The Maryland Racing Commission deferred action yesterday on next year's schedule at Pimlico and Laurel Park while the state's thoroughbred horsemen consider the schedule at Colonial Downs, the Maryland Jockey Club-managed track in Virginia.
The board of directors of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, an organization of trainers and owners, will meet Jan. 3 to decide when it would prefer to cease live racing in Maryland so thoroughbreds can run at Colonial Downs.
Racing dates at Colonial Downs are the province of the Virginia Racing Commission, not the Maryland horsemen. But the Maryland horsemen wield considerable influence because they provide about 75 percent of the horses for the Colonial Downs meet.
Held the past four years in the fall, the Colonial Downs season in 2001 may run from June 9 to July 14. Most segments of the racing industry in Maryland and Virginia have endorsed those dates.
Yesterday, the racing commission approved the Maryland Jockey Club's request for racing at Laurel Park only through March 25. The commission will act later on dates for the rest of the year.
Marty Jacobs, general counsel for the MJC, which operates Pimlico and Laurel Park, told commissioners that track management would like to cut back live racing in September from five to three days per week (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). September is traditionally one of the slower months for wagering.
He said he hoped that less racing would result in greater interest and increased handle.
At their meeting in November, commissioners were vexed when Jacobs said officials here were waiting to set their schedule until after Virginia acted. Yesterday, commissioners expressed similar concerns.
"I still see where the tail's wagging the dog," said commissioner Frank Hopkins.