Walter Callahan, one of the top driver-trainers on the Maryland harness racing circuit, will not be permitted to compete in the upcoming meet at Freestate Raceway, sources said yesterday.
Frank DeFrancis, president of Freestate, declined to comment specifically on any driver until the track completes taking action on stall applications later this week. DeFrancis said that Callahan did not request stall space for the 85-night meet that will begin June 8.
Callahan declined to comment.
It could not be determined why Callahan was excluded.
Last Saturday, sources said Rosecroft management held a meeting of drivers at the track and one of the topics of concern was consistency of driving. William E. Miller II, president of the track, told the horsemen that the one thing he would insist on was competitive driving and that he would not hesitate to exercise his right of exclusion.
Callahan, 31, has 1,165 career driving victories as of May 17 and lifetime purse winnings of $2,568,937, according to the U.S. Trotting Association. He won 160 races last year in 953 starts, with earnings of $353,009.
This year, he has 31 victories in 259 drives, with winnings of $101,777.
Sources in Maryland harness racing said DeFrancis met with Callahan in his Laurel office this month.
DeFrancis declined to answer questions about the meeting.
Under civil law, track owners have a right of exclusion from their property of any person they deem not to be in their best business interests, as long as the exclusion is not founded on race, creed, color or national origin. A reason need not be given.
"There will be several people who will not be invited back to receive the benefits of stabling, training or driving their horses at Freestate Raceway," DeFrancis said.
"That doesn't mean or attempt to infer anything except I am exercising my right as owner of the track to invite those participants that I so desire."
DeFrancis said that letters would be sent to those people in the next day or two, and that he had been advised by his lawyers not to divulge the names until the recipients had a chance to receive them.
Earlier this month, Rosecroft Raceway's management, in an action independent of the state racing judges, exercised its right of exclusion against two drivers and four other persons. They were excluded less than 24 hours after a 4-to-5 favorite finished out of the money and the triple of the first race on May 12 paid only $162.40, even though a 53-to-1 longshot was second and a 29-to-1 longshot was third. Management refused to give a reason for excluding other than to say it was in its best business interests. Callahan wasn't in that race.
The excluded drivers were Anthony Sapienza, 20, of Nanejoy, Md., and Gusztav Toplenszky, 41, of North Tonawanda, N.Y. Sapienza, who drove Adios Dewey, the 4-to-5 favorite in that race, was suspended for 30 days by the state judges for "an unsatisfactory drive due to lack of effort." Toplenzsky was not penalized by the judges.
Both Sapienza and Toplenszky have denied any wrongdoing.