Pageantry and fanfare went to the races at Laurel Race Course yesterday as Sunday racing was conducted in Maryland for the first time.
A crowd of 13,112 subbathed fans showed up and were greeted early by the lively sounds of Zim Zemarel's Dixieland band.
Monitors showing the football game between the Redskins and Cowboys were slow coming on, bringing complaints, but once on they held the attention of the mostly male crowd until "They're off" was announced by Dick Woolley. That brought a lot of people surging to the other monitors showing the running of the races.
Dorothy Kopicki, a Laurel regular, said, "Sunday racing's fine. A little too noisy for me, but fine."
Helen Jamison of Baltimore County said, "I love it."
Pimlico's owner, Ben Cohen, remarked, "See all the new faces. That's what racing needs. People who otherwise couldn't come out here are here and all seem to be enjoying themselves."
Asked if he expected to do as well at Pimilico with Sunday racing, Cohen replied, "I don't see why not. We do better in every other category during the regular meetings. We'll do better. Sunday racing is a good thing."
Al Karwacki, Bowie general manager, said, "Thirteen thousand fans, nearly a million and a quarter was bet.That's pretty encouraging."
Asked if the opposition to Sunday ra cing at Bowie has decreased, Karwacki replied, "I have a meeting with Father Hogan of Sacred Heart Church coming up. I'm sure we can work out our differences to everybody's satisfaction."
Bob Dewald, a Laurel regular, said, "This has been a good groundbreaker. Sunday racing could well be the thing to do in the future if it is handled right."
One disgruntled customer in the grandstand complained that "They advertised T-shirts for free but only for clubhouse patrons. They advertised two hot dogs for the price of one but we have to buy a program for 50 cents in order to get the extra frank."
The first aid room appeared to be doing a brisk business and nurse Gene Corcoran said, "We expected more problems with the children but we've gotten an unusual amount of diabetes, ulcer and nausea complaints."
Russell turner, head security official, said, "No pickpockets so far. One lost kid did not want to go back to his mother when the maitre d' in the dining room cooled him down with ice cream and soda."
The supply of Racing Forms held up well since the salesmen were prepared for a crowd of up to 18,000. Frankly," a spokesman said, "I didn't think they'd get 10,000 here today."
The feature race, a sprint with some of the area's fastest horses entered, was won by longshot Fortent, who came from off the pace to win in 1:10 1/5 for the six furlongs. It was the fastest time of the meeting. Fortent was ridden by Robert Ussery and paid $21.80.
The Sunday crowd at Charles Town was announced at 2,259, a drop of nearly 40 percent from the usual figure. General Manager John Battaglia called it "disappointing, but expected."
Laurel President John Schapiro summed up the day.
"It was encouraging," he said. "New York started out so slow that they almost abandoned Sunday racing. Now it's their big money-maker. And by 4 o'clock tomorrow we'll have the dollars and cents of Sunday racing at Laurel figured out. Like I said, I'm encouraged. But the figures must reflect the worthiness of the whole thing. We're not here to lose money.."