Steve Warrington, one of the leading drivers in Maryland over the last few years, will make his first appearance at Rosecroft Raceway tonight since being temporarily excluded from the track last month.
He was excluded from Rosecroft and Delmarva Downs on July 29 by Jim Murphy, president of both tracks. One week later the exclusion was amended to allow Warrington to race immediately at Delmarva and at Rosecroft starting this week.
As is normally the case with race track exclusions, no reason was given for Warrington's ouster. But he still claims his position with the newly formed Maryland Standardbred Horsemen's Association played a role in his exclusion, an accusation track owner Mark Vogel has denied.
"There's no doubt in my mind that's part of it," Warrington said yesterday. His long-term feud with racing secretary Billy Perkins may also have had a role in the ban.
Despite the lifting of his exclusion by Murphy, Warrington has decided to forgo driving regularly at Rosecroft. He said he will now drive at Rosecroft only on nights when stake races are contested.
Tonight he will drive Richimag in the first race, a Maryland Sire Stakes preliminary event. Richimag races in Warrington's stable and is trained by his brother, Dan. On Saturday night, Warrington will drive Time Slips By in the Metropolitan, an early closer series for fillies.
"On the nights I'm there, if anyone wants me to drive for them, I will," said Warrington, who has been named to drive Precious Punkin in the 10th race and Magic Flute in the 11th tonight.
Warrington said he doesn't know what kind of reception he will receive at Rosecroft. "I suspect Perkins and Murphy will walk the other way when they see me," he said. "As far as the other racing officials, I've never had any problems there.
"The exclusion took a big chunk of money out of my pocket the last few weeks. I think I had a lot of good drives in those Sire Stakes that I lost."
Since his exclusion, he has been racing at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey, a change that also has caused him some problems.
"You need a different type of stable to race at another track," he said. "You need horses that can go around a half-mile track." Freehold is a half-miler and Rosecroft is five-eighths of a mile.
"It's just a totally different plan," he said. "I won't be looking at Maryland horses at the sales. I'll be looking at New Jersey breds."