Maryland thoroughbred tracks might be ready to test market the nation's first interactive television betting system by early next year.
Laurel/Pimlico management personnel have had talks for the past several weeks with On Demand Services, one of the seven national companies that have launched projects vying for the home betting market.
Announcement of an agreement between ODS and the Maryland Jockey Club could be made next week at a news conference called by track president Joe De Francis at the University of Arizona Symposium on Racing in Tucson.
"This is uncharted territory and a complicated project that involves technical and logistical cooperation in a lot of different areas," De Francis said. "We're talking to the technology company, the cable television system, AmTote pari-mutuel services, data information companies and the Maryland Racing Commission. But if everything comes together in the next week, we hope to make an announcement in Tucson."
Jim Mango, senior vice president of mutuels at Laurel/Pimlico, -- and Dennis Smoter, head of simulcast wagering, are heading the interactive television project for the tracks.
During the initial phase of the test marketing program, the daily Laurel live card would be broadcast to a select number of homes. Viewers would place bets from home by a telephone linked to the track's main wagering pool. Phase two of the experiment would offer multi-card simulcasts. Phase three involves the broadcast of a generic track-sponsored television show to augment the race cards.
Baltimore County is one of the areas being considered for the first test marketing program.
Meyerhoff wins again
Robert Meyerhoff was represented by his 10th 1994 stakes winner yesterday when his 2-year-old Maryland-bred filly, Broad Smile, raced to a one-length victory in the $36,625 Pontalba Stakes at the Fair Grounds.
The horse is trained by Dick Small and was ridden by Andrea Seefeldt. Meyerhoff's other stakes winners this year include Breeders' Cup Classic and Arkansas Derby winner, Concern, as well as Looming, Sticks and Bricks, Broad Gains, Special Broad, Fleet Broad, Tennis Lady, Higher Strata and Jan Keys. All the horses race for Meyerhoff except Jan Keys, who was sold out of a claiming race.
Western Echo is Florida-bound
Laurel-based Western Echo is headed south to try the Florida prep races for the Triple Crown after his neck defeat to Thunder Gulch on Saturday in the $200,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.
"I'm going to back off of him for a few weeks, then ship him to Gulfstream Park after Christmas," trainer Bud Delp said about the Harry and Tom Meyerhoff-owned colt. "I thought he ran a big race. He had never been on that track before and Edgar [Prado] had to send him out of the one-hole. Then he just got a little tired the last part of the race."
Delp said the colt's first objective in Florida is the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 18.
He added that he'll take about five horses to Florida, including Nancy Bayard's Black Eyed Susan Stakes winner, Calipha, and possibly Cary Jackson's grass horse, Robber Ramble.
'Hero' for a day
Dixie Hero collared Ameri Valay in the last few yards and won the $31,750 Hail Emperor Stakes by a length yesterday at Laurel. The colt is the third homebred stakes winner that has raced in Maryland this year for owner Bayard Sharp. The others are Brass Scale and Vladivostock. In his last start, Dixie Hero propped at the top of the stretch when the sun hit his eyes, but still finished third in the Walter Haight Handicap.