Racing returns to Md. today Laurel Park opens after 6-week hiatus

'Million' is Saturday

October 15, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

After a six-week break designed in part to reinvigorate thoroughbred racing in Maryland, Laurel Park opens today and begins counting down to the 12th annual Maryland Million Day.

On Saturday -- the first Saturday of thoroughbred racing in the state since August -- horses sired by Maryland stallions will compete in 11 races, including one steeplechase, worth $1 million. Bands, entertainers and events for children help make this the second-biggest racing day in Maryland.

With Laurel Park's opening, Joe De Francis, majority owner of Pimlico and Laurel Park, said he anticipates "renewed excitement and enthusiasm for Maryland racing.

"I've said this before, but as excited as everyone is over the Orioles right now, if the day after the World Series was Opening Day, I don't think people would be that excited about it. That's what Maryland racing's had for 20 years."

To help patrons get into the spirit, the track today will offer free grandstand admission ($2 for the clubhouse and Sports Palace), a free Maryland racing program, and all food and drink concessions, excluding alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, for $1.

Also, patrons will discover a remodeled first-floor grandstand at Laurel Park featuring a four-sided simulcast theater and a bar from the old Power Plant in downtown Baltimore. On Maryland Million Day, racetrack employees will unveil new uniforms.

Today, entries will be drawn for the Maryland Million races, including the $200,000 Classic. And then, beginning at 1 p.m., Laurel Park will run 10 races, including the $50,000 Park Heights Stakes at six furlongs for fillies and mares.

The track's schedule abounds with stakes races. Including the eight races of $100,000 or more Saturday, Laurel Park will offer 21 stakes worth $100,000 through the end of November.

Seven are Grade IIIs: Martha Washington Stakes on Oct. 25, Laurel Futurity on Nov. 1, Selima Stakes on Nov. 2, Laurel Dash on Nov. 4, Laurel Turf Cup on Nov. 8, Anne Arundel Stakes on Nov. 27 and Carousel Stakes on Nov. 29.

NOTES: Yesterday, the Kentucky Racing Commission approved a revamped draw for next year's Kentucky Derby -- the draw detailed Sunday in The Sun's "On Horse Racing" column.

The old draw merely assigned horses a post position. The new one will select a horse, and then that horse's trainer and owners will have to select their post position. The goal is to add drama and intrigue to a process that was dull.

Officials of the Maryland Jockey Club plan soon to ask the Maryland Racing Commission for permission to institute the draw for next year's Preakness.

Pub Date: 10/15/97

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