Rosecroft Raceway tonight begins a 53-night fall meeting that has been strengthened by a good stakes schedule but weakened by the defection of some of Maryland's best horesmen.

For three weekends, beginning Oct. 17, the Oxon Hill track will have a total of five stakes races offering total estimated purses of $1.3 million. The highlight of these races is the Breeders Crown division for 2-year-old colt pacers Oct. 30. The other stakes are the Presidential 2-year-old open pace Oct. 17, the First Lady 2-year-old filly pace Oct. 24, the Colonial 3-year-old trot Oct. 31 and the Colonial Lady 3-year-old filly trot Oct. 24.

Rosecroft's strong race schedule is somewhat offset by its loss of top drivers to Florida's Pompano Park.

Gilles Gendron and Rheo Filion, who were first and third, respectively, in the drivers' standings during Rosecroft's spring meet, will be at Pompano. Rosecroft has also lost the John Hogan stables, its best stable in the spring, to Pompano.

Steve Warrington, the leading driver at Freestate Raceway's recently completed meet, will also be at Pompano, where he was that track's leading driver last season.

Rosecroft will race Wednesdays through Sundays until Nov. 8. Starting Nov. 11, Rosecroft will move to a four-night-a-week schedule, dropping Thursday racing. The track will stage 11 races a night on weeknights and 12 races on weekends. Post time is 7:30 except Sundays, when it is 6:30.

Freestate closed its meet Saturday with increases of 0.5 percent in handle and 2.4 percent in attendance.