04/28/2009 12:00AM

Maryland cuts off harness track


Rosecroft Raceway, a shuttered harness track in Maryland, has been prohibited from offering wagering on Thoroughbred simulcasts beginning April 30 by the Maryland Racing Commission because of nearly $2 million in unpaid bills to the Thoroughbred racing industry.

Rosecroft has not conducted live racing since last summer, but the track continues to operate as a simulcasting facility. Under a 15-year agreement signed with the racing industry in 2006, Rosecroft agreed to pay Maryland racetracks, horsemen, and breeders a total of $5.9 million per year for the right to offer Thoroughbred simulcasts, but the track has not made a payment since the beginning of 2009.

The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association - which is owed $900,000 from the $2 million - asked the racing commission to withdraw approval for Thoroughbred simulcasting at Rosecroft during a Tuesday meeting. Officials for the horsemen's association had met with officials of Cloverleaf Racing, the owners of the track, on Monday, according to Alan Foreman, legal counsel for the horsemen.

"They advised us that they had no intention of paying the fees," Foreman said. "They made it very clear that they think the agreement is a bad deal and will not honor it."

Officials of Cloverleaf did not respond to phone messages left on Tuesday at Rosecroft.

Rosecroft owes Laurel and Pimlico approximately $1.1 million under the simulcasting agreement. Both are owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., which is reorganizing under the protection of a Delaware bankruptcy court.

Foreman said it appears unlikely that horsemen and racetracks will seek to recover the money through a lawsuit.

"We probably will never see that money," Foreman said. "Their strategy is to get a better deal with us or get a bankruptcy court to set the agreement aside."