LAUREL -- Throngs at Saratoga Race Course are a sure sign of summer. But for horseplayers unable to travel the 400-or-so miles from the Baltimore area, betting on many of the rich stakes run at the upstate New York track will be available via simulcast to Laurel Race Course during the next five weeks.
Weekend simulcasting is nothing new to Maryland, but those on Friday are somewhat unusual. The first comes today with the $100,000-added Saratoga Special for 2-year-olds, a race that has drawn a horse of special interest to Maryland fans.
Coin Collector, an obscurely bred gelding owned by John Casey of Charles Town, W.Va., is one of the favorites in the six-furlong Special. After winning his career debut by 10 lengths at Charles Town Race Track, Coin Collector won the Primer Breeders' Cup Stakes at Laurel by 11 lengths. At 2-for-2, he is the only unbeaten horse in a field of eight.
Laurel simulcast coordinator Dennis Smoter said virtually every major Saratoga stakes event will be taken. The exceptions, Smoter said, are the Test Stakes tomorrow and possibly the Alabama on Aug. 10, which may not be shown because the Pacific Classic simulcast from Del Mar Race Course will take precedence.
Smoter said more Saratoga stakes simulcasts would be used, but Maryland tracks are dark on Mondays and Wednesdays; Saratoga is dark on Tuesdays; and Thursday programs at Saratoga usually are void of sufficiently attractive races.
NOTES: Hansel drew the No. 1 post position for tomorrow's $500,000 Haskell Invitational Handicap, which will be simulcast to Laurel/Pimlico from Monmouth Park. Completing the field of 6 3-year-olds, from the No. 2 post outward: Private Man, Sultry Song, Character, Corporate Report and Lost Mountain. . . . Track officials have scheduled a news conference for today to announce a multimillion-dollar backstretch renovation program for Laurel and Pimlico. . . . Mike Luzzi clings to a 16-15 lead over Clarence "Jo Jo" Ladner atop the Laurel jockeys' standings. Neither won a race yesterday, and no jockey won more than 1. . . . The first off track of the 16-day-old meeting awaited yesterday's Laurel program; the first 7 races were run on a track rated "good." The only scheduled turf race was transferred to the main track. . . . Kincardini's victory in the first race yesterday was his fourth straight and fifth from his past 6 starts.