A group of prominent area businessmen with racing ties, headed by former Maryland Racing Commission chairman E. William Furey, is considering the purchase of Rosecroft Raceway and Delmarva Downs.
Furey, a Chevy Chase lawyer, said last night that he had been asked to lead a group that includes William Miller, former owner of the harness tracks; Earle Palmer Brown, a Bethesda advertising executive and member of the Rosecroft board of directors, and Paul Ewell, an Ocean City lawyer and prominent standardbred owner. Furey said the group has not contacted Mark Vogel, the embattled developer and track owner whose attorney said Monday that Rosecroft, in Oxon Hill, and Delmarva Downs, near Ocean City, are for sale.
Vogel relinquished financial and operational control of the tracks last week amid reports that he used $2 million in track funds for unrelated causes. He was arrested in Virginia on a felony charge of cocaine possession Sept. 13.
Furey called discussions within the group "very preliminary" and said no offer would be made until ongoing financial audits of the tracks have been completed. However, he called "preposterous" speculation that the tracks might command as much as $25 million.
"It's not as ego-fulfilling as buying a baseball or a football franchise," Furey said. "But there'd be a lot of personal glory to the people who love this industry -- who grew up with the industry -- and have some money. We are at the threshold of something that might be good for everybody."
Vogel bought the tracks in December 1987 for $11 million, including about $5 million in long-term debt. He now has about $11 million in longterm debt, and as much as $3.5 million in overdue track payments, according to sources familiar with track operations. Jim Murphy, track president and general manager, now has control of the tracks after the Maryland Racing Commission intervened.
Meanwhile, Laurel Race Course announced it will conduct a 14-race program Sunday, including its first simulcast of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe from Paris. The Arc is scheduled first -- with post time between 11 and 11:30 a.m. -- on a program that also features 12 live races and a simulcast of the Turf Classic from Belmont Park.