Date suspensions to help Pimlico eyed Purse bonus would come from simulcast revenues

November 22, 1995|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

In an effort to beef up the Pimlico spring meeting, Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis last night proposed a 1996 thorougbred-racing schedule that would suspend live racing in the state on 15 more dates.

At a board meeting of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horseman's Association in Laurel, De Francis outlined a plan that would convert selected weekday racing dates to simulcast-only days, producing approximately $900,000 in revenue.

The money would be used to re-institute the purse bonus for races during Pimlico's spring meet, which showcases the Preakness and Pimlico Special.

"The problem is at that time of year we have a hard time getting horses for our most important meet," De Francis told the horsemen. "We're not on the grass yet, 2-year-olds aren't running yet and and a lot of our horses are still south.

"And for some reason, a lot of people don't want to run over the Pimlico track at that time of year."

The purse bonuses would provide a major incentive to horsemen to compete in the Maryland races.

De Francis originally thought about shutting down racing in the state for a long period in the winter or summer, then decided to propose these changes:

* Pimlico would close June 9, but Laurel would not reopen until June 15 (gain of three racing days);

* Pimlico would close Aug. 18, and Timonium would open Aug. 24 (gain of three racing days);

* Timonium would close Sept. 2, and Pimlico would not reopen until Sept. 7 (gain of two days);

* Pimlico would close Saturday, Sept. 21, and Laurel would not open until Sept. 28 (gain of four days);

* Laurel would close Dec. 17, 19 and 20 (gain of three days).

"We have to make our racing as strong and as attractive as we can," De Francis said. "We're not in love with this [proposal], but it seems to make the most sense.

"There was strong sentiment against stopping for one big block of time."

The horsemen are on the same wavelength with De Francis.

"The overwhelming feeling is that short breaks are a lot better than any other option," said Richard Hoffberger, president of the MTHA.

De Francis also called for discussions among all interested parties in the industry -- management, horsemen, the standardbred side and breeders -- on the casino issue and the talk in the state legislature about locating them at the racetracks.

"We as an industry have no specific plan right now," De Francis said. "We need to reach a consensus and form a horse coalition."

Calling a halt at 3:30

The Maryland Jockey Club will shut down at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow to give its employees time to enjoy part of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Live racing at Laurel Park will start at 11 a.m., with the final post scheduled for 3:25.

The closing time will mean Laurel will not take Churchill Downs' 10th race via simulcast. All other out-of-town cards scheduled for an early post will be shown in their entirety. Hollywood Park's card will not be shown tomorrow.

The live card will resume at Laurel Friday with a 12:15 p.m. start. On Friday and Saturday, the Maryland outlets will not simulcast the first two races from Churchill Downs because of their early posts.

Reynolds scores

Larry Reynolds, No. 2 on Laurel's riding list, guided T.J.'s Turn to a two-length win over favored Two Punch Lil in yesterday's allowance feature. Reynolds has 38 victories during Laurel's 36 days.

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