Laurel Race Course unveiled a new racing surface and other physical improvements as it opened its season before 8,017 fans yesterday.
The track, which was in such terrible condition a year ago that the opening-day program had to be canceled, was rebuilt this summer and seems to be in excellent shape. The times of races were normal, about as fast as they had been at the recent Bowie meeting, and the track seemed perfectly uniform, giving no advantage to horses on the inside or outside.
The turf course, which has often been a source of embarrassment, looked as lush as if it were situated in Florida. When Yvonand won the $60,000 Laurel Turf Cup, he covered the 1 1/2 miles in a swift 2:28 4/5. No Washington, D.C. International has been run so fast in the last decade.
Laurel's plant also showed a number of changes. The new modern tote board displays probable exacta payoffs and probable win payoffs to the penny. The outdoor paddock has been refurbished. Much of the grandstand has been repainted, albeit in garish hues that might have been chosen by a color blind 5-year-old.
The track conducted "early bird betting" for the first time yesterday morning, operating some wagering windows from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Laurel had $16,128 worth of business, and General Manager John Mooney said, "I thought that was gratifying for the first day."
The opening-day feature attracted an uninspiring group of turf specialists and It's True, who until a month ago was nothing more than an allowance horse, was the even-money favorite. He looked even money for much of the race, too, as he stalked two faint-hearted leaders and swooped past them on the turn. But Yvonand accelerated past him as they entered the stretch and drew off to a 1 3/4-length victory under jockey Vincent Bracciale Jr. He paid $10.60. CAPTION: Picture 1, Airborne During Opening Day at Laurel -- Yvonand (1a), with jockey Vincent Bracciale Jr. up, holds off It's True and jockey Eddie Maple to win $60,000-added Laurel Turf Cup in feature of the Laurel Race. Course opening day card. Note all eight feet of horses are in the air; Picture 2, Spectacular Bid, racing's gray superstar, bides final day in home state in a stall at Laurel prior to shipment last night to stand at stud in Kentucky. Photos by Richard Darcey -- The Washington Post