Marylanders looking forward to betting on horse races they watch on TV at home will have to wait until at least early next year. The launch of Television Games Network has been pushed back from November to the first quarter of 1999.
The network's parent company, ODS Technologies, has been acquired by United Video Satellite Group of Tulsa, Okla. Although that transaction will delay the launch of TVG's 24-hour cable and satellite horse-racing channel, it is "a highly positive development for the founding circle of TVG racetracks and the horse racing fan," says Tom Aronson, vice president of TVG.
That's because United Video is a powerhouse in the cable business. It operates the widely distributed Prevue Channel and is owned by Tele-Communications Inc., the second-largest cable company in the country.
"We've had to slow down, re-evaluate and regroup," Aronson says. "But there is no debate that we will launch. And when we do, we'll launch bigger and better than anyone could have
Maryland is one of eight states where betting by telephone is legal. In home betting, telephone lines transmit wagers from home to a betting hub. Viewers wager by punching buttons on a remote-control device as if they were changing channels.
Pimlico and Laurel Park have joined other premier tracks such as Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita Park and Hollywood Park in agreeing with TVG to televise their races on the network.
The only potential obstacle could be Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who could instruct the Maryland Racing Commission to block the state tracks' participation in TVG. But Glendening has remained silent on the issue. Maryland horse players hope he stays that way.
Tapeta track magic
Michael Dickinson continues to perform magic on his revolutionary training track at Tapeta Farm in North East in Cecil County.
After training since spring on the track -- Dickinson is keeping six of its eight ingredients a secret -- Cetewayo won the Grade I Sword Dancer Handicap last weekend at Saratoga. Now the 4-year-old colt, who just last September ran in a $13,000 claiming race at Philadelphia Park, is on course for the top grass stakes in the country, including the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.
Since Dickinson and his partner, Joan Wakefield, opened Tapeta on April 1, they've won with 40 percent of their horses. Cetewayo has upset Chief Bearhart, last year's turf champion, in two
Cetewayo and Business Is Boomin, a 9-year-old who won three in a row, are the two horses in Dickinson's stable who have #F benefited most from the bouncy, forgiving surface.
"It's better than we dared hope," Dickinson said of the one-mile, European-style track.
Unfortunately, it hasn't helped Da Hoss, winner of the 1996 Breeders' Cup Mile. Dickinson hoped to get the old boy back on track for this fall's Breeders' Cup, "but he's not training that well at the moment," the trainer said. "The Breeders' Cup is unlikely, but not impossible."
As for his nine 2-year-olds belonging to big-time owner Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale, Dickinson said they won't start racing until the fall. McIngvale wants them geared up for the Triple Crown races.
"They're nice horses, but it's too early to say how good they'll be," Dickinson said. "We haven't really put the pedal to the metal yet."
On deck, Timonium
As Laurel Park enters its final week of the summer -- the track closes Friday -- the anticipation builds for the pleasant annual 10-day meet at Timonium, which begins Saturday.
Opening day at Timonium will be Frank Douglas Day in honor of the personable jockey critically injured there last summer. Douglas mounted a near-miraculous recovery and began riding again this spring at Pimlico.
"We wanted to do something for Frank just to celebrate his return to racing," said Max Mosner, vice president and general manager of the Maryland State Fair. "His recovery was so remarkable we thought he deserved special recognition."
Douglas will autograph photos and give away "Frank Douglas Day" T-shirts. Jim McKay will present Douglas and his wife, Pam, two $2,000 savings bonds for their children's education.
The presentation will be an appropriate kickoff to a Timonium meet that will offer its highest purses ever -- about $140,000 a day. The state's horsemen agreed to subsidize Timonium's purses to that level.
"I expect the quality of racing to be the best it's ever been," Mosner said. "Of course, last year was the best it ever was. We're hoping this year will be even better. We hope the fans react well to it and that that shows up at the mutuel windows."
Myers remembered fondly
Folks around Laurel Park spent much of last week fondly remembering Calvin Myers, who died one week ago at 73. He was a former manager of the jockey's room with a wit as dry as sandpaper.
"Everybody liked Calvin," said Bill Passmore, a former jockey and current steward.
"He'd do anything for you, anything you asked," said Mike Hopkins, deputy secretary of the Maryland Racing Commission.