Fans at Pimlico and Laurel, who long have relied on the Daily Racing Form for complete track information, soon will have a choice between two full-fledged turf dailies.
Starting next Saturday, April 13, The Racing Times, billed as the first serious alternative to the Form, will hit the stands at Maryland tracks.
"This is not some cheapo, down-market, underfinanced competitor," editor Steve Crist said yesterday from New York, where the new publication is based. "It is a complete past performance paper that will cover racing like a real newspaper."
Crist said the paper will have a broadsheet format with a standard 48-page size and will make abundant use of color. It will sell for $2.50, the same price as the Daily Racing Form.
The Racing Times is being published by Robert Maxwell, the British media mogul who recently became something of a New York folk hero when he bought, and subsequently saved, the financially strapped New York Daily News.
Maxwell launched his new racing paper at a news conference yesterday at the Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center. Maxwell said he is attempting to break the monopoly long held by the Daily Racing Form, which is owned by his media rival, Rupert Murdoch.
Maxwell also publishes The Sporting Life, a premier British racing daily.
Crist said the Maryland edition of The Racing Times will initially include past performances from New York, Florida and southern and northern California tracks as well as Maryland.
"These are the areas where the paper is first being introduced," Crist said. "The launch is taking place in several phases. In a month's time, we will be available at 15 tracks. Maryland fans will get the past performances of five or six tracks. We will include past performances from nearby tracks and then tracks like those in southern California, which are of editorial interest.
"We have one reporter and one handicapper at each track. The reporter will write a news story, either from the track or the statehouse or wherever there is breaking news. The handicapper will write informed advances about the feature races."
Jack Mann, formerly of The Evening Sun, is the Maryland columnist for The Racing Times and Clem Florio, formerly of The News American and Washington Post, has been hired as handicapper.
Crist said the paper was started from scratch five months ago and now has 150 employees, with bureaus in Los Angeles and Lexington, Ky., as well as New York.
The past performance information has been obtained from Equibase, a past performance system initiated about two years ago by the Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Jockey Club.
Crist said the past performance information will include speed figures by Andy Beyer of The Washington Post, as well as more extensive statistical and breeding information than is currently available in the Form.
However, The Racing Times cannot yet match the extensive past performance library that the Form has compiled over a number of years.