11/09/2005 12:00AM

Maryland date deadline set


The Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday gave Magna Entertainment Corp. and the state's horsemen's and breeders' associations until Dec. 1 to resolve an expense-sharing issue that has bogged down negotiations on a dates agreement for 2006.

Commissioners also asked officials of Magna - the majority owner of Laurel and Pimlico - to prepare an expense report by that date, detailing the cost of operating the tracks on live and simulcast days. That report will be used by the commission to find an equitable cost-sharing figure if the three parties fail to resolve the issue by then.

The commission approved a broad-based request by Magna for 2006 racing dates but it directed the three entities to reach agreement on specific dates by the commission's next meeting, Dec. 13.

Lou Raffetto, chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates the two tracks, said it would not be a problem to give the commission the expense report. "Hopefully, we can behave like grown men and make a deal," said Raffetto, "or the commission will step up and make one for us."

Alan Foreman, lawyer for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horseman's Association, said his group was ready to finalize an agreement on racing dates on Nov. 2, when the groups last met for negotiations.

"It was only when [Magna] introduced expense-sharing that it didn't happen," said Foreman.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks is that Magna wants horsemen and breeders not only to contribute to expenses in the future, but also reimburse the company for expenses in 2004, when no agreement was in place.

Despite the commission's directive to speed up the process, it appears the first meeting between horsemen and Magna cannot occur until Nov. 26 because of previously planned travel by various officials.