07/09/2002 12:00AM

Dickinson claims Voss stole his secret formula


A court case pitting trainers Michael Dickinson and Thomas Voss against each other over allegations of patent infringement was scheduled to begin Tuesday in a Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Dickinson, the owner of Tapeta Farm in Maryland, sued Voss in August, alleging that Voss "misappropriated or stole" Dickinson's patented recipe for his training track at Tapeta. The suit says that Voss earned $2 million from horses trained over Voss's track in Monkton, Maryland, entitling Dickinson to twice that in damages.

Dickinson has said in court papers that he obtained a patent for the formula for the track in 1999 after experimenting with the ingredients for four years, and that Voss either "hired the same consultant to build the track or directed an employee to sneak onto Dickinson's property to steal a sample of it," according to The Baltimore Sun.

The trial is expected to last through Friday, The Sun said. Presiding over the case will be Judge Robert N. Dugan.

Voss, a top steeplechase trainer, also trains flat runners. In 2000, John's Call, one of his trainees, was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for champion turf horse.

Dickinson, who trained the 8-year-old Cetewayo to a record-setting win in the Stars and Stripes Handicap last weekend at Arlington, is a former steeplechase trainer in England who immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1980's. He trains most of his horses on his farm in Maryland.

Dickinson's all-weather track at Tapeta is a mixture of sand, rubber bits, and an undisclosed mix of six other ingredients, according to The Sun. Tapeta is the Latin word for carpet.

Dickinson has a strained history with other trainers. In 1999, at the Breeders' Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida, Dickinson hired private investigators to tail a van carrying two horses trained by H. James Bond to the track, reportedly to be on the lookout for any administration of illegal medications.

The investigators were caught after Bond complained to track security that suspicious men had followed his van from Payson Park, a training center, to the track's backstretch. The investigators were ejected.

The incident resulted in the Breeders' Cup passing a rule that required all horses to be on the grounds of the host track at least 24 hours before post time.