Racing at Laurel Race Course was canceled yesterday after the fifth race when lightning struck and damaged the electrical supply for the track's tote board.
The Laurel maintenance crew worked on the problem for about an hour before the announcement of the cancellation of the last five races was made. No injuries were reported, and track officials said they would have the tote board repaired when racing resumes Saturday. Laurel is dark today.
A violent thunderstorm hit the track just after the fifth race. Lightning flashed all around the infield and many patrons could see the lightning strike in the area of the tote board, knocking out the power. Most patrons were able to get under cover when the storm hit.
Those in the crowd holding "live" Pick Six tickets were out of luck. To win the Pick Six, a bettor must correctly select the winners of races three through eight. However, the rules of the exotic wager state that the Pick Six must be canceled and refunds made if three or more of the Pick Six races are "officially canceled or declared as no contest." The pool from prior Pick Six wagers will be carried over.
Holders of Pick Six tickets that included the numbers of the first three winners received the $1 they paid for each ticket; a total of $24,000 was refunded.
Laurel President Frank De Francis said: "It was an act of God. I feel for those with live triple tickets, but life can be like that."
He added he will request permission from the state racing commission to run an extra race on five future racing days to make up for the five races lost yesterday.
Laurel, which has been showing gains in betting and attendance (35.5 percent and 41.7 percent, respectively), appeared headed for another $1 million-plus day when the storm hit. The crowd of 6,485 already had wagered $539,338, not including the Pick Six pool. Rain checks were distributed.
U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese is scheduled to be joined by several sports personalities in the Sports Palace at Laurel Sunday for the "Race Against MS," a fundraising luncheon sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Among the sports personalities expected to attend are Washington Redskins lineman Russ Grimm and Capitals defenseman Rod Langway. Tom McMillen, retired Bullets forward who is campaigning to represent Maryland in Congress, also is set to attend the sold-out event.