For the first time since the mid-1980s, when Timonium began running 10 days during the state fair, the festive, open-air track will operate only eight days this summer.
The cutback is the latest in a series of blows to the state's racing industry, the result of losing the $10 million grant from the state government. The grant went mostly to subsidize purses.
Howard "Max" Mosner, vice president and general manager of the state fair, will ask the Maryland Racing Commission on Wednesday to approve the eight-day schedule endorsed by fair officials and the state's thoroughbred horsemen.
The commission is expected to approve the request. It has little choice.
"This is just the way it is," Mosner said. "Hopefully, next year it will be a different story."
Of that $10 million grant, which the legislature cut this year, $6.2 million went to purses of thoroughbred races. Timonium received $266,000, Mosner said. With that gone and the horsemen no longer able to supplement Timonium purses, cuts had to made, he said.
The fair's board of directors concurred Thursday night with Mosner and the horsemen that two days should be eliminated. It selected Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 27 and 28, the track's slowest days. That means Timonium will open Saturday, Aug. 25, also run Aug. 26 and then Aug. 29 through Sept. 3.
In addition, the board agreed to eliminate the three open stakes races, worth $30,000 apiece, and to cut purses from $134,000 a day, last year's average, to $125,000 a day. It decided to retain the two stakes for Maryland-breds, worth $40,000 apiece, and to continue its $5,000 bonus to the trainer with the most winners at the meet.
However, the horsemen decided not to match that $5,000, as they did last year. So this year, the leading trainer at Timonium will receive a bonus of $5,000, not $10,000.
Mosner said that he plans on asking the racing commission for permission to simulcast out-of-state races that Monday and Tuesday, so that the track would breathe some life during each of the fair's 10 days.
Md. Million to Pimlico?
Because of the lingering uncertainty over the condition of the grandstand at Laurel Park, the Maryland Million will likely take place this year at Pimlico.
Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, plans on informing the racing commission Wednesday of the track's intention to run the one-day Maryland Million festival Oct. 13 at the track in the city.
The MJC has "no conclusive results yet" from studies of the Laurel grandstand, Raffetto said. Track management hired a team of structural and building experts to determine why large panels of glass overlooking the racing surface had been cracking.
Despite the lack of answers, the MJC is "making every effort" to race at Laurel after Timonium closes on Labor Day - except for Maryland Million day. Raffetto said it's necessary now to determine a site for the Maryland Million for planning purposes.
Since its inception in 1986, the Maryland Million, the fall highlight of thoroughbred racing in the state, has taken place at Pimlico five times - 1987 and 1989 through 1992.
Include back on track
Include has resumed jogging at Laurel after undergoing the first of three treatments for a splint, or small crack, in a bone in his right foreleg. Bud Delp, his trainer, said that the outstanding colt will receive two more treatments at a Leesburg, Va., clinic before resuming serious training.
Include aggravated the splint while finishing third July 1 in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park. Delp said he hopes to run Include in the Kentucky Cup Classic on Sept. 22 at Turfway Park as his one prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 27 at Belmont.
Another top horse in Delp's barn, Concerned Minister, is set to breeze this week for the first time since having three chips removed from his right front ankle and one from his left front ankle. The goal for Concerned Minister, Delp said, is the Maryland Million Classic.
Colonial experiment a hit
Anne Poulson, head of the Maryland-Virginia racing task force, is delighted with the significant rises in handle and attendance at Colonial Downs in Virginia.
"I think overall everyone has to be pleased with the summer experiment," she said. "We've sort of created a summer festival atmosphere that people seem to enjoy."
She also credits a significant increase in purses ($200,000 a day) for attracting full, enticing fields.
For the first time in its five-year existence, Colonial Downs is racing thoroughbreds in the summer instead of the fall. It opened July 3 and operates until Aug. 7. Racing returns to Pimlico on Aug. 8.
`Roma' vs. Point Given?
Burning Roma might meet Point Given in the Haskell Invitational Handicap on Aug. 5 at Monmouth Park, despite trainer Tony Dutrow's long-held belief that Point Given is head and shoulders the best 3-year-old in the land.