OTB foes shouldn't bet on panel as ally

April 25, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

From Urbana to Fort Washington to old haunts such as Pimlico and Laurel -- which are now harness-racing nightspots -- it took quite a bit of traveling the past few days to keep up with developments on Maryland's changing racing scene.

Here are a few impressions formed along the way:

* The citizens of Frederick County who are opposed to the Cracked Claw OTB parlor's opening in Urbana might have been venting their frustrations in the wrong place.

Although state law dictates that the Maryland Racing Commission hold a hearing to listen to public sentiment -- and the panel actually held two meetings to accommodate everyone who wanted to be heard -- charges that the board has a vested interest in seeing that the parlor opens are entirely correct.

The board is appointed to look out for the welfare of Maryland racing. All indications are that the Cracked Claw is an excellent site.

The many people who testified that a gambling operation is not compatible with Urbana's rural atmosphere would be better off petitioning their county government or zoning board for an ordinance change.

That's what the citizens of Ocean City did immediately after the OTB bill was passed last summer. City government ruled that no OTB parlors can be located in Ocean City.

It was the Frederick County zoning board that gave the OK and cleared the way for the OTB operation to be located in Urbana.

* Harness-racing people who feared afternoon thoroughbred simulcasts at Rosecroft Raceway would clobber nighttime business at the trotting track have been wrong so far.

After the first two nights, the combined handle on the televised harness races at Pimlico and Laurel have outdone the Rosecroft thoroughbreds by about $100,000.

* Maryland horsemen such as Dr. Robert Leonard, Jerry Calhoun, Randy Cohen and Dr. Garrett Schipper were effective spokesmen at the Urbana OTB hearing describing the plight of Maryland's horse racing industry and its need for the OTB expansion.

"I have never seen the situation so bleak," Leonard said.

Steele said breeding is off 40 percent at Shamrock Farm, the facility he manages in Carroll County, and the operation has cut 30 percent of its employees.

But angry residents opposed to OTB didn't want to hear it.

"What's a few farriers and a couple of more people brushing horses?" asked Patrice Scott.

Another resident said: "A field full of 30 houses would bring more economic development [to Frederick County] than a field of 30 racing horses."

Racing and breeding organizations need to get the names of all the OTB opponents, invite them to their farms and the track so they can see firsthand the impact the racing industry has on the state's economy.

Baltimorean in Hall of Fame

With all the events happening last week, the election oBaltimore-born trainer Thomas J. Kelly to racing's Hall of Fame received little local attention

Kelly, 73, was born on Reisterstown Road, a few miles from Pimlico, and got interested in horses as a youngster when he would pass the track and work as a caddy at the Maryland Country Club.

Kelly started out as a hotwalker at Old Hilltop and eventually went to work at Worthington Farm, site of the Maryland Hunt Cup, for the late J. W. Y. Martin for $15 a month.

Even though he went on to train such horses as Plugged Nickle, Droll Role and Globemaster on the New York circuit, Kelly at one time owned a Maryland farm in partnership with G. G. "Gibby" Meredith and trained his first horses for Harry Donovan, father of Pimlico trainer Bill Donovan.

Among Kelly's lifelong Maryland friends were the late Rodger Gill -- "we used to gallop horses together"-- and Henry Clark -- "He's been more like a father to me than anyone I've ever known."

His own father died when Kelly was 10, but he still has lots of family here.

His wife, Frances, is originally from Baltimore. Three of Kelly's sons -- Pat, Tim and Larry -- are also well-known trainers.

Kelly has been asked to judge the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association annual yearling show at the Timonium Fairgrounds in June.

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