Rosecroft Raceway tonight begins its first season of harness racing under the ownership of Mark Vogel, a local real estate developer who purchased a majority interest in the track in December.

In response to Vogel's $2,000 a share offer, Rosecroft's stockholders tendered roughly 81 percent of the track's outstanding shares by his deadline of Dec. 15. Since then, some of the remaining stockholders have offered their shares to Vogel. By the time he is done dealing, Vogel expects to own nearly 100 percent of Rosecroft and pay almost $12 million for the track.

The purchase price includes Delmarva Downs near Ocean City and the assumption of nearly $5 million in debt.

"I'm looking to make improvements," said Vogel. "I want to make sure that Rosecroft is maintained as a first-class operation."

Two changes Vogel is considering include the expansion of Rosecroft's current half-mile racing oval to a five-eighths of a mile and the construction of a new grandstand. Vogel will not commit to a timetable for the changes, but said, "If I do it, I would do it pretty soon."

Despite his recent hiring of Al Karwacki, former manager of Bowie Race Course, as his "personal assistant in charge of special projects," Vogel insisted there will be no changes in current Rosecroft management.

William E. Miller II, the current president and general manager, will retain that title and be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the track. "I have a lot of confidence in Miller," said Vogel.

Miller's grandfather opened Rosecroft in 1949.

Karwacki will be responsible for finding uses for Rosecroft's facilities in the offseason summer months and to look for "opportunities in other states," according to Vogel. Vogel said that could include other race tracks, although he is not actively seeking another track.

The highlight of the upcoming meet will be the $350,000 William E. Miller Memorial for 3-year-old pacers on May 14. The $250,000 John Miller for 3-year-old fillies will be May 7. The meet will end May 22.