Pimlico schedules approved

Panel also hears project at Laurel Park modified

Horse Racing

July 14, 2004|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Racing Commission approved schedules for the summer and fall race meets at Pimlico at its monthly session yesterday at Laurel Park.

It also heard that the reconstruction of Laurel Park will be less ambitious than originally planned and learned that Magna Entertainment Corp. has reached an agreement with the DISH Network that will expand the distribution of its HorseRacingTV network beginning tomorrow.

A month ago, the commission, despite strong objections from horsemen, who were concerned about the logistics of moving their operations on short notice, narrowly approved the Magna plan to rebuild and widen Laurel Park's turf and dirt tracks and to remove one corner of the clubhouse and to relocate the paddock.

Yesterday, Magna representatives told the commission about changes to the plan. The clubhouse and the historic paddock will remain as they are, the turf track will be made 26 feet narrower than the original plans called for - going from 168 feet to 142 feet - and the main, dirt track will be 20 feet wider instead of the original addition of 10 feet.

The turf track, however, will still be nearly twice as wide as its previous 75-foot width. The expansion of the main course to 95 feet will make training on the track much easier, giving horses more room to come and go.

"I don't think the change in the turf track's width is an appreciative difference," said commissioner John B. Franzone after the meeting. "There's still plenty of room to work with in terms of moving the rails and changing the course so it can regenerate itself."

Lou Raffetto, the chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said the changes solve several problems and will save about $2 million in a project that he estimated will cost "between $13 and $15 million."

"We face a very, very tight time line and we have to keep on schedule," said Raffetto, noting the Sept. 20 deadline that is to give horsemen time to move their horses back to Laurel Park before the track's fall meet. The Laurel meet is to begin the first week of October and will be highlighted by the prestigious Maryland Million Oct. 9.

Pimlico's summer meet will go on from July 31 through Aug. 27 and will feature four stakes races on consecutive Saturdays for Maryland-breds. After an eight-day meet at Timonium during the state fair, live racing will return to Pimlico for the fall meet, Sept. 9-Oct. 3, with four more stakes. Three of the four stakes will be open to both Maryland and non-Maryland-bred horses and will be for $150,000.

NOTE: Jockey Rick Wilson, who was injured May 8 when his mount, Advance to Go, stumbled coming out of the gate during the second race and inadvertently kicked the jockey in the head after unseating him, returned home on Father's Day, June 20. He had been in Kernan Rehabilitation Hospital since May 25.

"He is doing really well," said John Salzman Jr., Wilson's agent. "He is still doing therapy on the right side of his face. Considering what happened things couldn't be better."

Salzman said Wilson, 50, is thinking about "looking into other things, such as working for the Jockeys Guild or becoming a steward."

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