Twilight experiment likely to be expanded next year

Horse Racing


November 15, 2006|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Reporter

The Maryland Racing Commission yesterday approved thoroughbred and harness racing dates for 2007 at its regularly scheduled monthly meeting at Laurel Park.

The commission also approved the stakes schedule and the applications for the renewal of simulcast satellite betting permits at Northeast Racing and Sports Club, Pimlico Race Course, The Cracked Claw, Cambridge Turf Club and Riverboat on the Potomac, which is tentatively scheduled to reopen Monday.

The Maryland Jockey Club said it expects to expand its experiment with twilight racing - which it conducted at Laurel this year - to Pimlico, on the three Thursdays and Fridays after the Preakness. Laurel also will run twilight programs during its mini-meet, Aug. 10-23.

The harness tracks were approved to be open year-round, with 40 days of live racing in the summer for Ocean Downs and 100 days of racing anticipated at Rosecroft.

The Maryland Jockey Club also asked for and received approval for its winter meet to be conducted with 75 days of live racing and 29 days of simulcasting only, with Laurel open on all days. Live racing will be conducted Wednesday to Sunday, with the two exceptions: live racing on Monday, Feb. 19, and simulcasting-only on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Hopeful on slots

Reacting to Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley's statements over the weekend urging the General Assembly to legalize slot machine gambling at horse tracks in a timely manner, commission chairman John McDaniel said he is hopeful there will be positive action in Annapolis.

"The governor-elect is enlightened," McDaniel said. "He recognizes a major industry is in serious trouble and that he needs, in terms of protecting the economic well-being of the industry and the 20,000-plus people who earn their economic livelihood from it, to move rapidly.

"And maybe, naively optimistic, I'm hopeful he'll get the support of Senator [Senate president Thomas V. Mike] Miller and Speaker [Michael] Busch on that and that there will be less politics involved."

Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer Lou Raffetto said he hopes the thoroughbred and harness tracks' long-term agreement on operations in the state can be a catalyst for harmony in Annapolis on the issue.

"The clock is ticking on our industry," Raffetto said. "For '07, we can hold our own, but from a racing perspective, after that there are no guarantees."

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