With Laurel Park and Pimlico management failing to reach an agreement with horsemen and breeders on a schedule for live racing in 2006, Maryland Racing Commission Chairman John McDaniel yesterday set a deadline of Dec. 1 before the commission steps in.
For the third time in three months, since Magna Entertainment, owner of the tracks, first proposed cutting live racing to 112 days a year, the commission at its monthly meeting did not vote on a plan.
Against strong opposition from the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association, Magna has softened its stance on dramatically reducing the number of live racing days, closing stabling areas during the summer and selling the Bowie Training Center to developers.
However, Magna has asked the horsemen and breeders to begin contributing again to the cost of satellite and simulcast facilities operations as a condition for any deal on the number of racing days and stabling issues. Beginning in 1999, the groups contributed approximately $2.4 million a year until the contract for revenue sharing expired in June 2004.
"That's what we need to sit down and discuss," said Lou Raffetto, chief operating officer of the tracks. "My concept of equitable may be different than theirs. If we don't get it resolved, it could be mediated by the commission."
Cricket Goodall, executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association, said negotiations over racing dates and stabling "is a separate issue" from the contribution, "but the tracks have made it tied and the commission is allowing it."
McDaniel asked Magna to provide the commission a cost analysis of expenditures on simulcasting operations. He said he wanted the issue resolved before the commission meets again on Dec. 13.
Another commission member, Terry Saxon, said he would make a motion for the commission to decide racing dates, stabling issues and the level of contribution to simulcasting operations by horsemen and breeders if the groups cannot bring a unified proposal before the body.
"The commission is serious and mad as hell," Saxon said.
-- John Scheinman