Gulfstream lures bettors' focus, cash Laurel's live races take back seat to big Fla. card

March 17, 1996|By Pete Bielski | Pete Bielski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Much of Maryland's money went south yesterday. South, as in to Gulfstream Park, home of the Florida Derby and six other added-money races on yesterday's closing day 13-race card.

Altogether, Maryland patrons bet approximately $930,000 on Florida racing, via simulcast.

RTC "All my money was bet on Florida races," said Antonio Prezioso of Elkridge. "I haven't even looked at the Racing Form for Laurel races. Racing is down right now at Maryland and Florida offered great racing today.

"The track will make their profits off my betting one way or another, so I have no loyalty. I'd love to be able to bet the races here, but today, it just didn't make sense."

Prezioso's sentiments were echoed throughout the track. Monitors and televisions showing Florida races attracted big crowds and prompted huge reactions as races approached conclusions.

"I'd like to bet more on Maryland racing," said trainer Rick Sillaman. "But we're having trouble filling fields. I don't like to bet five- and six-horse fields nobody does. So I bet Florida a lot today. But I bet here, too. I like most action.

"Maryland needs to improve the quality. I think it all comes down to slots. If we get the slot machines, it would help a lot."

Gulfstream's big finale (Hialeah opens today) left Maryland racing almost an afterthought to many patrons, though there are still some who prefer live racing, like 76-year-old George Meena of Silver Spring.

"I like to see them run," he said. "Most people that bet horses do like to see a live race, though I have to admit that Florida has better races, better horses and better jockeys."

To Laurel Park President Joe De Francis, yesterday's Florida influence was not unexpected.

"This was their equivalent to Preakness Day, so this was expected," De Francis said. "This isn't the old days of racing when you just put on nine races and tried to attract as many people as you could. We're now in the import-export business. The key to success is to have exports exceed your imports. . . . There is more money wagered on Maryland racing now than ever before."

In fact, more money was wagered on Laurel Park's 10 races yesterday at U.S. simulcast outlets outside the state ($1,114,122) than at the track and other state outlets ($1,065,079).

Currently, up to 13 states accept Maryland's signal, though Florida, New York and California are not included.

There were still some happy patrons at Laurel Park yesterday, specifically the connections of, and those who bet on, Dark Dilemma in the $60,000 Goss L. Stryker Stakes for Maryland-bred 3-year-olds.

Dark Dilemma, with just one lifetime win, rallied to win the Stryker Stakes, paying $70.80, $23.20 and $8.80, by far the longest shot in the field of six.

Dark Dilemma's breeding hardly suggests a sprinter. He is the son of Jane's Dilemma, clearly a horse that loved a distance.

But Dark Dilemma found a liking to yesterday's seven-furlong sprint, as jockey Frank Douglas rallied the horse from last to first, overtaking Sport Utility and Spartan's Magic in the final 1/16th mile.

'He'd shown some speed earlier," said trainer Gaston Broines. "He's a versatile horse to me. I'm lucky to be training him."

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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