The Maryland Jockey Club announced yesterday that the 19th annual Maryland Million Day program will be shifted from Laurel Park to Pimlico Race Course, which re-opens for live racing today after a seven-week lull.
Delays in construction at Laurel caused by the recent rainy weather prompted the change, bringing the Maryland Million to Baltimore for the eighth time.
"After consulting with the Maryland Million officials and the local horsemen, we felt this was the best move," said Lou Raffetto, chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club.
"The decision is a byproduct of growth. We have lost 12 days in the reconstruction of Laurel's racing surface, and while we feel we are still on schedule for the main track to be completed by the latter part of September, we had concerns about getting the new turf down so it would knit properly to run three $100,000 grass races on Maryland Million Day."
The go-and-stop Pimlico summer-fall meeting will now be extended through Columbus Day, Oct. 11, with the Maryland Million set for Oct. 9.
The track starts a five-week stand today, running on a Thursday through Sunday schedule, then breaks Aug. 28 for the state fair meet at Timonium, which runs through Labor Day. Pimlico then resumes on Sept. 9.
"We believe that this is the right decision under the circumstances, and are happy to run the event at Pimlico this year," said Cricket Goodall, executive director of the Maryland Million and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. "We look forward to running on the new courses at Laurel Park in 2005 for our 20th anniversary."
The Maryland Million, restricted to the offspring of stallions based in the state, will offer 12 races worth $1,125,000 this year. The concept was introduced in 1986 and has been widely imitated in other states. Fans wagered a record $6.6 million on the card at Laurel Park in 2003, a total that enabled Maryland Million wagering to surpass $50 million all time.
Raffetto said Pimlico will conduct "eight or nine races daily. Because of our purse situation and horse situation, we believe this is the best way to offer competitive racing. We're in a purse crunch."
The current four-week stand will include four stakes on Saturdays, beginning with today's $100,000 Twixt for 3-year-old Maryland-bred fillies. He Loves Me, who has an outstanding record this year, and Richetta, the top local filly last year, meet for the first time in the headliner.
Three prize barrel giveaways also feature opening day.