The paint is peeling on the blue-and-white grandstand and the dirt track is choked with weeds. The high fence surrounding the grounds is pad-locked and the only sign of life is in the parking lot, still used by county employes.
The Marlboro race track sits in ruins now, its future as bleak as that of the politicians who used it to make a quick buck.
The track, on 150 acres near Upper Marlboro's rolling tobacco farms, dates to colonial days and was once the pride of Prince George's County. But since it closed in September 1972 its name has been synonymous with political corruption.
In 1971, friends of former governor Marvin Mandel secretly bought into the track, and Mandel then used his influence to get the 1972 General Assembly to transfer some lucrative racing dates. Shortly thereafter, they sold the track, at a substantial profit.
The old Marlboro race track is now owned by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Association, which is part of Gibraltar Pari Mutuel, Inc., a New Jersey-based holding company that also operates the Bowie race track. A spokesman said the Gibraltar firm was a subsidiary of a Canadian oil company which he would not identify.
The 36 racing days once allotted to Marlboro are now run at Bowie. "The handle [at Bowie] is greater, the purses are higher and the state's share of the money is higher," said Al Karwacki, a spokesman for Bowie Race Course. "More people are willing to come to races in Bowie than Marlboro, so everyone is taken care of."
Bowie's racing card draws three times as many fans as Marlboro's did, twice as many horses and double the receipts, a spokesman said.
The current owners of the track, which cost Mandel's associates $2.4 million in the controversial 1971 transaction and runs up a tax bill of more than $500,000 a year, have been trying to unload the track, and have conducted on-and-off negotiations with Prince George's County.
"The county was in fact interested," said County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan yesterday. "Logically, it should be acquired somehow because it is an important part of Upper Marlboro."
Hogan said the owners' asking price is too high.
The other day a guard walked through the bat-infested, wooden grandstand salvaging items, anticipating the day when the clubhouse is razed.
"It's too bad," the employe said, and recalled the days when prominent Maryland politicians and area horseman gathered to make the track a social center for Prince George's. "This was the cradle of American racing. Now the paint is peeling, the roofs of the stables are blowing off and the building is one big fire hazard."