Laurel Park ended its 56-day winter meet yesterday with a 5.1 percent decline in total betting compared with the 63-day meet last winter.
The decline was largely the result of this winter's inclement weather, which cost the track seven racing days.
A lesser , president of Laurel and Pimlico racetracks.
"Given the weather, and given the situation in Delaware with the slot machines, we had very low expectations for this meet," De Francis said yesterday. "It wasn't quite as bad as we feared, but it certainly wasn't good. A gross decline of 5 percent is not satisfactory."
The 5.1 percent decrease -- $6.4 million less than the $126.9 million taken in last winter -- includes wagers in Maryland on live races and simulcasts as well as outside the state on simulcasts of Maryland races.
Breaking down that 5.1 percent figure, one positive trend was a 26.4 percent increase in money bet at simulcast centers outside Maryland on Maryland racing. But the "very disturbing trend," De Francis said, was a 22.5 percent decrease in money bet in Maryland on live Maryland racing.
"The only way to reverse that trend is to improve the quality of racing in Maryland," De Francis said.
De Francis sees that downward trend accelerating when Delaware Park opens for thoroughbred racing April 13. Because of revenue from slot machines, the Stanton, Del., track will offer increased racing purses that De Francis fears will lure horses from Maryland.
To thwart an exodus, De Francis said, he will offer trainers and owners an "incentive structure" to stay and race in Maryland. He would not divulge details yesterday, but said he would unveil the plan tomorrow at the monthly meeting of the board of directors of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
Tomorrow, Pimlico opens its spring meeting. Post time is 1 p.m.
Viv's second chance
Despite Viv's fifth-place finish in Saturday's Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, said yesterday that he was pleased with the colt's race and would give him another shot to earn a berth in the Kentucky Derby.
"He got a lot of seasoning in that race, I can tell you that," Delp said yesterday, back in Maryland. "He was the muddiest horse that came out of the race. But he kept trying. He kept running.
"As long as we got him back in good shape -- and he came out in excellent shape -- he can dance another dance."
Owned by Harry and Tom Meyerhoff, Viv broke from the No. 10 post on a muddy track that favored inside runners, Delp said. Romano Gucci, a Maryland-bred gelding, won the one-mile race on the rail.
"My horse had no chance, really," Delp said. "I don't think any less of him. He ran real good, considering the conditions."
Delp said that Viv, who in five starts at Laurel won twice and finished second twice, would run next on April 13 in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland or on April 20 in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico.
Pub Date: 4/01/96