Pimlico to improve, but not back at the barn

March 27, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Expect the quality of Maryland's live racing to improve once the spring meet at Pimlico Race Course begins Tuesday.

At least a half dozen stables that went south for the winter should start to trickle back into Maryland during the next couple of weeks, including the stables of Vinnie Blengs, John Salzman, Barclay Tagg, Bill Donovan, Pat Daniels, who trains the Adelai de Riggs horses, Roger Attfield and Bob Camac, who is sending a division from Philadelphia Park.

Dale Capuano, who went to Oaklawn Park for the winter, returns with the bulk of his string in time to run several horses in stakes on the initial "Maryland-bred Day" card on April 23.

L Efforts to enhance live product fall into three major areas:

* Grouping four stakes for state-breds on the April 23 Federico Tesio card to create a sort of spring Maryland Million.

* Returning the Pimlico Special to its former date on the Saturday before the Preakness. Last year management coupled the Pimlico Special with the Preakness, and handle fell about $1 million on the Saturday before the Preakness.

* Re-staging the Preakness Week stakes program. From Saturday, May 14, through Preakness Day, Saturday, May 21, Pimlico is offering 11 stakes, including four stakes on Preakness Day. It's the best week in Maryland racing all year.

The most noticeable improvement inside the Pimlico plant is the face lift given to the paddock and first floor of the clubhouse. The two areas are painted in subdued red and beige rather than yellow.

But outside, Pimlico looks as drab as ever.

Track operator Joe De Francis is obviously making a point by refusing to paint or make noticeable improvements to the old wooden barns behind the grandstand. De Francis seems to be saying: If he is going to keep three mile-track stable areas open year-around, trainers at Pimlico are going to have to be content to stable in an equine slum.

"There's no question the barns have to be torn down," De Francis said.

"But the problem is that each one has to be replaced with a new one on the Pimlico Road side of the track. There's no money to do that right now."

In the meantime, the Pimlico barn area continues to be a blight on Maryland racing.

Casino gambling craze

The push to put a full-scale gambling casino in each Maryland racetrack has begun.

A committee, chaired by racing commissioner Allan Levey, is meeting for the first time on Wednesday at Laurel to start studying casino gaming in other states and its potential in Maryland.

Among the committee members are Martin Jacobs, part owner of Laurel/Pimlico; Ted Snell, president of Rosecroft/Delmarva; thoroughbred horse owners Arnold Heft and Morton Rosen; Standardbred owner Beth Trotto and Joe Owens, from the Department of Licensing and Regulation.

Levey said the racing industry can't do anything legislatively this year. "But next year when a new [gubernatorial] administration and a new legislature is in place, we should be able to go to Annapolis with some definitive plans on what Maryland's racing industry has to do to be competitive with adjoining states in this area."

In West Virginia and Delaware, attempts are being made to install slot machines at racetracks. Pennsylvania is considering riverboat gambling.

In New Jersey, Garden State Park owner Bob Brennan created a stir last week when he offered to buy The Meadowlands for $1 billion from the state. He said he would moor 12 riverboat casinos in man-made channels at The Meadowlands to compete with similar proposals in New York and Pennsylvania.

What's in a name?

When Fortuna Al Ponte won his second straight race at Laurel last week, he provided quite a thrill for his owners, the Blue Dotted Stable of Baltimore.

Who makes up the Blue Dotted outfit?

The name, said one of the partners, is is self-explanatory.

"Blue" refers to Richard Blue, who in addition to his Blue Dotted partnership races his homebreds in his own name as well as forming another partnership called The Valley Stable.

"Dot" refers to a second partner, Dottie Dowling, and the "ted" represents Ted Mudge, who also races some of his own horses.

The group claimed Fortuna Al Ponte last year for $18,500, but received a temporary setback when the horse fractured a knee. After plenty of time off, Fortuna Al Ponte has won two straight races and appears to have a future.

Louis Bernier Jr. trains the horse.

North Tower's Grade I winner

The Maryland stallion North Tower is in his dotage. He is 19 and breeds few mares.

But he has recently sired a Grade I winner -- in Peru.

Several years ago local breeders Charles and Cynthia McGinnes from Chestertown bought a mare from the Sonny Werblin dispersal at Timonium named Logo for $500, largely to save her from going to the killers.

They bred her to one of their farm stallions, North Tower, and re-sold her for $800.

Instead of going to New Holland, Pa., a noted killer outlet, Logo ended up in Peru. The colt she produced from her mating to North Tower was named Mistic.

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