The Mandel era in Maryland racing is over but it won't, apparently, be forgotten as Bowie begins the 1977-78 thoroughbred season Monday.
Marlboro has long since been dropped from the name of the Marlboro-at-Bowie meeting, the 36-day stand that annually opens the flat-track action. However, the management of the Prince George's course, after searching about for a name for their new $100,000 stake this fall, revived an oldie - the "Governor's Gold Cup."
Bowie failed to mention who would present the trophy following the Oct. 8 running of its 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds.
Otherwise, Bowie will offer business as usual during this 34-day meeting. All the name trainers are back: Leatherbury, Dutrow, Delp, Lenzini, Tammaro, Forbes with Chris McCarron an Vince Bracciale returning to head up the jockey's competition.
Larry Abbunda again is the racing secretary writing the condition books, thus assuring a good win, place and show for area bettors, despite Bowie's bland atmosphere.
Bowie is for sale, for approximately $10 million, with no takers. So, for that matter, is Laurel, although the asking price for the home of the Washington D.C. International reportedly is $3 million higher than for Bowie and is less actively sought.
Area fans are rooting for someone to buy the two tracks. Bowie's facilities were outdated three decades ago. Laurel's grandstand was permitted to run down faster than the bandages on its cheap claiming horses last fall.
Marlboro-at-Bowie closes Oct. 20. Laurel opens Oct. 21, Saturday, Nov. 5, is the date for the 26th International and president John Schapiro again did an outstanding job of gathering early commitments from owners of top horses.
The Minstrel, the best 3-year-old in Europe, was advertised for this International along with Forego, Seattle Slew and J.O. Tobin. The Minstrel, unfortunately, has been retired and the three U.S. invitees probably are less than even money to appear in the $200,000 turf event by the time the field starts to take serious shape.
Laurel's meeting will continue through New Year's Day. Bowie then takes over until late March when Pimlico, in Baltimore, picks up the tempo by offering what has become the finest segment ofthe Maryland mile circuit's season.
The tail end of the Bowie meeting and the start at Pimlico were curtailed sharply last year by a month-long strike of parimutuel clerks and other track employees. A similar labor problem is unlikely this year, although the horsemen will be unhappy if the '78 summer meeting is not returned to Pimlico. Bowie and Pimlico have alternated as the site of the summer gates.
Robert Banning will be making his first full tour of the Maryland courses, as chairman of the state racing commission. Banning succeeded Newton Brewer in that postion this summer.
Politically, the outlook is for an extremely quiet session in Annapolis next winner. There is no talk of consolidation, off-track betling or other such esoteric racing programs as Mandel sought in 1973.
Indeed, "racing" has become a word that Maryland's lawmakers can do nicely without hearing for awhile. The most lively controversy concerning the sport in Maryland this year might center on nothing more important than the condition of Laurel's much-maligned but now supposedly improved grass course.