Horse Racing

2 Stakes Races Are Cut From Laurel Park

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Salvation in the form of slot machines appeared far away yesterday for Maryland thoroughbred racing when Laurel Park racing secretary Georganne Hale announced that two stakes races had been cut from the upcoming winter meet schedule.

The $50,000 Horatius Stakes, a sprint for 3-year-olds, and the $50,000 Smart Halo, a sprint for 3-year-old fillies, both were chopped as the Maryland Jockey Club and horsemen continue to try to balance the purse fund account.

"We had to," Hale said at the monthly meeting of the Maryland Racing Commission at Laurel Park. "This way we have only one stake each Saturday."

Hale also reduced the value of the 37-year-old Conniver Stakes, a seven-furlong event for Maryland-bred fillies and mares, from $75,000 to $60,000.

The cuts came after the Maryland legislature voted early Monday to send a comprehensive referendum on legalizing slot machines to voters in the general election next November. The referendum, if passed, would direct up to $100 million annually toward the race purse accounts.

On a brighter note yesterday, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association agreed to add $20,000 to the purses of 14 scheduled stakes races during the winter meet.

Last June, facing a $3 million deficit in its purse account budget, the Maryland Jockey Club slashed purses in maiden, claiming and allowance races by $2,000 per race. The following month, it dropped 11 stakes races from the Laurel Park fall meet and cut the value of others for a $995,000 savings.

-- John Scheinman

© 2007 The Washington Post Company