Don't expect them to be calling Chick Lang "Mr. Jughead" any time soon.
The former longtime Pimlico Race Course general manager, once known as "Mr. Preakness," will become a part of Maryland harness racing if, as expected, Frederick Weisman becomes the new owner of Rosecroft Raceway and Delmarva Downs. Weisman has submitted a bid of $18.5 million.
However, Lang's involvement in a game he once disparaged would be fleeting. Lang, 64, said he expects to assist Weisman "only in the interim period" of a transfer. He would be interim president, general manager and adviser, and would help to place top-level personnel at the tracks.
"People are asking me, 'What do you know about harness racing?' I say, 'Not a thing.' But what difference does that make?" he said. "A turnstile is a turnstile. A hot dog is a hot dog. The horses have four legs. I've told people maybe it's appropriate for me to go from runners to trotters -- they're slower, and maybe I can keep up."
Jim Murphy, who has been trustee of Rosecroft and Delmarva since owner Mark Vogel placed them under the protection of a federal bankruptcy court in January, will announce tomorrow whether Weisman's bid or the $18 million bid from a group headed by former Washington Redskins lineman Mark May -- or neither -- has been accepted.
An ownership transfer could inject new life into a business beset by a litany of recent troubles. Besides Vogel's financial problems, news surfaced last week of controversies involving drivers and judges. Mark Beckwith, one of the track's top drivers, has been asked to appear before the Maryland Racing Commission in connection with two questionable drives. And infighting among the three judges led the commission's executive director, Ken Schertle, to issue a letter recommending that the commission take action.
Lang said he thinks Weisman, a 78-year-old Californian who sold his Howard County car dealership for an estimated $120 million last year, is the man to launch a revival.
"He has the financial stability and the business organization to make it a go," Lang said. "I truly believe it would be a major step forward for harness racing in this state."
Jockey Craig Perret had a career year in 1990, tying Jorg Velasquez's record of 57 stakes victories in a year and winning the Eclipse Award as the nation's top rider. Every time you looked, Perret was picking up this mount or that mount, winning here, winning there.
The amazing thing about the year was that Perret had been recognized as a talented rider for many years, but things didn't come together so perfectly until he was 39.
Jerry Bailey is this year's Craig Perret. Bailey long ago established himself as a top rider on the tough New York-Florida circuit, but not until this year was he a hot commodity.
For starters, Bailey, 33, has ridden and won big races aboard Hansel, Meadow Star and Richman.
Now add Fly So Free to his list. Bailey will ride the 1990 2-year-old champion in the Riva Ridge Stakes on the same program as the Belmont Stakes on June 8.
Hansel's double-digit connections: Bailey is 33. Trainer Fran Brothers is 44. Owner Joe Allbritton is 66.
The Nassau County Handicap, fifth race in the American Championship Racing Series, also is being run on the Belmont card.
Look for it to be the first and last such arrangement, but not because the race will be overshadowed by the Belmont. The Nassau County probably will be replaced next year on the 10-race ACRS schedule by the Metropolitan Mile.
Barry Weisbord, founder of ACRS, said recently that he is in favor of such a switch. This year, the Met was run just 12 days before the 1 1/8 -mile Nassau County, and it had a negative effect on both races. Either could have been a better race if not for the other.
The ideal move would be to place the Met three weeks after the Pimlico Special -- even if it meant moving from its traditional Memorial Day date -- and return the Nassau County to secondary status.
None of the ACRS races are as short as the Met, but the one-mile distance would give an interesting change in the series without hurting its purpose.
How is The Racing Times moving off the shelves in this area?
A local representative for the paper said Thursday that she is selling about 1,700 papers a day, a pretty fair number.
Meanwhile, a local distributor of Daily Racing Form said his business has hardly been affected.
Either someone is fudging a little on the numbers, there are suddenly many more past-performance readers than before or many people are buying both papers.