stansley attorney Ron Tice said in a letter to Laurel/Pimlico co-owner Marty Jacobs on Friday: "What if the Maryland Jockey Club is unable to fulfill its obligations under the Agreement?"

It is plausible, Tice went on to say, "that several OTBs could be open for up to two years prior to completion of the [Virginia] racetrack and commencement of the first full live thoroughbred meet. During this period, Colonial Downs could pay fees to you that could be several millions of dollars in total, even though you will not have complied with your obligations under the Agreement to establish the Maryland-Virginia circuit and may, in fact, not be able to comply."

Stansley wants that "several million dollars" put into an escrow account, as well as the right to have final say over major contracts for totalization services and the sale and purchase of simulcast signals as well as complete say over where two future OTBs would be located in northern Virginia.

In another letter to commission chairman John Shenefield on Monday, Tice said that "under intense pressure, [Stansley] ceded to Mr. De Francis more authority than either Mr. Stansley was, or that we felt the commission would be, comfortable with."

That's not sitting well with De Francis, who said there is only one negotiable issue left -- the placement of northern Virginia OTBs.

No negotiating session was set up when the two met at a Virginia Racing Commission meeting yesterday.

Shenefield said, "If they don't reach an agreement by our November meeting, we'll reluctantly have to step in and take a role." That meeting is scheduled for Nov. 15.

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