Favorites for the opening day Mister Diz Stakes at Pimlico tomorrow are a quartet of 3-year-old sprinters named Tank, Ameri Run, Gala Spinaway and Maybe On Monday.
The race is named after the late Frank Rosenfeld, a horseplayer who was also one of Baltimore's most colorful and picaresque personalities.
The track, which has been idle since last fall, will be open for approximately 3 1/2 months and will run continuously five days a week through July 2. The highlight of the 80 race cards will be the May 18 Preakness Stakes, middle jewel of the $5 million Chrysler Triple Crown Challenge, preceded a week by the $750,000 Pimlico Special, now a part of the American Championship Racing Series televised by ABC.
The track will be open on Tuesdays, then Thursday through Sunday. Post time is 1 p.m. for the weekday cards, 12:30 for the weekend races. Plans to run on Mondays during April and early May were scrapped because of a shortage of horses. The track will only run on two holiday Mondays, Easter Monday (April 1) and Memorial Day (May 27).
* ON CALL: Dave Rodman, who debuted at Laurel yesterday and formerly called the races at Louisiana Downs, succeeds Trevor Denman as the track announcer.
* DUAL MEET: For stakes purposes, the meet has been divided into two segments. Fourteen stakes worth more than $1.2 million will be run during the winter/spring part of the meet, which ends April 28. The Federico Tesio Stakes, the state's premier prep for the Triple Crown, is being run this Sunday. The Pimlico Oaks, a graded stakes for 3-year-old fillies, is set for March 30.
The spring/summer portion of the Pimlico meet will, of course, be highlighted by the Preakness. But it is the May 11 Pimlico Special that could bring together a stellar field comprised of Unbridled and Summer Squall, last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners, plus Jolie's Halo and Farma Way, current stars of the handicap division.
* FINISH LINE: Laurel ended its approximately 130 days of racing yesterday showing 5 percent declines in handle and attendance.
Track owner Joe De Francis attributes the business decrease to the Persian Gulf crisis and the current economic recession. He said to register the enormous gains experienced at the tracks during the previous five-year period would require a major structural change, such as the introduction of Off-Track Betting.
"OTB is something we vitally need to spur growth, but in the interim Maryland racing is still healthy, despite the decreases at Laurel, which were mild compared to other tracks," he said.
De Francis hopes to experiment with one day of twilight racing starting this summer. He has reached an agreement with harness horsemen, who traditionally race at night, to run one twilight card on Tuesdays, when the state's harness tracks are dark.
A hearing on the twilight racing bill, as well as other racing legislation, is scheduled before the Senate Finance Committee in Annapolis at 1 p.m. tomorrow.