Pimlico spring schedule has 4-day weeks


Horse Racing


As the crisis in Maryland over the equine herpes virus ebbs, the Maryland Jockey Club, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association have returned to the business of the sport.

Yesterday, the spring stakes schedule and the spring racing schedule for Pimlico Race Course were announced. Racing will begin April 20, and run through June 10, pending final approval from the Maryland Racing Commission at its monthly meeting March 14.

The only unexpected information was that the eight-week program will feature racing just four days a week instead of five, the number designated in the existing agreement between the parties.

"Our board voted overwhelmingly for a minimum of 180 days, including live race days in August," said Wayne Wright, the MTHA's executive secretary. "What's important is that it is 180 days spread across the year.

"We agreed to the four-days in the spring because we realize it offers a way to balance the program. It also saves eight days that we feel can be used in August. And we anticipate and expect to run live days in August.

"I won't say it will be without a struggle, but going a full three months without racing for people stabled here is a very long time."

Lou Raffetto, the MJC president and chief operating officer, said four-day weeks make sense given 2-year-olds are not yet ready to race and that Delaware racing will provide competition for horses.

"We're hoping the four-day week will allow us to offer the quantity and quality we want for 10 races a day, with 11 on Saturday. ... It will also cut eight days that we anticipate would be used to start earlier in September."

Raffetto said he is not ruling out August racing.

"All possibilities exist and we will continue to work with the horsemen and see how things develop," he said.

Of course, the biggest event on the spring schedule is the $1 million Preakness Stakes on May 20. But there will be 27 stakes races (13 of which will have increased payouts) with purses totaling $4.455 million.

Five of those stakes, each worth six figures, will be carded on the first Saturday of the stand, April 22, in the Spring Festival of Racing that will showcase Maryland-bred and Maryland-sired horses.

Wright said he believes the spring schedule and purse payouts -- which will include increased purses for dirt races as an incentive for trainers to run their horses on the surface -- will be received well by horsemen.

Good signs on virus

In the latest update on the equine herpes type 1 virus in Maryland, a state Department of Agriculture spokesman said all 17 horses on a farm in Kent County, where two horses were euthanized and eight others were ill with the disease, have tested negative.

At the Fair Hill Training Center, where one horse became sick Feb. 7 and tested positive for an active virus and 11 others in the same barn tested positive the following week, there has been no further sign of the illness. All 35 horses in the affected barn will be re-tested Monday.

4 more for Napravnik

Star apprentice Rosie Napravnik won four races at Laurel Park yesterday for the second time this year. Napravnik, 18, leads the Laurel jockey standings by 25 wins with 58 victories, ranking seventh nationally.

Napravnik, who averaged 7.8 mounts a day over the past five race cards, is scheduled to ride 16 horses today and tomorrow but will begin an unwanted five-day vacation Monday.

Yesterday, the Maryland stewards suspended the rookie for five days for "riding in a careless manner" in the second race Thursday.


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