Washington attorney Frank J. FeFrancis was granted 85 racing dates at Laurel Raceway by the Maryland Harness Racing Board today after a grueling three-hour questioning by that fourman board into his finances and personal associations. The vote granting the meet, which will begin June 23, was unanimous.
The name of the track will be changed to Free State Raceway.
The DeFrancis team of attorneys produced letters from the track caterers, the mutel employes union, the horsemen and sound technicians that they were satisifed to work with DeFrancis, who bought the financially troubled track for $4.8 million last winter. Testimony revealed that DeFrancis would pay the Maryland general revenue fund $200,000.DeFrancis said his net worth is at least $5 million.
The harness board, obviously stung by criticism of its handling of the financial dealings of DeFrancis' predecessor, made it clear it would not be satisfied with a cursory inquiry into the financial and personal dealings of any prospective track operator.
Commissioner Norman Diamond told DeFrancis "I could be dealing with my brother here today and I would ask him these same questions. I refuse to act on faith alone when the public interest is at stake."
DeFrancis, who revealed having purchased the 18 acres containing the access roads to the track, said, "I have been a thoroughbred owner 20 years and have done well. I have aged at least 20 years these past few months since I'm into harness racing."