UPPER MARLBORO -- Jockey Mark Johnston wandered into a fenced area restricted to officials. "I'm lost," he said.
Maryland racing yesterday lost itself in the autumnal enigma that is Marlboro Race Track. The tiny track offered its first of two consecutive Wednesday cards, ones that Johnston and other jockeys at Maryland's larger tracks often have bypassed since Marlboro reopened three years ago.
Ideal weather met a crowd of 6,971, whose favorites dominated TC 12-race card. Virtually all of the short-priced winners showed early speed, which is hardly surprising for a five-eighths oval with tight turns.
Riding at Marlboro was "not really" different for Lillian "Mich" Kuykendall, a regular at the Charles Town Races. "You've got to seek out a track bias, and I've got the one at Charles Town down pat," she said after winning the ninth race with late-surging Kincardini. "Here, it's speed. My horse just overcame it, so you know he was much the best."
The $15,000 feature was won in typical fashion by Ragtime Dancing, who gained the lead into the first turn of the "about" 6 1/2 -furlong race. Holme Glory, the 6-5 favorite, finished second, one length back.
Alberto Delgado, a regular at the "milers," won three races, including a $12,000 allowance on Lady Bee Cool.
Conditions for hard-core horseplayers are not the best at Marlboro; there is no tote board, and fans paying general admission can do much worse than watching the races on television monitors. But that's not the point, said Bill Chambers, track general manager.
"We want to keep it simple," said Chambers. "We're here to provide a fair-like, fun atmosphere." Such an attitude was reflected in yesterday's handle of $415,799, which amounts to a per capita of $60, less than half Pimlico/Laurel standards. By a slight margin, the attendance was the lowest for the six programs conducted at Marlboro since it reopened in 1988 after a 16-year hiatus.
Marlboro is a non-profit entity that donates proceeds to the Prince George's Equestrian Center's therapeutic riding program, which teaches equestrian skills to disabled people.
Because of the shift to standard time, there will be only 10 races next week, when the $40,000 Marlboro Cup is the headliner.