Pimlico Race Course will not open Monday as scheduled. The strike by track employees, which began last Saturday at Bowie, will continue "indefinitely," according to Chick Lang, general manager of the Baltimore course.
"The Governor (Marvin Mandel) did everything in his power to help get things going again." Lang said yesterday shortly after negotiations broke down again between Pimlico, Laurel and Bowie and Local 692, Retail Store Employees Union. "We're no closer now than we were before we met today. We didn't change our offer (increases of $2.50, $2 and $2 over a three-year contract) and they didn't come down with their demands. They're still looking for astronauts, so far as we're concerned."
Pimlico, unlike Bowie, does not plan to go on a day-to-day basis with its concellations.
"No more meetings are schduled. It's their move," Lang said. "What we have now is an indefinite suspension of racing in Maryland. We've done everything we could. To call it anything less than an indefinite suspension would be unfair to our total work force, to the horsemen, to the public, the media, everybody."
For a few hours yesterday it was possible today's $100,000-added John B. Campbell Handicap at Bowie would be run, even though the Prince George's track had been closed since Saturday by a strike of track employees.
Gov. Marvin Mandel brought the union and representatives of Bowie, Pimlico and Laurel together again with federal and state mediators yesterday morning. There was hope, briefly, that Bowie's closing-day program would be run. But early in the afternoon the word went out: no racing at Bowie.
So, instead of watching 16-year-old apprentice Steve Cauthen pilot Turn And Count over the mile and a quarter of the Campbell, the feature race for many fans will be tonight's $2,900 allowance event at Charles Town. The distance is 4 1/2 furlongs, with Glen Kloss riding the favored Clampdown.
No one is about to confuse Clampdown with Turn And Count, or Kloss with Cauthen, but a race is a race and a bet is a bet and Charles Town, once again, is offering the only horse action in the area. Last Saturday, with Bowie shut, the West Virginia oval attracted a crowd of 10,523 and a mutuel handle of $1,109,431, a track record for a 13-race card.Charles Town's record handle is $1,329,407, established last Labor Day when a 20-race doubleheader was presented.
Charles Town also will be open Monday night. The track originally was not going to offer Monday racing until April 4. The "existing conditions" prompted management to move up the schedule two weeks.
Getting to Charles Town never has been half the fun. The roads are much better than they used to be, but the return home late at night can be wearisome.
Tidewater Helicopter wants to help fans avoid that drudgery. "We have a four-seat, Hughes 500 available which can get you there in a half an hour," says Lee Cranmer. "The cost is going to be $55. If enough people show an interest, we'll put an 18-seat Sikorsky S-58 on the line to the track."
The air jockeys have obtained permission from Charles Town general manager Bob Leavitt to land and to take off from the track infield.
"It will be an experiment," Cranmer acknowledged. "If there's a response we stand ready to take fans to Maryland's mile tracks or to tracks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey."
Tidewater's home base is the Glenn L. Martin airport in Essex, Md. The company currently stands ready to make pickups at three points in Baltimore and would extend the service to the Washington region if enough interest surfaces.
"Complimentary passes to the track are included in the fare to Charles Town," Cranmer said. "But that's just an extra-added attraction. I think people would enjoy the flight. We fly at 1,000 to 2,000 feet, depending on the weather conditions, and the passengers get to see the farmland, the mountains, the rivers, everything. It's a very scenic trip, and the most enjoyable feature is coming back when you look down and see all that traffic fighting its way home."