New housing units for backstretch personnel at Laurel Park, which were proposed more than a year ago, finally should be built next spring.
"Patience pays off," said Chickie Grayson, the Enterprise Foundation official who is coordinating efforts to construct the three, two-story motel-type buildings. They will house 105 people, mostly employees who work with horses and currently live on the track in what is widely described as antiquated, substandard housing.
The program was sidetracked for a year while Jack Kent Cooke attempted to get approval for a new stadium for his Washington Redskins football team at the Laurel site, which included the land set aside for the dorms.
Now that the stadium plan has been nixed, Grayson has gotten the go-ahead from Laurel/Pimlico management to re-start the process.
"What we're doing is going back to the institutions who are funding the construction and making sure that we have the money. Most of them have been very patient and are still committed to the project," Grayson said.
Financing is coming from federal, state and Anne Arundel County sources as well as banking institutions.
The Ryan Family Foundation has pledged $100,000 to furnish the 57 units. And purse money earned by the Grade I-winning racehorse, Awad, owned by Jim Ryan and a group of his civic-minded partners, is being matched by other Maryland horse owners to provide social services for the buildings' residents.
"We know this project will get done," Grayson said. "We were disappointed with the delay, but now things are back on track. I'd say we'll start building by the late spring or early summer of 1996."
The land for the new dorms encompasses six acres that the track owns across from the Laurel stable area on Brock Bridge Road.
Preserving 'family values'
Recent chairmen of the Maryland Racing Commission have carved out their niches.
John H. "Jack" Mosner Jr. was a horseplayer's advocate; John McDaniel was a smooth facilitator who solved problems by working out compromises among the sport's notoriously rowdy factions.
Now newly appointed chairman Allan Levey, a Michigan native and lifelong racing fan, said his his goal is to protect the future of the families involved in the sport.
"A lot of people just see these tracks as big money operations," Levey said. "But the vast majority of the participants in this state come from families who put food in their own mouths, as well as their horses', by what those animals earn on the track. We've got something like 800 to 1,000 working horse farms in this state and to me, that's what Maryland's racing industry is all about -- enhancing and protecting the future of these families and their farms."
During his five-year tenure on the board, Levey has chaired legislative, medication and casino gambling committees and rarely misses a meeting.
He's especially proud that Maryland's Lasix program is serving as the model for the one New York will institute for the first time next month.
In addition to Levey, among those who have been instrumental in developing the innovative medication programs are Tom Lomangino Jr., head chemist at the Maryland tracks' testing laboratories, and horsemen's counsel, Alan Foreman.
Harness friction surfaces
The board of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners' Association, which turned down aid from Pimlico/Laurel operator Joe De Francis for the purchase of Rosecroft and Delmarva raceways in June and instead opted for a loan from the Bally Entertainment Corp., has now given De Francis another thumbs down.
Last week, the Cloverleaf board rejected a plan by the thoroughbred tracks to open an off-track betting parlor at the Port Tobacco Marina Restaurant near La Plata.
The Charles County site would have been the state's fifth OTB outlet. De Francis needs approval from the Cloverleaf board to open the site because it is within 35 miles of Rosecroft. The harness board said the site's potential impact on Rosecroft operations needs more study.
The gray horse making a determined bid to defeat three-time allowance winner Meadow Lad last Thursday, was Texturizer, a one-time stakes winner who is back in top form after a stress fracture in his shoulder.
The horse had won on July 28, but then came up a head short of beating Meadow Lad six days later.
William "Dave" Sams, who stables his 18-horse outfit at the Marsh Thoroughbred Farm in Gainesville, Va., claimed Texturizer RTC for $11,500 last June, when the horse reappeared after nearly a year away from the races.
But then Sams had to wait for nearly another year before getting the gray colt back in action.
Texturizer had won the 1993 running of Pimlico's Primer Stakes as a 2-year-old, but then he developed bone chips that required surgery. When Sams claimed him, the horse won for former trainer Steward Mitchell, but returned lame.
After eight months of rest, Texturizer returned to training, and Sams is planning to run him during the Pimlico fall meet, which begins Sept. 7.
Reynolds rides at Timonium
Lured by increased purses, Larry Reynolds will ride at Timonium's 10-day meet, which begins Aug. 26, agent Bobby Suggs said.
Last year, Reynolds vacationed during Timonium. Reynolds is second this year to Maryland's leading jockey, Mark Johnston.
Trainer Bud Delp has been sitting out the current heat wave with Nancy Bayard's Maryland-bred champion, Calipha. "She's a bleeder and I'm not going to run her in this heat," Delp said. "I'll wait until fall to race her". . . . Last Monday's "simulcast only" card grossed $472,000 in bets, compared to the $807,000 wagered on Wednesday's "simulcast only" program. But management is pleased enough with the results to continue the Monday simulcasts through Labor Day.