05/16/2002 11:00PM

Maryland track sale denied


BALTIMORE - Joe De Francis, the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, emphatically denied on Friday that a sale of Laurel and Pimlico tracks to Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment had been completed.

"There is no agreement," De Francis said. "To print anything else would be a lie."

Several sources close to the Maryland Jockey Club said this week that an agreement had been reached to sell the tracks for $105 million, and that De Francis had agreed to stay on for three years.

Magna owns 10 racetracks, including Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita, and Golden Gate Fields. The company's chairman is Frank Stronach, the Eclipse Award-winning horse owner and breeder. Company officials have said they are looking to purchase more tracks, and De Francis has confirmed in the past that the MJC has had discussions with Magna about a deal.

Other sources have said that De Francis would not agree to sell anything other than the minority stake in the tracks held by Leucadia Investment Corp.

One Maryland racing official said that talk of the sale had gained intensity only because of the concentration of reporters gathered at Pimlico for the Preakness.

"These are the same stories we've been hearing for a month," the official said. "The difference is that a lot more people are listening."