Laurel, Pimlico interested in twilight racing

February 22, 1991|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Evening Sun Staff

The state's thoroughbred tracks wannt to initiate twilight racing at its summer meets, starting in June at Pimlico.

However, the move is expected to be opposed by harness racing representatives who see it as an infringement into the night racing time slot traditionally allotted to the trotters.

The move requires a change in the existing law that now requires thoroughbred racing to end at 6:15 p.m.

However, a bill to change that has been introduced on behalf of the thoroughbred tracks by state senators Thomas Bromwell (D-Baltimore County) and Michael Wagner (D-Anne Arundel). The change calls for the flat tracks to be able to race until sunset or 6:15 p.m., whichever is later.

Post time for the first harness race is regularly set for 7:30 p.m. In the summer months, sunset can occur as late as 8:30 to 9 p.m.

Joe De Francis, controlling owner of both Laurel and Pimlico, said his tracks' twilight cards "would be done before the first race at the harness tracks."

However, that still doesn't appease the harness interests, who think their business will still be hurt. They feel it will cut into the number of fans who attend both the afternoon flat and nighttime harness cards and also could affect some employees if they work at both tracks. Given the precarious state of Maryland's harness industry they don't want any change that could further weaken the industry.

Despite the opposition, De Francis said he thinks the flat tracks still deserve the chance to experiment with twilight racing. "We want to make it clear we don't want night racing," De Francis said. "Twilight racing has been successful in the Midwest and we'd like to experiment with it. It's something the fans might enjoy."

The Senate Finance committee has scheduled a hearing on the law change in Annapolis at 1 p.m. next Tuesday (Feb. 26).

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