LAUREL -- Dance Smartly, Lite Light and Meadow Star in one race?
That's the kind of dream field Joe De Francis hopes to attract in a major new race he's created called the Pimlico Distaff.
It could be called a Pimlico Special for older fillies and mares.
De Francis said yesterday that the $250,000 stakes at nine furlongs on the dirt is scheduled for June 20 at Pimlico Race Course.
The race is the brainchild of Timothy Capps, first vice president for racing and public relations at Laurel and Pimlico, who created the tremendously successful Pimlico Special for older male horses five years ago.
The Distaff replaces the Pimlico Oaks, which previously was carded for 3-year-old fillies, and is designed to have national appeal.
The $250,000 purse makes it Maryland's sixth richest thoroughbred race, equal with the Laurel Dash and the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, and one of the richest filly and mare stakes in the country.
Local stakes with higher purses include the Budweiser International ($750,000), Pimlico Special ($700,000); Preakness ($500,000-added), De Francis Dash ($300,000) and All Along Stakes ($300,000).
"It's the last piece of the puzzle," Capps said. "We have major races for 3-year-old colts and fillies, sprinters, grass horses and older male horses. Previously, the best races we had going long for older fillies and mares were the All Along Stakes and Gallorette Handicap, but both of those are on the turf."
Capps added that the Distaff "wasn't created just because there are three exceptional 4-year-old fillies racing this year. But you'd like to think one or two of them would come or even all three. The race has a place on the calendar between the Hempstead Stakes at Belmont and the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park, so it is positioned properly. The Distaff should consistently attract national caliber horses every year."
Capps said Laurel and Pimlico lack a major 2-year-old race o the dirt, "but it's a question of getting the highest quality horse available for your dollar. There are so many 2-year-old races in the fall, and it's so competitive to attract top 2-year-olds, that your quality is going to be hit or miss."
Capps said Dance Smartly, Lite Light and Meadow Star are i light training. "By June, we are positioned where we can get them when they are hopefully starting to hit their best stride," he said.
NOTES: William Riddle, president of the Maryland Standardbred Breeders' Association, said the association's board met in Annapolis on Monday night and expressed satisfaction with the off-track betting bill now before the state Senate. "We have no intention to withdraw from the Maryland Horse Coalition," Riddle said. "We are pleased with the way the bill currently reads. That's not to say we're not going to lobby for and make our concerns known to certain legislators as the bill proceeds through the General Assembly. We still have Bruce Bereano, our lobbyist, representing us." The harness breeders successful lobbied to extend the 25-mile exclusion radius to 35 miles in the bill's final draft. They failed to get a dual-purpose provision that would have required each OTB parlor to take both harness and thoroughbred signals. "But Colt Enterprises [owners of the state's harness tracks] and Joe De Francis [operator of Laurel-Pimlico] agreed to sign a letter of intent stating that each parlor will take both signals," Riddle said. . . . The OTB bill was expected to come up for a preliminary vote in the Senate today and then could be considered for a final vote as soon as tomorrow or Friday. The bill needs 24 favorable votes for passage. . . . The Conniver Handicap weights are out and this time Wide Country and Wood So are only separated by one pound. Wide Country is still high-weighted at 119 pounds, but Wood So picked up 5 pounds after her Barbara Fritchie victory. She was given 118 pounds by Laurel director of racing Larry Abbundi. The Conniver is Sunday. . . . Fighting Notion, who ran fifth in the 1990 Preakness, won for the first time in nearly two years yesterday. He went wire-to-wire and won the $23,000 Laurel feature. . . . Capps will be at the Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Race Course this weekend, drumming up entries for the Pimlico Special and Pimlico Distaff. . . . Mary Muldoon, from the polo-playing Joseph Muldoon family in Potomac, has obtained her trainer's license and plans to start her first thoroughbred runner in a few weeks. Muldoon's two brothers, Joe III and Charlie, are five-goal polo players. Her father is rated at two-goals and Muldoon herself is a one-goal player. She still plays with the Potomac Polo Club despite her new racetrack career.