Officials of the Maryland Hunt Cup have become alarme about declining attendance and are thinking about changing admission policies for the 1992 race.
Charles Fenwick Sr., chairman of the Hunt Cup committee, said yesterday that advance ticket sales for this year's race are running at an all-time low.
Fewer than 50 parking stickers have been sold for the April 27 renewal of the 4-mile steeplechase, which is considered among the most difficult in the world. The race is held at the J.W.Y. Martin Jr. farm in Glyndon.
The decrease in attendance is a trend that started in 1989, Fenwick said, after Baltimore County police asked the Hunt Cup committee to impose a stringent admissions policy.
There had been rowdyism and drug and alcohol abuse at the race, often involving minors and frequently resulting in arrests. Police officials said that they would not participate in security for the event unless the crowd was brought under control, Fenwick said.
Police suggested, and the Hunt Cup officials adopted, a complicated admissions procedure. People wishing to attend the race must pick up an application to purchase a car sticker at one of six area locations and mail the form -- which includes name, address and vehicle tag number -- to the committee, along with $30. The committee then mails out the sticker.
Previously, stickers could be purchased at the various locations without filling out the forms. That is the policy Fenwick said he hopes can be resumed next year.
Fenwick acknowledged that the strict admissions procedure has broken the party cycle" of people who attended and didn't watch the race.
But "it is such a bloody nuisance that people that want to come out and just enjoy a day in the country don't want to go through all that," he said. "The horsemen come, but that's about it."
Sales of passes have dwindled from 1,400 in 1988, before the new policy, to 500 in 1989 and 340 in 1990.
"The operation has been a success," Fenwick said, "but the patient has died."
Fenwick said it costs about $65,000 to stage the race and that the race lost money last year for the first time.
There still is time for people to mail in applications, he said. Entries should be received at his office, at Valley Motors in Cockeysville, by Thursday, Fenwick said, but can still be mailed out in time if the application is received by April 23.
Admission forms are available at the Wine & Cheese Merchant, Green Spring Station; Vordemberge Saddlery, Timonium; Alex Brown & Sons, 135 E. Baltimore St.; John Brown's Store, Shawan and Falls roads, Hunt Valley; the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association, Timonium; and Valley Motors, Cockeysville.