Several key figures in the Maryland racing industry said yesterday they do not expect the scheduled 48-day meeting at Pimlico this summer to be shortened by legislation.
The House of Delegates this week passed a bill, by an 111-4 count, that would limit any one track to 16 summer dates. Pimlico, Bowie and Laurel have pooled the 48 programs at either Bowie or Pimlico since year-round raing began in 1975.
"We're confident the Senate will not go along with the House measure in its current form," one track executive declared. "It would create a tremendous hardship for the state's horsemen if they had to plan for 16-day meetings at three separate sites this summer, particularly after they've already made their plans for the year."
No one wanted to be quoted directly, however, for fear of alienating Del. Ben Cardin (D-Baltimore), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Cardin is the co-author with Gerard Devlin (D-Prince George's) of the restrictive bill that passed this week. The House Ways and Means Committee will conduct hearings on racing legislation next week. That legislation seeks state aid for higher purses.
"I think Ben is really out to get Laurel to guarantee to air-condition is grandstand so that Laurel can share the summer racing dates on a regular rotating basis with Bowie and Pimlico," one prominent horseman commented. "The people of his home district are near Pimlico, and they don't want to have to alternate 48-day meetings with Bowie in the summer year after year, as they have since in 1975."
Neighborhood groups near Pimlico and Bowie have strongly opposed the summer-date pattern each year during public hearings in Annapolis.