Pimlico opens 20-day meet today

No Sunday racing, Million are features of fall cards

Horse Racing

September 04, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The absence of Sunday racing will be the biggest change when Maryland thoroughbred action returns to Pimlico today for a 20-day summer-fall meeting that concludes Oct. 5.

The highlight of the meeting is the 17th edition of the Maryland Million on Sept. 21, a card restricted to the offspring of state stallions.

Expansion of an experiment that began at the Pimlico fall meet last year will begin Sunday when no live racing will be conducted. Maryland will not race on Sundays again until after Christmas.

"We went to the four-day week and it was well received by both our employees and the horsemen, who enjoyed having a weekend day off with their families," said Maryland Jockey Club executive vice president Lou Raffetto. "We decided to expand the experiment through the entire football season this time."

Officials found business lagging when faced with competition from the NFL.

"No matter what you do on Sundays, it's very difficult to compete and get people out," Raffetto said. "I found that true in New Jersey and it may be doubly true here with two NFL teams and one of them home every week."

Pimlico will race Wednesday through Saturday.

Aside from the Maryland Million card, which may attract Magic Weisner to the $200,000 Classic, the major stakes race of the meeting is the Grade III, $100,000 Safely Kept for 3-year-old fillies on Sept. 14.

Two longtime jockey fixtures, Mario Pino and Mark Johnston, are aiming for milestones during this stand and will almost assuredly reach them at Old Hilltop.

Pino needs nine wins to reach a career total of 5,000, and Johnston, who had three winners yesterday at Delaware Park, needs six to attain 3,000.

"It'll be great to have them do it at Pimlico," Raffetto said.

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