LAUREL -- Maryland thoroughbred racing will settle down today for approximately a six-month stand at Laurel Race Course.
After the Laurel summer meeting closed July 24, Pimlico Race Course opened for the first segment of its summer session, closing for 10 days so Timonium Race Course's state-fair meeting could be conducted. Pimlico then reopened for 10 days.
During the cold-weather period in Maryland, Laurel will be the center of action.
The meeting has 76 programs scheduled. The last official date is Dec. 31, but early next month, the Maryland Racing Commission will consider applications for 1991 dates, and Laurel is likely to be assigned a January-through-mid-March session similar to last year's dates.
Betting on thoroughbred races has been going on here every race day for almost two years. When the races moved to Pimlico, Laurel remained opened for intertrack action -- conducting betting on the programs at Pimlico, with gamblers watching on video.
Intertrack betting will be conducted at Pimlico over the winter while races are held at Laurel.
Laurel essentially will remain on a five-days-a-week schedule. The track will be dark all Mondays except Columbus Day, Oct. 8, and Dec. 31, the New Year's Eve card.
All Wednesdays will be dark except Dec. 26.
Two days of racing will get under way at 10:30 a.m. One is Oct. 27, when eight live races will start in the morning so that seven Breeders' Cup races can be simulcast from Belmont Park in the afternoon.
The other date for morning races is Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22.
Generally, post time for the first race will be 1 p.m. until Oct. 30, when it changes to 12:30 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, the races begin a half-hour earlier than the weekday cards.
The headliner today is the $60,000 Queen Empress Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at a mile on the turf. The probable favorite is Private Treasure, who won the Mermaid Stakes at Atlantic City Race Course.
She will be ridden by Craig Perret, who leads the nation in winning rides in stakes this year. The latest figures show Perret had 43 winners.
The headliner of Laurel's meeting for more than 30 years has been the International. It started as the Washington D.C. International, but with sponsorship, it has been changed to the $750,000 Budweiser International. This year's race is scheduled Sunday, Oct. 21, as part of Laurel's International Turf Festival.
On International day, Laurel also presents the $300,000 All Along Stakes and the $250,000 Laurel Dash.
The previous day, the track offers the $300,000 Selima Stakes and the $300,000 Laurel Futurity.