Public thoughts sought on De Francis, tracks


On the front page of The Sun last Sunday, I had a story that said frustrations with Joe De Francis' 10-year stewardship of Pimlico and Laurel Park had become so pronounced that many believe Maryland might be better off if someone else operated the tracks or if the state built a track and let someone else run it.

What do you think? Here are the issues raised in the article: Is De Francis correct in saying that slot machines at racetracks are the only way of ensuring long-term stability for the state's racing industry?

Did De Francis do everything possible to advance Maryland racing before asking for slots?

Has De Francis been a good steward of Maryland racing? Has he managed the tracks well?

Should the state build a new horse track? If so, who should manage it?

Let me know your comments, and I'll write a follow-up article.

Contact me one of three ways, but please leave your name and number so I can get back to you. Call 410-332-6186. Write to Tom Keyser, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore, Md., 21278-0001. Or send e-mail to

Prepping for the Derby

Maryland trainer Leon Blusiewicz says that Millions has recovered from the infection that forced him to miss a workout -- and forced Blusiewicz to alter Millions' road to the Kentucky Derby.

Millions is now slated to make his 1999 debut March 27 in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park and then race April 10 in the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct. Simon Crisford, manager of Godolphin Racing, owner of several Derby contenders training in Dubai in the Middle East, says he might race one of them April 10 in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. His plans previously had been to run them twice in "trial races" in Dubai and then ship them directly to the Kentucky Derby, a risky strategy at best.

Godolphin's top candidates are Aljabr, Comeonmom and Worldly Manner. It bought Comeonmom for a reported $3 million after he won the Remsen Stakes in November at Aqueduct, and Worldly Manner for a reported $5 million after he won the Del Mar Futurity in September. Bob Baffert trained Worldly Manner, a highly regarded son of Riverman, to a three-for-four record as a 2-year-old.

For those of you who make your Kentucky Derby selections from the annual list of "dual qualifiers," this year you can choose from 12 colts and geldings and three fillies.

A "dual qualifier" is a horse weighted within 10 pounds of the high weight of The Jockey Club's annual Experimental Free Handicap and who has a dosage index of 4.00 or less.

The Experimental Free Handicap ranks 2-year-olds for a hypothetical race of 1 1/16 miles. Only 2-year-old form is considered. Answer Lively, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was ranked the high weight at 126 pounds. Silverbulletday, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, was the high-weighted filly at 123 pounds.

Dosage is a numerical system of rating horses based on their breeding. The lower the number, the more stamina in the pedigree. Since 1929, only two horses have won the Kentucky Derby with dosages exceeding 4.00: Strike the Gold in 1991 and Real Quiet last year.

Here are this year's "dual qualifiers" with weight and dosage: Colts and geldings: Answer Lively (126, 1.86), Aly's Alley (125, 2.09), Cat Thief (125, 2.69), The Groom Is Red (122, 2.20), Exploit (121, 4.00), Lemon Drop Kid (121, 2.62), Lucky Roberto (120, 1.71), Prime Timber (119, 3.00), Buck Trout (117, 2.67), Prime Directive (117, 1.98), Successful Appeal (116, 3.44) and Texas Glitter (116, 3.33). Fillies: Silverbulletday (123, 1.10), Excellent Meeting (122, 3.44) and Oh What a Windfall (115, 1.72).

Look at neighbors?

As the General Assembly prepares to debate the recommendations of the state study commission on horse racing, the so-called Janney Commission ($20 million in purse enhancements, $1.5 million for marketing, telephone-account wagering), it might do well to consider once again Delaware and West Virginia.

Flush with profits from slots, Delaware Park is replacing its dirt track, installing a new drainage system, building three new barns, considering building new bunkhouses or reconditioning old ones, re-roofing all barns, remodeling the racing and horsemen's offices, and upgrading the jockeys' room.

Once live racing begins there April 10, the track plans on giving away a record $33 million in purses during its 139-day meet.

At Charles Town in West Virginia, purses Wednesday will soar another 20 percent to $65,000 per day. That's three times what purses were when Penn National Gaming Inc. bought the track in January 1997 and installed slots.

Speaking of Charles Town On Feb. 22, 1969, Barbara Jo Rubin, 19 at the time, made national headlines when she rode Cohesion to victory there, becoming the first female jockey to win a pari-mutuel race.

Heart to heart

The Feb. 15 issue of Sports Illustrated contained this mythical valentine: "From Cigar, 1996 Horse of the Year, to Bill Clinton. You ruined my good name."

Man o' War No. 1

The Blood-Horse magazine has released its rankings of the top 100 horses of the 20th century. Man o' War heads the list. Secretariat is second.

Lenny Hale, vice president of racing at Pimlico and Laurel Park, was one of seven panelists who ranked the horses. Others were Howard Battle, Keeneland racing secretary; Pete Pedersen, senior steward in California; Tommy Trotter, Gulfstream Park steward; Bill Nack, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, and the turf writers Jay Hovdey and Jennie Rees.

Pub Date: 2/28/99

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