Sen. Thomas P. O'Reilly (D-Prince George's) has introduced a bill that would allow intertrack wagering between Maryland's three harness racing facilities, Freestate Raceway, Rosecroft Raceway and Delmarva Downs. Another bill is expected to be filed next week that would permit betting at the state's harness tracks on races simulcast from thoroughbred tracks.

High-level sources from both industries said they have had only general discussions concerning intertrack wagering between the two types of race tracks. But Frank De Francis, president of the state's two operating thoroughbred tracks -- Laurel and Pimlico -- as well as Freestate, said Delmarva Downs in Ocean City presents an attractive element to their simulcasting pursuits.

"Intertrack wagering is a success; that has been proven in every jurisdiction," De Francis said. "The only question concerning Maryland is distance. But there can be no question that it would successful from Laurel or Pimlico {in Baltimore} to Ocean City, because nobody's going to cross that bridge on an everyday basis to go the races."

The bills parallel a proposed regulation, needing only final Maryland Racing Commission approval, that would permit intertrack wagering between Laurel and Pimlico. Beginning March 3, fans at Laurel would watch and bet on races at Pimlico, their wagers tied in with those at the Baltimore track.

Although state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran confirmed that law permits the racing commission to authorize intertrack or telephone wagering, some legislators were uncertain of the statute's latitude, and there was concern that the practice might lead to illicit outside gambling activities. So Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Prince George's) introduced an emergency bill designed to clarify the conditions governing intertrack wagering. Passed this week by the Senate Finance Committee, the measure now goes for a final vote before the General Assembly.

Although cognizant of the financial benefits intertrack wagering can offer race tracks, horsemen and the state, De Francis said management nonetheless must plan its course carefully.

"To me, the first step is to be in operation March 3 when Pimlico goes to Laurel," he said. "I will learn so much and the industry will learn so much from that undertaking. It doesn't make any sense to talk about tomorrow's dinner when tonight's isn't even on the plate yet."

Bill Miller, president and general manager of Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County, said the track has made no commitment toward intertrack betting.

"We merely paralleled what Laurel and Pimlico have asked for," Miller said. "We want to level the playing field in case we choose to go in that direction. There's no guarantee we would implement it even if we had the opportunity. But without it, we don't have an option."

Clever Power heads a field of 11 3-year-old fillies in today's $40,000-added Marshua Stakes at Laurel. The 12-race program begins at noon and will conclude with a simulcast of the $200,000 Donn Handicap from Gulfstream Park.