11/24/2010 1:37PM

Maryland partners clash over 2011 race dates

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The co-owners of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course in Maryland are at loggerheads over whether to run racing dates at Laurel Park in 2011, according to representatives of the state racing industry.

The co-owners, MI Developments and Penn National Gaming Inc., are scheduled on Monday to present a plan for the 2011 racing season to the Maryland Racing Commission. Penn National has insisted, however, that the two entities remain committed to a plan to limit racing to 40 days at Laurel Park, a schedule that would eliminate 120 live dates from the calendar, while officials of MI Developments struggle to adhere to a promise made by the company’s chairman, Frank Stronach, to continue to race at the suburban Maryland track.

The situation is complicated by an announcement made by officials at Laurel and Pimlico in early November to eliminate the Laurel meet, citing ongoing losses at the track and the defeat of a local referendum that would have overturned zoning approvals for a planned casino about ten miles from the track. Stronach made the promise to representatives of horsemen a week after the announcement, saying that he was not aware of the plan to limit racing to Pimlico.

Last week, Eric Schippers, a spokesperson for Penn National, said in an e-mail to bizjournals.com, a Maryland news site, that Penn continued to support the elimination of racing at Laurel. Penn bought a 50 percent stake in the Maryland tracks early in 2010.

Schippers did not return a phone call on Wednesday. Neither did officials of MI Developments.

Alan Foreman, the legal counsel to the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said that horsemen have not been involved in the discussions over the dates.

“It seems infinitely premature to go to a 40-day schedule next year,” Foreman said. “No one was prepared for that. It’s our hope that we keep the racing schedule at the status quo for next year while we work out the best step forward for Maryland racing.”