Ted Snell, new president of Rosecroft Raceway and Delmarva Downs, yesterday told the Maryland Racing Commission that "the most critical year in Maryland racing history is upon us."
Making his first appearance before the panel, Snell made an eloquent plea for off-track betting and intertrack simulcasting next year for Maryland's combined racing industries.
"With your leadership and guidance, I am sure that the legislative branch of government will show its wisdom and will keep us equal with our sister states," said Snell, who three weeks ago became president of Maryland's major harness tracks for their new owners, Colt Enterprises, Inc.
"This is the most critical piece of legislation Maryland racing has ever faced. We need it. The thoroughbreds need it," he said.
Snell cited cooperation from all segments in the industry as "critical . . . so needed" for passage of an OTB/intertrack bill by the 1992 General Assembly.
The commission, in its monthly meeting at the Timonium Fairgrounds, then turned to a busy agenda that included assignment of 1992 dates for all Maryland tracks.
The most notable changes: Laurel will conduct races two weeks longer in March, taking those dates from Pimlico; and Rosecroft, which has been dark for only three weeks in each of the past two years, will shut down for about 10 weeks.
The lengthening of Laurel's winter meet creates a greater imbalance in racing days between the state's two major thoroughbred tracks. Laurel's dates will exceed Pimlico's total by a nearly 2-1 margin.
Martin Jacobs, vice president at both tracks, said the primary consideration for the switch was Laurel's tendency to attract larger betting handles. The Laurel surface, Jacobs added, also is more conducive to winter racing.
The shorter harness calendar, Snell said, is a result of extensive renovations planned for January by the new management, plus the need for breaks in what has become a grueling schedule. "It may not always be the best by having more," Charles Lockhart, executive vice president of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association, said in agreement.
Later, the commission fined trainers Richard Delp and Carlos Garcia $1,000 each. Both had horses test positive for traces of cocaine earlier this year.
In at least two similar trace-cocaine cases, the commission had penalized trainers 15 days each, but new guidelines allow more leeway under certain circumstances. "We want to be fair and not get locked in," commission chairman John H. "Jack" Mosner Jr. told the trainers.
The commission also gave final approval to fee increases for licensing and registration of racetrack personnel. The fees, which essentially double across the board, will "be in line" with those of other states, said Mosner, who said they had not been raised in many years.
The meeting was the first for the commission since it voted last week to oust Clinton P. Pitts Jr. as chief steward. Pitts has been relegated to associate steward, with John Heisler assuming the chief steward position.
Mosner said Pitts' demotion was an "internal commission personnel matter, and as such does not deserve public discussion."
Laurel Jan. 1 to March 25*
July 2 to Aug. 28
Oct. 8 to Dec. 31
Pimlico March 26 to July 1
Sept. 10 to Oct. 7
Timonium Aug. 29 to Sept. 7
Marlboro Two October Wednesdays**
Fair Hill May 25; Sept. 7; Two other dates**
Rosecroft Jan. 31 to Aug. 2
Sept. 2 to Dec. 19
Delmarva May 22 to Sept. 7
Feb. 6 to March 25 dates to be run as Pimlico-at-Laurel.
**-to be determined.