At Marlboro, winning runs 2nd to fun Two-day meet a reunion for the area's horse people

October 22, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

UPPER MARLBORO -- The jockey's room is a tent in the infield.

Two horses in the sixth-race post parade wear identical No. 6 saddlecloths.

There is no tote board.

Trainer Larry Smith gives "Handicapping Hints" over an in-house television monitor. He touts his own horse, Only Son in the fifth race, and it wins.

Part hunt meet, part county fair atmosphere, part Southern Maryland racing festival, it seems no one takes the Marlboro races too seriously.

The only real necessities are to see old friends, have fun, and perhaps make a little money betting the horses.

"It is different," said trainer Jack Winterbotham, who is making his first appearance at Marlboro. "It's not Laurel, but it is fun."

Marilyn Ketts sits at her table in the Marlboro Club tent and remembers how she, her brothers, Al and Harry, as well as other local horse people such as Hal Clagett got the idea to revive pari-mutuel racing at the defunct track, if for only two days out of the year.

"I went to Steve Groat, who ran Fair Hill [races in Cecil County] and asked him what I had to do to run a pari-mutuel meet," she said. "We jotted down a list, and he said, 'We don't run all of our days. Why don't you just take one of ours?'

"That's how it got started. We are now allotted four days," Ketts said. "But for the time being, we are just going to run two."

The defunct Marlboro track is now part of the Prince George's County Equestrian Center. A new $10 million multipurpose arena, which will be used for all kinds of horse as well as civic events, is being built beyond the track's first turn.

Proceeds from yesterday's races went to fund the center's therapeutic riding program.

Most of the winners on yesterday's 12-race card were short-priced favorites, including the Winterbotham-owned and trained Sweetheart Ridge, wire-to-wire winner of the Marlboro Nursery. Only six horses started in the race. Asset Impression, the early odds-on favorite, was scratched.

Marlboro officials offered a free Pick 7 bet, limited to one per customer. The prize was a new car for anyone that correctly picked the winners from races 4 through 10. If there was more than one winner, a drawing was to be held for the automobile. But no one picked seven winners.

"There were several live entries until the simulcast [of the Cowdin Stakes from Aqueduct]," said marketing director David Hayden. "No one picked long-shot winner Wallenda. So we will offer the Pick 7 again next week."

By the end of the day, attendance and wagering figures were down slightly, between 2 and 3 percent, from a year ago.

But no one seemed disturbed.

"I just love coming here and seeing everyone that I don't see that often," Ketts said. "This little race meet is all about old home week and getting back to our roots. Horses have been a big part of this community since colonial times, and I hope it's a legacy we can pass on to our children."

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