TIMONIUM, MD., SEPT. 3 -- A steady breeze caressed Timonium Race Course today, the tempest of misfortune having subsided for the little track by the fair. But as Timonium completed its terse meeting, some fans and track officials wondered whether the winds of change were not upon them.
Westerlies whipped the grandstand bunting into odd folds and brought the scent of grilled sausage from the state fairgrounds beyond. It was the kind of racing day Timonium has come to define -- warm and festive, a 10-day relief from the competitive, high-stress temperament of Laurel and Pimlico. However, Timonium General Manager Max Mosner said the track's good name has been tarnished by events of previous days and acknowledged that the future of the racetrack could be a shade less certain as a result.
F. Grove Miller, track president and chairman of the board, announced in July that he would assemble a committee to help decide what to do with the track, owned by the nonprofit Maryland State Fair and Agricultural Society. Ed Hale, owner of the Baltimore Blast, has expressed interest in building an arena here for his Major Indoor Soccer League team, and Rosecroft Raceway officials have spoken with Timonium about simulcasting their harness races year-round.
Now, after Timonium lost a day of racing during this meet and encountered a lack of faith from horsemen who considered the racing surface unsafe, Mosner said the planning board has one more topic to discuss.
"Until all the facts and figures are in and we've had a chance to look at everything, it's difficult to project," he said. "But some owners have told their trainers not to run here."
Problems arose before opening day Aug. 25, when the track was made unraceable by days of heavy rain. The top layer was removed from the racing surface in an effort to have it ready for the following day, "but the track got a little too hard a little too fast," according to Mosner. Low-level claimers began setting track records in subsequent days and several horses broke down before the layer of cushion was reapplied.
The track proved safe thereafter, but a number of horsemen became reluctant to try their horses on it. As a result, Timonium officials considered calling off Sunday's card but eventually went with an eight-race program, as they did today. Normally, 10 races would have been scheduled.
Predictably, the track suffered a sharp drop in business. The average daily handle of $611,234 was down 14.2 percent from 1989, and the average attendance was down 12.1 percent to 6,325.
The nine-day meeting did provide a boost to Alberto Delgado, who on his 26th birthday today won the riding title by a victory over Vernon Bush.
After two days of rest -- the only consecutive dark days on the Maryland thoroughbred calendar all year -- Pimlico reopens Thursday for two weeks.