FAIR HILL -- The Fair Hill Races dug into some unbroken ground yesterday and encountered a few rocks.
An experiment with simulcasts of steeplechase races from a major flat track, Monmouth Park in New Jersey, produced some run-ins with the six-race live card and left bettors precious little time to ponder between events.
Overall, a 10-race card was completed in a little more than three hours, a dizzying pace.
"The handle was way down on those simulcast races," Fair Hill executive director Gregg Morris said. "People had five minutes or less to bet between races and nobody took advantage of betting in advance."
Some television monitors attached to the back of the stands were difficult to see, an inconvenience to be sure. But the main problem was the scheduling.
"We used the same schedule for the simulcasts as the Meadowlands, 14 minutes apart," Morris said. "We wanted that particular time because we were afraid of people milling around with nothing happening if it were any longer."
But slow official results of the previous races and the hand-operated infield tote board hampered the process, and Morris said Fair Hill probably will "aim on the other side [longer scheduled lapses between races]" the next time.
"This was way too tight," he said. "We'll have to consider more live races and maybe only two simulcasts, features on the flat from big tracks like Belmont and the Meadowlands.
"I think this particular crowd likes live racing better than simulcasts."
Drizzly, overcast weather also affected the crowd and handle, which was off about $13,000 from the normal intake for the Labor Day card.
The sport's all-time leading money winner, Victorian Hill, competed in the ninth race, finishing sixth in an 11-horse field four months off.
"The program is to try to get him ready for the Breeders' Cup [Steeplechase at Belmont]," trainer Janet Elliot said. "Everything went fine."
Victorian Hill, owned by William C. Lickle, has won more than $450,000 as a jumper and $526,240 overall. He probably will run again at Foxfield in Charlottesville, Va., next month.
That the 7-year-old gelding is competing is a story in itself. Victorian Hill contracted a severe case of colic a year ago and was in a life-threatening situation for a time.
"About 50 to 60 percent of his large colon was removed," Elliot said. "Coming back shows that he has an awful lot of heart. This is a very brave horse."
New York Rainbow, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, won the 1 3/8 -mile turf race in a drive with Bright Horizon. Sheppard is preparing a number of his horses for a shot at the Breeders' Cup gold.