A track official estimated that three straight days of power outages have cost Pimlico Race Course nearly $300,000 in lost bets.
After the third consecutive shutdown yesterday about halfway through the card, Jim Mango, Pimlico's general manager, said, "We're contacting top executives of BG&E first thing today to try to get some answers. We are at the mercy of the electric company."
Peggy Mulloy, spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., said yesterday's shutdown was caused "by cable failure because of a bad splice. On Saturday, a fuse blew on a transformer. And I'm not certain what caused the outage on Friday."
The outages have occurred during the current heat wave when late afternoon temperatures have soared to or near the 100-degree mark. But Mulloy said "no one is sure if these failures are heat-related."
The shutdowns started on Friday when the eighth race was delayed 20 minutes, although Mango said there was minimal effect on the handle.
However on Saturday, the mutuel machines were shut down for 45 minutes between the fifth and sixth races. Mango estimated that it cost the track $70,000 in bets on the fifth race and $40,000 in wagering on the sixth.
Then the third blackout occurred yesterday during the actual running of the sixth race. All power was shut down for about 40 minutes. The seventh race, scheduled to go off at 3:50 p.m., didn't start until 4:15 p.m., causing about a 25-minute delay between races.
But the track plant was so uncomfortable without air conditioning "that many people just took off. I don't blame them, especially the old er people. We did everything we could do from an operational standpoint," Mango said.
Once the power was restored, the infield tote board was still dark for about another hour, although the odds were shown on TV monitors.
Mango estimated that yesterday's betting losses were between $150,000 and $200,000. The Pimlico blackouts also forced the shutdown of the simulcast betting outlet at Laurel.
"We have looked into getting our own generators," Mango said, "but the cost goes into seven figures. In the past, BG&E has treated us well. But we just want to know, why don't there ever seem to be any power outages at the Orioles games?"
Ironically, one of the state's eight racing commissioners is Carol M. McGowan, wife of BG&E board chairman George McGowan.