As meet ends, live handle is concern

Later post time is set as racing shifts to Laurel

June 19, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The live handle continues to decline and remains the major source of concern for the Maryland Jockey Club, which shifts its operations from Pimlico Race Course to Laurel Park this week.

As Pimlico closed its only meeting of the year yesterday, betting on live thoroughbred and standardbred racing this year had decreased 13 percent from 1999, but showed a rise in June, a factor perhaps attributable to later post times during the week.

"Our goal is to increase the live thoroughbred handle," said Jim Mango, chief operations officer of the Maryland Jockey Club.

"This has been a trend we're trying to reverse. A lot of the problem came early in the year. We're going to experiment with 4 o'clock posts later at Laurel and try to get more horses on the track."

In June so far, $7,320,808 has been wagered on live racing compared with $6,093,920 through the corresponding period last year (but with two more live days).

In an effort to prolong that reversal, Laurel Park will start a half hour later (1:35 p.m.) daily.

"We saw we were getting beat up a little bit because of what the other tracks were doing [with later posts]," Mango said. "So, we tried a post that had a lot of patrons arriving later. It seemed to have a bit of a positive influence."

Total wagering on thoroughbred and standardbred racing within the state has dropped 3 percent, a number Mango said could be accounted for by the loss of three off-track betting sites - Poor Jimmy's, The Shoals and Port Tobacco - for most of the year.

The money bet out of state on Maryland thoroughbred events showed a slight increase with the major thrust again coming this month.

At the Pimlico meeting alone, the thoroughbred handle increased 4 percent with the rise of drive-by betting on the Maryland signal outside the state.

"Out-of-state wagering on the Pimlico signal was strong and in-state business remained about even despite the first rainy Preakness Day in many years and the temporary closing of three OTB facilities as we revamp the satellite simulcast wagering network," said Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis.

In the closing-day feature, the $75,000 Riggs Handicap on the turf, long shot Carpenter's Halo loped along on an easy lead for the majority of 1 1/2 miles, then outlasted the rush of favored Craigsteel for a neck victory.

The key was a leisurely pace established by winning jockey Ricky Frazier, who took Carpenter's Halo through fractions of :25, :51 3/5 and 1:17 3/5 while Colonel Bradley and Beautiful Dancer pursued and Craigsteel fought with some traffic problems in the rear of the pack.

Dale Capuano made a shambles of the Pimlico trainers' race, saddling 47 winners to outdistance second-place Scott Lake by 25. A Ferris Allen and Hamilton Smith were third and fourth, respectively.

In the jockey standings, Mark Johnston steered home 75 winners to Travis Dunkelberger's 60.

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