The lights went on at 7:03 last night, putting an end to two years of darkness at Laurel Raceway.
A large crowd turned out to welcome harness racing back to the Baltimore Washington corridor, and they greeted it like the return of an old friend, spending lots of time and money.
An estimated 7,000 fans visited the track and bet more than $525,000 on the 10-race card, setting records for single-night betting and opening-night attendance.
Joining in the celebration were drivers Herve Filion, eight-time world harness-driving champion who drove in all 10 races last night, and Bobby Myers, recent winner of the driving title at Rosecroft Raceway with 37 victories.
Kitty B. driven by Hubert Johnson, won the opening, nonwagering race in 2:02 4/5.
Most patrons and horsemen were pleased with the new facility. "It's beautiful," said Benjamin Caplin of Baltimore. "At first, we could hardly see the numbers (on the new tote board), but they're brightening up and are just fine. It's much nicer than it was before. I'll come here more often."
Adolph Furman of Baltimore agreed. "It's nice to be cut out watching the trotters close to home. I like it here. We'll be coming down more often."
Most fans noticed the changes. "It's a big improvement." said Candy Milby. It's a lot beter than it used to be. It's clean."
The only registered complaint came from former Baltimore mayor Thomas D'Alesandro. "It's too hot. Cool it down in here." he said, perspiring in his suitcoat and tie.
The featured race of the evening was the seventh Inaugural Race, putting Filion against Myers. But GH Don, driven by Gordon Barrttt, was a surprise winner in 2:02.4, with Myers, driving Holly Lobell, second, and Filion, commanding Normandy's Byrd, fourth.
Before the race, Filion praised the new track. "I like the track very well. I tried it out when I was down here about six months ago. It's going to be a fast track. It's a good dirt track. You're going to see a lot of speed and a lot of miles under two minutes."
Daniel J. Rizk and his associates bought the raceway last fall and a trifecta finale. Post Time is remodeling program, including a new clubhouse, new track surface, Western Tote Board and remodeled grandstand, parking and barn facilities.
Nightly programs through Sept. 10 (Sundays dark) will offer nine exactas and a rifecta finale. Post time is 7:30 p.m.
The track was closed after the 1974 season in order to improve facilites. Last year, the clubhouse burned down. Picture, Ole Lobell, Herve Filion driving, captures first race at refurbished Laurel Raceway. Leonard Crain, Bud Hough in sulky, was second. Results, story on D8., By James A. Parcell - The Washington Post