Laurel Park Meet Is Cut to 60 Days, From 75

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Under mounting pressure to avoid a new shortfall in the race purse account, the Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association announced yesterday a cut of 15 live racing days from the Laurel Park winter meet that will begin Jan. 1.

The 15-week meet, which will end April 12, before the start of the Pimlico spring meet, will now offer 60 days of live racing instead of 75. The track will race four days a week, Wednesday through Saturday, eliminating Sunday programs.

The cuts follow a reduction in stakes, purses and racing days made during the summer.

Maryland Jockey Club President Lou Raffetto, who announced the cuts at a meeting of the Maryland Racing Commission, said hopes for the future of the state racing industry rest with the special session of the state legislature that begins Monday.

"We don't have the purse fund to run five days a week," Raffetto said. The Maryland Racing Commission "asked me what this means for the rest of the year. We hope something happens in the special session . . . that allows us to run more days. It's not a craps game, and we don't bet on what we assume is going to happen."

Without some sort of relief from the state, Raffetto said, the Maryland Jockey Club would likely have to reduce the marquee spring meet at Pimlico Race Course, which includes the Preakness Stakes, from eight weeks to five. That meet would end the third week in May, "and we would not look to reopen until the latter part of September," Raffetto said. "We'd be shutting down live racing in the state for four months."

Raffetto said it was also likely Pimlico would be closed for stabling for six months next year, with the population consolidated at Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center.

-- John Scheinman

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