State's newest OTB gets off to fast start

ON HORSE RACING

November 19, 1995|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,SUN STAFF

After its first week of operation, Maryland's newest OTB parlor at the Port Tobacco Marina and Restaurant in Charles County is averaging about $30,000 per day in bets.

That may sound like chump change, but it ranks ahead of The Shoals parlor in Cambridge and is "above expectations," said proprietor Vincent "Cap" Mona.

By comparison, the state's most successful OTB, the Cracked Claw in Urbana, averages about five or six times that amount.

"But there are about 400,000 people living within 15 minutes of that parlor [near Frederick] and we're lucky if we have 40,000 people within 15 minutes of us," Mona said. His parlor is located on the Potomac River, about three miles west of La Plata. "It's all proportionate to the area. I think we've jumped out to a nice start."

Residents, who bitterly fought the opening of the outlet in their neighborhood, are still incensed about the parlor's presence.

Molly Margolis, president of the Riviera-Port Tobacco Civic Association, admitted that during the first week she "hasn't noticed that big of change in the neighborhood [because of traffic]."

The OTB is located in an upscale residential neighborhood on a narrow country lane.

"But we've got a thousand extra people passing through our neighborhood each week," Margolis said. "It's a big worry."

In conjunction with local police, residents are forming a Neighborhood Watch program, are keeping a log of any incidents that may arise at the facility, and object to two large signs that say "Off Track Betting" that have been placed on the thoroughfare.

"We're keeping our eyes open," Margolis said.

Mona said he has had customers from Alexandria, Va., and southern St. Mary's County, as well as Charles County.

"Our biggest demand is from serious bettors who want individual betting booths," Mona said. "We had 30 set up and have ordered 10 more.

"We've had good feedback and lots of husbands and wives seem to be coming out. We can seat 300 and our biggest crowd at one time so far has been about 125. One wife told me it is the first betting place she's come to where she felt comfortable. We're going to have special promotions such as Ladies Nights. Our clientele seems to be made up of really good, nice people."

Even though he opened a week ago, Mona staged his "Grand Opening" celebration yesterday with a local radio station on hand to help promote the festivities.

He added that about 60 percent of the handle is wagered on thoroughbreds and about 40 percent on harness racing.

Horses on the move

The trek to Florida by local horsemen has begun, but doesn't seem to have had as much of an impact on the local horse population as in previous years.

Vinnie Blengs shipped his entire string of 23 horses to Gulfstream Park last week, but his barn is expected to be filled with another 25 coming in over the weekend with Canadian trainer Rita Schnitzler.

Laurel racing director Lenny Hale said that John Salzman is taking 10 to 12 horses head to Florida, but is leaving 10 here. Billy Turner and Frannie Campitelli will ship from six to 10 horses each to Florida, but will leave the majority of their strings on the grounds at Laurel and Pimlico, respectively.

Bill Donovan took his stable to Florida, but owner Peter Angelos left a couple of his horses in the state.

Life after riding

Chuck Baltazar proves that life goes on after a jockey's career is finished.

The former leading Laurel rider, now 48, has been retired for five years, but returned to the track last weekend for a one-race riding stint, which he won against amateur jockeys and a few other old pros.

Baltazar now lives in Babylon, N.Y., about 30 minutes from Belmont Park, but rarely goes to the track. Instead he has developed a second career in teaching autistic children.

He was accompanied to Laurel by his wife, Elyssa.

She bought his mount, Cavillin, for $425 before the race in a special "Calcutta" pool and took home the total pot of $1,500. Another $1,500 was raised for the Injured Riders' Fund.

Baltazar was besieged by former friends and fans and rode the winner for trainer Bud Delp, a former first-call employer.

Baltazar stays fit by working out daily in a gym.

"I knew I'd be fit enough to return, at least for one 6-furlong race," he said.

Payne's new role

For years Woodberry Payne has operated the Ingleside Training Center near Charlottesville, Va., and kept about 30 horses working for such New York trainers as Bill Mott, Nick Zito, Rick Violette and Dennis Brida.

Maryland horsemen such as Ferris Allen and Barclay Tagg also use his services.

Now, as president of the Virginia chapter of the Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association -- a horsemen's organization formed in a state that still doesn't have a racetrack -- he has assumed a new role.

Along with attorney-horse owner Dick Poulson and fellow trainer Paul Fout, Payne is part of the three-man team negotiating for a horsemen's contract with track developer Arnold Stansley.

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