The managements of Timonium Race Course and Maryland's mile thoroughbred tracks, once considered bitter enemies for racing dates and legislative support, have forged a rare partnership in an effort to keep the half-mile oval open for 10 days of live racing during the Maryland State Fair, which begins Aug. 27.
For the first time, Timonium will tie into the mile tracks' eight-outlet system of inter-track wagering facilities and off-track betting parlors, splitting any profits equally with horsemen and the Pimlico/Laurel operators. Once expenses are deducted, ,X horsemen receive 50 percent of the profits for purses and Timonium and Pimlico/Laurel each receive 25 percent.
The Timonium card will be simulcast daily into Pimlico and Laurel as well as Rosecroft and Delmarva raceways and the four OTB outlets at Urbana, North East, Cambridge and Colonial Beach, Va.
Timonium will offer its live card plus a selected daily simulcast race from Saratoga or Arlington at its State Fair site.
Laurel will serve as the hub for the ITW and OTB operation.
It is the first time that two Maryland tracks located so close together - Timonium and Pimlico are about 10 miles apart - have operated simultaneously.
"We had two major decisions to make," said Howard J. "Max" Mosner Jr., Timonium's vice president and general manager. "The first was: Do we convert our plant over to full-card commingling?"
Last year, Timonium did not offer the out-of-state simulcasts, which have proved a staple of the daily betting mile-track menu. Handle fell nearly 20 percent, jeopardizing the future of the fair's live racing.
"We decided that the expense was not justified," Mosner said. "So we took the next logical step. We approached the mile tracks and asked to tie in with their system. I can only say that they have been a great help. We couldn't pull it off without them."
Secondly, Mosner added, should Pimlico stay open at the same time as Timonium?
"We decided yes," he said, "because there are a lot of regular Pimlico bettors that don't go to Timonium." Mosner said while on-track handle at Timonium is expected to drop, "we think it will pick up overall because we are tied into the network. In the long run, we're gambling we'll end up on the plus side. It's a risk. In a few weeks, we'll all know how it turned out."