Race scene shifts to Laurel this week

Betting figures rise as Pimlico concludes its fall/summer meet

Horse Racing

October 06, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Pimlico concluded its fall/summer meet yesterday on a brilliantly sunny day with a positive nod back to betting trends and a hopeful nod forward to the fall meet at Laurel Park.

Racing shifts to Laurel this week for a Tuesday-through-Saturday schedule until the end of the year. The track will not race on Sundays (with one exception: the last Sunday in December) to avoid competition from the NFL.

For the fourth meet in a row, starting with the Laurel winter session, betting figures rose.

"It's great to see a positive trend," said Lou Raffetto Jr., CEO of the Maryland Jockey Club.

In-state betting on Pimlico fall/summer races increased 17.5 percent from the same meet last year ($7.5 million compared to $6.4 million). Betting out of state on Maryland races increased 9.6 percent ($30.3 million compared to $27.6 million). In-state betting on simulcast races rose 4.2 percent ($36.7 million compared to $35.2 million).

Those increases look better than they actually are, because the meet this year consisted of 20 days and 200 races compared with last year's 18 days and 175 races. Still, in-state betting on Maryland races increased 5.8 percent per day and 2.8 percent per race.

"I think it was an excellent meet," Raffetto said. "The thing we've been proudest of is the size of our fields."

Bigger fields attract more betting, and Pimlico's fields increased from 7.9 horses last year to 8.4 horses this year. Raffetto said that he and Georganne Hale, the racing secretary, continue to modify the schedule of races to maximize the use of horses stabled in Maryland. Also, 49 of the 200 races were on the ever-popular turf course.

Pimlico's trainer and jockey standings featured a mainstay and a newcomer. Dale Capuano saddled 12 winners, capturing his 20th training crown at Pimlico and Laurel.

"I didn't realize I'd won that many titles," Capuano said. "I do have wonderful clients who let me claim who I want and place them where they have a chance."

Ryan Fogelsonger, the apprentice jockey, rode 49 winners, an amazing 27 more than the second-place jockey, Mario Pino. Fogelsonger, 21, didn't begin riding races until March.

"I still can't believe it," he said. "I'm on top of the world."

The respected Bender-Murray team won the meet's final stakes, the Lady Baltimore, with the 5-year-old mare Secret River. Sondra and Howard Bender own and bred the six-time winner, and Larry Murray trains her. The Bender-Murray combination won three of the meet's 14 stakes.

The Laurel meet will feature the Fall Festival of Racing, six stakes on Nov. 16, including the 13th running of the Grade I Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and the return of the Selima Stakes and Laurel Futurity.

Raffetto said that by then workers should be well on their way to eliminating the problem of cracked-glass panels overlooking the track. The faulty metal plates, which hold the panels in place and had caused them to crack, are being repaired. The work should be finished, and the unsightly scaffolding gone, by the end of the year, Raffetto said.

"This is uplifting in itself," he said.

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