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Sale enables De Francis to pursue plan


The settlement of the Rosecroft Raceway sale Friday has enabled Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis to move forward with his master business plan for thoroughbred racing in 1997.

Because of tie-ins between tracks in this era of simulcasting and commingled betting, movement was being delayed with millions of dollars at stake.

"The thoroughbreds and Standardbreds are joined at the hip right now, with simulcasting day and night," De Francis said. "We take each other's signals and share revenue as economic partners. Their interest is ours."

De Francis' next step is to meet with Gerald Brittingham, president of the harness group, to determine the ramifications of the sale. He hopes to have the business plan formulated by New Year's Day.

De Francis was relieved that Delaware Park owner Bill Rickman, his most significant competitor, who is backed by the riches that slot machines are providing, did not gain a foothold into Maryland harness racing.

He had wondered about Delaware Park's "motives" and said "my interest is to protect and preserve Maryland's thoroughbred industry. We were real concerned about Delaware coming in."

Trainer Simpson honored

Veteran James P. Simpson III was named the outstanding trainer of 1996 at the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association banquet last week.

Simpson, 77, retired earlier this year after 50 years as a leading trainer on the East Coast, primarily in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

His best-known horses were Cormorant and Toes Knows. The latter was named after his wife of 45 years, Nancy, whose nickname is "Toes."

"All of the success that I have experienced in my long career, and all the happiness that life has brought me must really be attributed to the support and companionship of my wife," said Simpson.

Phyllis and Bill Dixon, best known through three-time Maryland Million winner Mz. Zill Bear, were chosen as the outstanding owners. Racing under the name Mea Culpa Stable, they have earned $1.5 million with 76 winners.

Awards also went to backstretch employees Herbert Johnson (Bowie for trainer Mike Pino), Domingo Montero (Laurel for trainer Donald Barr) and Laura Feliciano (Pimlico for her husband, Ben).

Laurel has the horses

The indicators point to no horse shortage at Laurel Park this winter.

"Right now, the horse population is higher than it has been here in five years," said Laurel's chief operations officer, John Mooney. There are 300 more horses here than two years ago and 275 more than last year. We're in pretty good shape."

Approximately 120 more horses are due in from Canada for the winter, but the change can be attributed primarily to more local stables staying put.

Dick Small has a contingent in New Orleans, but Vinnie Blengs left a division of his stable in Maryland, unlike last year when all shipped to Florida.

Petroski up for Eclipse

Petroski, trained by Tom Voss of Monkton, is among the contenders for steeplechasing's Eclipse Award, which will be announced next month.

Rated second in the final National Steeplechase Association poll, Petroski won four times in nine starts and earned $129,339 last year, second highest on the circuit.

Da Hoss no go in Hong Kong

Da Hoss, the Breeders' Cup Mile winner trained by Michael Dickinson at Fair Hill, was withdrawn from last week's Hong Kong International Cup after failing a pre-race medication test.

According to the Daily Racing Form, traces of anabolic steroids were found in Da Hoss' blood.

Said Dickinson: "In 17 years as a trainer I have never returned a positive swab, and anyone who knows me will know how thorough I am about these things. "

He went on to explain that a therapeutic medication called Winstrol was administered after Da Hoss contracted a virus a week after the Breeders' Cup. The medication apparently failed to pass through his system in time.

Laurel holiday schedule

Laurel will open its gates at 10: 45 a.m. daily through the rest of the year.

Except for some slight variations early in 1997 for holidays, the track will operate on a basic format of live racing Wednesday through Sunday.

Laurel is closed tomorrow and Tuesday and three days for Christmas, Dec. 23, 24 and 25.

The last week of racing has one dark day, Dec. 30, with New Year's Eve open for simulcast betting only.

Pub Date: 12/15/96

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