Rosecroft's big night draws biggest crowd of the year Harness track enjoying improved situation

October 11, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

OXON HILL -- Rosecroft Raceway has been enjoying an upswing in business recently, and last night it applied the exclamation point with the annual "Showcase of Champions."

A racing program worth nearly $500,000 concluded a week of activities that spotlighted the state's primary harness track, which not long ago was beset by financial problems, infighting between the state's Standardbred and thoroughbred interests and serious competition from slot machines at Dover Downs.

Not all the problems have been resolved, but Rosecroft is showing signs of improving health.

A crowd of 4,107, the largest of the year, watched some marquee events among the eight Maryland Stakes finals, including a thrilling pace between Crew Cut Zach and JW's Best in the 3-year-old colt and gelding division.

Crew Cut Zach won this latest edition of their year-long rivalry by a head, surviving a rush up the rail by JW's Best.

"I don't think there's any running away from JW's Best," said winning driver Fern Paquet, who was on the lead all the way. "I knew this would be a race right down to the wire."

Paquet credited a switch to a new bridle -- which allows Crew Cut Zach to see rivals coming more easily -- with helping the son of In The Pocket hold on.

"This horse doesn't respond until others come at him," he said after completing the mile in 1 minute, 54 2/5 seconds.

In the $50,390 trot final for 2-year-old colts and geldings, Jimmy's Lost Buddy went virtually gate to wire and upset favored KG's Outlaw, who went off-stride nearing the three-quarter mile mark.

His victory was the second in a row for trainer Paul Chambers of Franklin, Va., who said he "had nine in the field last year and never got a check."

Chambers also conditioned 18-to-1 long shot Warm And Fuzzy to victory for owner William Camp Jr. in the 3-year-old filly pace.

"I guess I made up for last year," he said. "Actually, Jimmy's Lost Buddy has been sick all week [with a cough], but he's a battler. I'm happy for Mr. Camp. He deserves some luck."

Chambers and Camp struck for a third win in the final sire stake -- for 2-year-old pacing fillies -- with former maiden Maria Hosea, who soared along the rail to overtake favored Pocketbook Champion.

Eddie Davis was in the sulky for three victories in the sire stakes, teaming with Chambers with Warm And Fuzzy, with Wendel Laird with Power Pad (2-year-old colts and geldings pace) and with Edwin Bartley with Redneck Bubba (3-year-old colts and geldings trot).

Rosecroft has shown a 34 percent increase in attendance in the new fiscal year and an 8 percent increase in on-track handle.

General manager Tom Chuckas said the track is "trying to expand our market, promote Standardbred racing and get in younger people. We're trying to turn Rosecroft into a multi-faceted entertainment facility."

Major emphasis has been placed on promotions for families and youth.

"We've found we get some follow-up business," said Chuckas. "I think we're much more focused." That means patrons who come primarily for a promotion and bet little return to wager again.

Pub Date: 10/11/98

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