Md. raceway company accuses thoroughbred industry of conspiracy The company that owns bankrupt horse-racing track Rosecroft Raceway is suing Maryland's thoroughbred industry on charges of conspiracy and monopolization -- plus eight other counts of antitrust violations -- for an alleged "boycott" against Rosecroft.

Rosecroft's parent company, Cloverleaf Enterprises, says the Maryland Jockey Club, Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and several other defendants drove Rosecroft out of business by encouraging thoroughbred tracks to turn off the signals that allowed Rosecroft, a standardbred track, to air off-site horse races.

Cloverleaf says the thoroughbred industry wanted to make the state's only thoroughbred tracks -- Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park -- the sole moneymakers from simulcast racing.

The defendants are denying the claims and have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. A bankruptcy judge is set to hear the motion in Maryland District Court on Tuesday.

Simulcasting thoroughbred horse races once accounted for about 95 percent of Rosecroft's revenue, according to the lawsuit. Cloverleaf President Kelley Rogers stopped paying an annual $5.9 million signal fee to the thoroughbred industry in fall 2008 because of falling revenues. He requested a negotiation of the 15-year contract that began in March 2006.

Both sides said no compromise surfaced in the months that followed, and on April 30, 2009 -- days before the Kentucky Derby -- the Maryland Jockey Club cut Rosecroft's signal without warning.

Cloverleaf says the Maryland Jockey Club carefully calculated the timing of the signal cutoff to cripple Rosecroft right before one of the most profitable races of the year.

Alan Foreman, a lawyer representing the horse industry, said the timing was coincidental.

"They created the very situation they are in, so there couldn't be a conspiracy on our side," he said.

Rosecroft was still receiving signals from other out-of-state tracks, but in the days following the dispute, those signals began shutting off as well.

Rosecroft's revenues plummeted and the track closed in July, laying off about 200 employees.

Cloverleaf said the Maryland Jockey Club encouraged other tracks to shut off Rosecroft's signals, pointing to an e-mail the club sent to track owners announcing the signal cutoff. The e-mail ended, "Our horsemen support this initiative."

Former Maryland Racing Commission Chairman John Franzone said thoroughbred horsemen tend to band together during a contract dispute between the two racing industries.

Cloverleaf classifies the mass signal cutoff as a boycott.

"This case presents a classic antitrust claim: A group boycott orchestration to destroy competition in off-track betting and to monopolize a product market," the lawsuit reads.

The Maryland secretary of state is working on a deal to reopen Rosecroft.