Laurel Race Course stockholders yesterday approved sale of the track's racing assets to a group headed by Frank DeFrancis, and the sale was completed last night with the signing of papers transferring title of the track.
DeFrancis and his general partners, John A. (Tommy) Manfuso Jr. and Robert Manfuso, paid $15.5 million for Laurel and half of Laurel's interest in Bowie. In addition, the new owners paid outgoing president John D. Schapiro $600,000 for consulting fees and for an agreement not to compete in the racing business for five years.
Applause, a 4-year-old filly, and jockey Donald Miller Jr. were the stars of yesterday's opening of the winter meeting at Bowie.
Applause won the featured Queen Anne Handicap by two lengths and Miller, the leading rider at last year's winter meeting at Bowie, won with five of seven mounts on the nine-race card.
Miller began his big day in the first race, scoring with Faleana. He finished third astride Birthday List in the fourth, then won the next four races on Cardiac Pack, Shalopy, Native Derby and Applause, respectively.
The crowd of 5,810 wagered $910,066, a rise of 2.5 percent in attendance and 9 percent in the betting compared to last year.
This will be the last winter meeting that will be run at Bowie. Bowie, the pioneer of winter racing on the East Coast, will become a training track after the current meeting ends Jan 19, but will still run in the summer. The track is dark Sundays, and there will be no racing Dec. 24-25.