Few on board with Pimlico's tote system

Track adds extra screens to ease patrons' discontent

Notebook

April 25, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, asked the Maryland Racing Commission yesterday for forbearance, which it granted.

As a result, the tote system in Pimlico's infield will remain a work in progress that, apparently, no one's happy with.

"We have not been satisfied from the get-go," Raffetto told the commissioners at their monthly meeting at Pimlico.

Patrons haven't been satisfied either. When Pimlico opened April 3, they discovered that the infield tote board had been shuttered and a 26-by-32-foot video screen had risen next to it. Bettors complained that the screen, known as LumatronX, did not display adequate betting information and was difficult to see.

"We've had lots of complaints from patrons about not being able to see clearly the odds on the screen," said Lou Ulman, chairman of the racing commission.

Raffetto said that track officials had made adjustments to the screen almost daily. They added an 8-by-24-foot board that displays odds and payoffs. For the Preakness, he said, they would install four more boards in the infield.

"My greatest concern," Ulman said, "is that we don't embarrass ourselves on Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness day."

The Preakness is May 18. The Black-Eyed Susan Stakes is the day before.

The commissioners assigned Mike Hopkins, their acting executive director, the task of monitoring the board and following up on customer complaints.

Meanwhile, the commissioner John Franzone was concerned about plans for Laurel Park. At Pimlico, he said, the Lumatron should have been installed as an adjunct to, not a replacement for, the tote board.

Raffetto said the Lumatron would be transported to Laurel and installed in the infield, but that the tote board would function as usual.

MATCH to take year off

The seven-month racing series known as MATCH (Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships) will not take place this year because of turmoil in two key racing states.

Alan Foreman, the Baltimore lawyer who created the series, said that uncertainty over stakes schedules in Maryland and racing dates in New Jersey prompted a one-year suspension of the series.

This would have been the sixth year for MATCH. It coordinated stakes in various categories at tracks throughout the mid-Atlantic.

Trainers, owners and jockeys competed for $520,000 in bonuses. Purses of the stakes totaled more than $3.5 million.

"The series had become so successful," Foreman said, "that if we had thrown something together this year we would have taken a step back. We didn't want to do that. We'll wait and bring it back next year."

Purse supplement

Bruce C. Spizler, assistant attorney general representing the racing commission, plans on clarifying the recently enacted law providing for a purse supplement for fiscal year 2002.

Spizler said that everyone, including the bill's author, Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, agrees that the intent of the law was for racing to receive $4.5 million. Confusion over the law's vague language prompted some to conclude that the supplement would be only $3 million, Spizler said.

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