Local horseplayers finally got a chance to do some betting yesterday, and they responded to the opportunity with enthusiasm.
A crowd of 10,014 turned out for the delayed opening day at Laurel Race Course, lured in part by free admission to the grandstand and promotional giveaways, and wagered $1,056,527 on the nine-race card.
The start of Laurel's season was scheduled Monday, but an early morning rainstorm inundated the track and forced cancellation. Racing fans could see evidence of the problems yesterday: much of the track's orangish top soil had been washed inside the inner rail.
The racing surface was sloppy and deep -- the cheapest horses on the card required a ridiculous 1:16 4/5 to negotiate six furlongs -- but at least it seemed to be uniform. Horses were able to win by either hugging the rail or circling on the outside.
Terullah employed the former tactic to win the featured eighth race. Breaking from the inside post, he stalked the pacesetting Big Punt, slipped through along the rail and drew away to win by 3 1/2 lengths over T.V. Hill. He paid $33.20. The field was a strong one by the usual standards of Tuesday feature races in Maryland, and illustrated the impact of the larger purses the track is offering this fall.
There was only one snafu on the opening-day program. Because of the large crowd, the track ran out of racing Forms, frustrating late arrivals and creating a small black market.
"I got to the track before the second race," said Ray Fritz of Washington, "and when I saw that Forms were gone I ran to the grandstand offering prople five bucks for their Form. When I got one I just had time to handicap the race and get to the windows in time to bet $50 on Black Choice."
Black Choice was caught in the final yards and finished second.