Laurel Race Course will be closed for the Christmas holidays until Saturday, but not everyone is taking the week off.
Brian Handleman, who operates Laurel-Pimlico's new catering service, and his staff will be working feverishly during the next three or four days.
They want to ensure when the track reopens the day after Christmas, fans will notice dramatic changes in the track's food service.
Yesterday Handleman outlined some of the culinary transformations he is planning:
* In the concession stands, such brand name items as Boardwalk Fries, Mamma Ilardo Pizza and Dunkin Donuts will be available. There will be four Dunkin Donuts stands throughout the plant. Maxwell House coffee will be served in all areas.
* The track's first health food bar will be installed. Among the items offered: Veggie burgers, turkey sandwiches made to order; a variety of salads, juices and bottled water as well as yogurt.
* In the dining rooms, there will be an expanded menu, offering 16 new items, including all-day breakfast foods and more vegetable and stir-fry dishes.
* There will be the return of all china and silverware service in the Sports Palaces as well as in the Silks light-menu dining area.
* Handleman is posting signs at every concession stand that list an 800 telephone number (1-800-982-9928) for fans to call if they have any problem with the food or service. "I think that's a first for anyone in the sports catering business," Handleman said. "That's our goal: to make the customer king. But I hope our 800 line will be like the Maytag repairman, although we appreciate all calls and comments."
Handleman said most of these changes are what customers have requested during the last year.
"Before people said if they had a problem, there was no one to talk to. Now we have the 800 number and we've been telling our
employees over and over that we've got to focus on making the customers happy. We're ready to do that."
NOTES: Sandrift Thoroughbreds Inc.'s Jorge of Mexico, a $4,000 yearling purchase at the Florida sales, lasted by a nose over Prairie Bayou yesterday and won the $50,000 Inner Harbor Stakes. Larry Reynolds rode the winner, who is trained by D. Scott Posey. . . . Key To Manhattan, a half-brother to stakes winner Hooliganism, gave owner Penelope Keating of Centreville, and her partner, Larry Hoyle, their 22nd 1992 victory. Keating and Hoyle also race Kelly's Class, who has won more races this year than any other Maryland thoroughbred. The 4-year-old son of Allen's Prospect won 12 races. Keating and Hoyle, who race as "Waverly on Chester," have earned about $300,000 in purses, making 1992 their best year.