The Maryland Racing Commission will meet today in Baltimore to announce the state's 1985 thoroughbred and harness schedule with Freestate Raceway officials prepared to contest dates requested by Pimlico and Laurel race courses.
Yesterday, the commission heard a request by Pimlico officials for racing dates that are expected to conflict with those requested for Freestate's night harness program.
Pimlico has asked for 102 days and Laurel 118. In addition to its usual 71 days, each track will race 16 of 32 days relinquished by Timonium. Pimlico also will race 15 days previously held at Bowie, and Laurel will add 38 from Bowie, which now is owned by the two tracks.
Bowie, expected to run only one more meeting before becoming a training track, has requested 59 days, from Jan. 1 to March 9.
Pimlico has asked for 60 days, from March 11 to May 18. Laurel would then run for 37 days, May 19 to June 30. Pimlico would come back for 42 days, July 1 to Aug. 23, with a hiatus while Timonium runs a 10-day state fair meeting, then resume racing Sept. 3-21. Laurel then would run for 81 days, Sept. 22 to Dec. 31.
Freestate, which shares the Baltimore-Washington harness scene with Rosecroft, has asked for racing dates from May 16 through Oct. 2.
According to Freestate representative Martin Jacobs, his track's most productive dates are from May to July. The proposed thoroughbred dates would have Laurel running against Freestate and records show Freestate's attendance drops off when going against Laurel, one mile to the south.
"What we have here is an opportunity to get cooperation between the trotting and thoroughbred people never heard of before," Jacobs said.
"Yes, we could call the division of dates as we see it as sort of a spheres-of-influence pact," he said. "Whether we at Freestate eventually buy Laurel or not has nothing to do with it. What we propose is good for the entire racing industry in Maryland."
Freestate's owner, Frank DeFrancis, is a member of a group attempting to purchase Laurel Race Course. He wants Laurel and Pimlico to take their traditional days of March through May for Pimlico and September to December for Laurel, leaving the summer months for Freestate.
But Chick Lang, general manager of Pimlico, said, "The DeFrancis and Bob Manfuso (a Montgomery County businessman) people want some important dates from May through July. And what makes it hard to agree to is the fact they want those days in perpetuity.
"Nothing should be agreed to in perpetuity, especially in racing. We'll see what the commission says tomorrow. There could be some conflict. I only hope that this dates question doesn't hurt the acquisition of Laurel."
"I'm hoping that the various factions can settle this amongst themselves," said the commission chairman, E. William Furey. "In the final analysis, though, only the commission has the power to allot racing dates. We'll listen to all sides and make our decision."