Washington attorney Frank DeFrancis said yesterday he has agreed in principle to buy Laurel Raceway from the National Bank of Washington and that he would begin racing this summer if the deal goes through.
"My bid is in and I've been informed that I am confirmed by the board of the bank," DeFrancis, a well-known breeder and owner of thoroughbreds, said from his Washington office. "Now it's up to the lawyers of the bank. They have to draw up the documents and see what we have."
The bank has been discussing plans to sell the Howard County harness track with at least two other people -- John D. Schapiro, president of nearby Laurel Race Course, and Sam McMichel, an attorney for an unidentified four-man syndicate.
The bank recently sold the track to itself at auction for $2.3 million in an attempt to recoup some of the $4.7 million loan the track defaulted on last year. Audits have indicated the track is at least $6 million in debt.
Bank officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
DeFrancis, who declined to say how much he has offered to pay for the track, said he does not yet have any partners. "Should I get the deal there will be plenty of time for partners should they be desirable," he said.
He described Laurel as the best five-eighths-mile track in the East. "The location is good and the clubhouse is only two years old. I have always wanted to run a track in what I think is the right way.
"I know I like to go to nice surroundings, be treated nicely and given a square shake whether it be getting on the horses or eating a good hot meal."
DeFrancis also indicated that if the deal is closed, "I would fully anticipate that racing would open as usual June 18 and run for 85 days." Legislation that would enable Maryland to transfer the track's racing dates to a new owner already has received preliminary approval by the Maryland Senate.