Timonium opens live and on simulcast

August 27, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

Business dropped dramatically last summer at the annual Timonium meeting, so much so that discussions surfaced about abandoning horse racing at the York Road track.

But, thanks to a plunge into the world of simulcasting and commingling, the tradition has survived and the 1994 Timonium meet starts today with more exposure than ever.

The daily cards from the only short-distance track in the state still running will be beamed into all the Maryland betting outlets, including Laurel, Pimlico, Rosecroft, Delmarva and the off-track betting parlors.

Revamped state legislation has permitted the change, which will place Timonium into a thoroughbred simulcasting lineup with Arlington, Saratoga, Monmouth, Delmar, Philadelphia Park and Atlantic City at the Maryland locations.

Howard "Max" Mosner, Timonium general manager, said that the project is a one-year experiment and that no one is sure whether the simulcasting revenue can compensate for the expected downturn at the track.

"Last year was very disappointing," said Mosner, referring to a $124,575 daily decrease (more than 18 percent) in the handle. "We felt we had to do something.

"There are those who think that keeping Pimlico open will really hurt us, but we feel it's worth the gamble. We think we're a little different in that most of our patrons go to the state fair and take in the races."

Eventually, Timonium is expected to become a regular inter-track wagering site after undergoing a physical renovation. Mosner said it was impractical to think about going in that direction this year and the meeting again will feature only a selected simulcast or two daily.

"We decided not to go to that expense," he said. "We figure if the live handle drops another 20 percent, we'll be fine with the simulcasting revenue. But if it gets into the $250,000 range [roughly 50 percent], we've got real trouble."

The mutuels network that includes Timonium will be operated by the Maryland Jockey Club from Pimlico.

Jim Mango, Pimlico-Laurel vice president of mutuels and development, said the outcome will "be very interesting. We're hoping they will do 75 to 80 percent of what they handled last year. We're just rolling the dice a little and see how well we do."

The partnership between Timonium and the Pimlico-Laurel managements will be a boon to the off-track betting parlors, which had to shut down their afternoon operations last summer during the Timonium meeting, carrying only harness action at night.

Pimlico has sold the Timonium signal to several other small tracks to provide additional revenues and will take the expenses of running the network off the top.

Any remaining revenues will be split equally among the horsemen and breeders on the one hand and the Maryland Jockey club and Timonium on the other.

Today's headliner is a 1 1/16-mile allowance for fillies and mares with a purse of $18,000 with the Whitney Stakes from Saratoga serving as the lone simulcast.

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