Small fields a spring thing at Pimlico

ON HORSE RACING

Horse Racing

April 30, 2000|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The small fields racing at Pimlico are the result of "the usual problem in April" filling races as well as trainers' lack of success finding backstretch workers, said Lenny Hale, vice president of racing for the Maryland Jockey Club.

This is the month when trainers who wintered here transfer their horses back home to such places as Delaware or Canada. Also, Hale said, 2-year-olds are filling stall space but not yet filling races, and turf racing is just commencing.

On top of that, Hale said, a perplexing situation exists.

"There's an acute lack of help this year," he said. "This year, it's worse than ever. Trainers have horses they can't bring to the track, because they can't find enough help to take care of them."

Richard Hoffberger, president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the problem is merely a matter of a strong economy and a dwindling potential labor force.

"It's worse than usual because of the economy, not because of anything happening in the racing community," Hoffberger said.

Horsemen agree that the difficulty of finding help is most severe at Pimlico. Workers prefer Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center, they say.

The horsemen have been working with government officials to arrange immigration of Mexicans for backstretch positions, Hoffberger said. The first workers could arrive in Maryland this summer.

11 test positive for drug use

In their continuing effort to control illegal drug use on the backstretch, Maryland Racing Commission and Maryland Jockey Club officials tested 45 employees April 14 on the clubhouse-side of Pimlico.

Eleven tested positive for illegal drugs and were suspended. They must receive counseling before returning to work. The tests followed similar sweeps on the backstretch-side of Pimlico, Bowie and Laurel Park.

John Franzone, chairman of the racing commission, said he wants to take the tests one step further.

"The No. 1 complaint of horsemen is drug use or drug distribution among security workers at Pimlico," Franzone said.

At last week's commission meeting, commissioners instructed their lawyer to look into the constitutionality of conducting random drug tests on track security workers.

Commission investigators already have the right to test workers who come into contact with horses.

Marty Jacobs, part owner of the tracks, said management will soon implement its own drug program for all employees.

Compelling story

Speak Compelling was scheduled to run yesterday at Philadelphia Park in her second race after giving birth to a healthy filly Jan. 30 in her stall at the track. Nobody had realized she was pregnant.

In her first race back, a seven-furlong maiden-claiming race April 15 at Philadelphia Park, Speak Compelling finished fifth on a muddy track at 18-1 odds, earning $330. The 3-year-old filly is a Maryland-bred daughter of Compelling Sound and Speak Swahili.

"Now that she's not in foal, we're starting over with a different animal," said Lynda Gallagher, who, with her husband, Bill, bought the filly last December as a racehorse, not knowing she was pregnant.

Lynda Gallagher said they're still trying to identify the father, but so far have had no luck. The baby, 3 months old today, remains on a farm for orphan foals in Pennsylvania.

Nine on line for Special

Nine horses remain eligible for the Grade I Pimlico Special May 13 at Pimlico (trainers in parentheses): Adonis (Nick Zito), Allen's Oop (Dallas Keen), Almutawakel (Mark Hennig), Budroyale (Ted West), Cat Thief (D. Wayne Lukas), Golden Missile (Joe Orseno), K One King (Akiko Gothard), Lemon Drop Kid (Scotty Schulhofer) and Pleasant Breeze (H. James Bond). ...

Colonial Downs in southern Virginia will conduct 32 days of thoroughbred racing between Sept. 4 and Oct. 17 and 40 days of harness racing between Oct. 27 and Dec. 31. The track will race Fridays through Tuesdays. ...

Beginning in June, the Maryland Racing Commission will meet on the fourth Wednesday of every month, instead of the fourth Tuesday. Franzone said two commissioners had Tuesday conflicts. May's meeting, however, is on Tuesday the 16th at Timonium. ...

The champion Pleasant Colony will soon change Kentucky addresses when he moves from Lane's End Farm to the Kentucky Horse Park. The 22-year-old retired stallion will join such greats as Bold Forbes, Da Hoss and Cigar at the public park in Lexington.

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