Drought-like conditions during the summer not only hurt Maryland farmers, but has had an adverse affect on a state horse racing event.
Today the Fair Hill Race Course near Elkton presents a fall program of six races instead of the usual eight because there are not enough horses to fill the card.
Race director Gregg Morris said hard turf conditions have prevented local steeplechase horsemen, who train mostly on their own farms, from properly preparing their animals.
"They told me they simply couldn't get them fit enough or school them over jumps because the ground is too hard to train them on," Morris said.
Morris scrapped Fair Hill's fall 3-mile timber race for the second year in a row. Last year's cancellation was because of rain and traffic that damaged the course.
Morris said the Fair Hill course had been "hard as a rock until we had about a hour and a half of rain on Thursday night. It's still firm, but the rain took the sting out of it."
Doubledarn and Eskimo Cove, who ran decent races at Saratoga over jumps but didn't win, head the eight-horse field in the $10,000 allowance hurdle feature.
There are two other jump races for maidens and three flat races. Included in the field of one flat race are two-time Breeders' Cup Steeplechase winner, Highland Bud, and Lots of Talk, last year's Timber Horse of the Year. Both are prepping for rich jump events this fall.
Post time for the first race is 1 p.m. Admission is $5.
Two for Messenger
Jim Morand and Tom Jackson, the top two drivers at Rosecroft Raceway, have picked up the drives on two challengers in tonight's rich Messenger Stakes at Rosecroft Raceway.
Morand will drive Miles McCool, an 8-1 shot, and Jackson will drive Mystical Prince, who is listed at 5-1 odds.
Riyadh and Presidential Ball are the heavy favorites in the six-horse race that carries a $328,305 purse. Probable post time is 11 p.m.
Jockey Joe Rocco and two Pimlico exercise riders were injured at the track in separate incidents.
Rocco was thrown from his mount, Shesurecanexplode, after the horse stumbled coming out of the starting gate in the ninth race.
The 2-year-old filly apparently kicked Rocco in the lower back and elbow. He was taken to Sinai Hospital after complaining of arm and rib-cage pain.
During morning training hours, two horses collided near the 6 1/2 -furlong pole about 7:15 a.m. after one of the animals apparently was spooked and ran head-on into the other.
Neither horse was seriously hurt, but exercise rider Alex Seezer broke his leg in two places and another exercise rider, Jimmy Aburn, suffered back injuries.
The speedy Montbrook, regarded as one of the East Coast's top sprinters, apparently came down with a fever and has been scratched from the Maryland City Stakes today at Pimlico Race Course and the Philadelphia Budweiser Breeders' Cup at Philadelphia Park.