OTB outlets bid for more night racing Harness racing concerned over thoroughbred plea

February 15, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The operators of several off-track betting parlors appeared before the Maryland Racing Commission yesterday to request more thoroughbred racing at night to boost their operations.

"On nights when the thoroughbreds run, we've more than doubled our figures," said John "Pappy" Poole, proprietor of the Cracked Claw in Frederick County. "When there's thoroughbred racing later, the big bettors stay around, and they also bet on the harness racing."

Maryland Jockey Club vice president Jim Mango said a trial night run -- with Penn National and Garden State Park -- was undertaken in January with good results for all sides.

Too much thoroughbred racing is a concern of the state's harness-racing interests, who operate all of their live cards at night.

"Multi-signals of thoroughbreds cause a grave concern that our [live] business will be cannibalized," said Charlie Lockhart, executive director of Cloverleaf, Inc., which owns Rosecroft.

"If one [thoroughbred signal] is good and two is better, are 12 best?" he asked rhetorically. "We're very concerned about too many of those signals."

OTB operators also expressed their desire for a repeal of the so-called sunshine law that forbids Maryland thoroughbred tracks from starting a live race after 6:15 p.m without the approval of Rosecroft/Delmarva management.

Laurel and Pimlico experimented with later starts -- with the approval of standardbred interests -- last year and would like more twilight racing this summer.

"I think the harness people have found that without any thoroughbreds, they don't do well," said Mango. "All indications are that they are pretty happy with two of our tracks running at night."

* Bill Rickman Jr., owner of Delaware Park, tried to assure the commission that Maryland racing is not facing a grave situation because of the slots installed at his facility.

"Maryland is a strong national market and we are not," said Rickman, who said purses in Delaware will rise 50 percent this year -- from $10 million to $15 million -- for 130 racing days.

"Not one outfit from Maryland has applied for stalls at Delaware, and we are almost filled," said Rickman. "We are not recruiting here."

Nevertheless, there is major concern that once slot machine and increased simulcasting revenue kicks in fully, Maryland horsemen will be tempted to ship into Delaware and run for higher purses.

* The commission also expressed concern for the public because of jockeys misjudging the finish line in 7 1/2 -furlong races, something that happened again this week.

Mark Johnston was recently fined $1,000 for standing up before the wire in a race.

The distance requires horses to run to a second finish line in front of the clubhouse and was adopted when trainers objected to 1 1/16th-mile races in which inside entries had an advantage.

* The commission also:

Approved an increase in certain seat prices for Preakness Day, confined jockeys to betting on their horses to win only (with no restrictions on owners or trainers) and adopted a new emergency Lasix regulation that allows trainers to administer the medication how and where they please as long as they do not exceed quantitative guidelines.

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