LAUREL -- A rule permitting 5-year-old maidens to run in Maryland will be used today for the first time since going into effect Friday.
Two 5-year-olds, Mytimetodance and Bimbo Dancer, are in a field of seven in the first race, a maiden-special event, at Laurel Race Course.
House rules, established many years ago, had banned maidens (non-winners) older than 4 from competing at Maryland's major tracks, but Laurel president Joe De Francis said yesterday that the new rule was invoked because "competition for horses on the East Coast is at its highest point in history.
"With Garden State opening, Philadelphia Park going year-round, Delaware [Park] about to open . . . just because a horse is older than a certain age doesn't mean it doesn't have some quality to it. This rule still keeps out horses which are considered undesirable, like a horse that is 0-for-20 running in maiden-$5,000 races."
The new policy applies only to maiden-special races, and not maiden-claiming.
De Francis denied that the policy was designed to help a specific stable. At least one trainer stabled at Laurel is known for racing expensive horses lightly, which sometimes renders them winless until the relatively old age of 5. "We would never change a rule just for one person," De Francis said.
In an unrelated matter, De Francis said he is still considering a handful of candidates as the replacement for interim announcer John Curren, who will leave March 12.
NOTES: Sunny Sunrise, ridden by Mike Luzzi, edged away to a 1 1/4 -length victory in the $23,000 feature. Monster Baby finished second in the 6 1/2 -furlong sprint for older horses. The winner, trained by Bud Delp, paid $3.80 as the favorite in a field of seven. . . . Trainer Ben Perkins and jockey Rick Wilson teamed for three victories yesterday: Star Sonnett in the fifth, Robert's Choice in the sixth and Bravest Sir in the eighth. Perkins is fourth in the trainers' standings, and Wilson moved back into third place among jockeys. . . . "Inside Track," a documentary on Maryland racing, is repeated tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. on Maryland Public Television. . . . The segment on Marylander Jim Ryan's involvement in racing airs this weekend on CBS' "Sunday Morning."