The Maryland Million and the Washington D.C. International are two distinct thoroughbred racing events that shouldn't run on the same day.
That's the consensus of the executive committee of the Maryland Million, which Monday turned down a proposal by Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis to run both races on the same card.
"No one really liked the idea," said Richard Wilcke, the Maryland Million's executive director. "The feeling is that the Maryland Million is a successful regional event. That it's all-Maryland, and that it would be a mistake to bring in a Grade I, $600,000 international race and run it on the same card. How do you tell a sponsor that the Maryland Million feature is a $150,000 race and then say, oh yeah, there is also a $600,000 race later on in the card?"
De Francis said "our idea had its genesis when moving the Maryland Million from early September to early October turned out to be phenomenally successful last year. It was great for the Maryland Million, but it was also tough on the International, which was two weeks later. It's hard to promote two big events that close together and energize fans.
"Our feeling was that maybe we could have our own Super Saturday like the New York tracks and combine both events. At the same time, I certainly understand the Maryland Million's concern that the two events are not compatible. But I thought it was worth a try to present the idea."
Since the New York Racing Association is moving the date of its Super Saturday -- a grouping on one card of some its championship fall events -- to Oct. 8, the Maryland Million is requesting a date change to Oct. 1, instead of its original Oct. 8 date.
The change is necessary since nationally known jockeys, who regularly come in to ride in the Maryland Million, might bypass the event to ride instead in New York. It will also help sell Maryland Million simulcasting packages if the event does not compete with New York.
De Francis said he is agreeable to the change, but it will mean that Laurel, scheduled to open Oct. 4., will have to begin its fall meet earlier. "We will make that request to the Maryland Racing Commission, since the Maryland Million committee wants to run the event at Laurel and not at Pimlico," De Francis said.
De Francis said the International will probably run two weeks after the Maryland Million on Oct. 15. That will place the race three weeks before the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup -- a move that may help attract more European runners than showed up last year when there was only a two-week time lapse between events.
"That seems the most logical date," De Francis said.