With the strong financial success of the Preakness Stakes on May 15 and a temporary deal with harness racing interests allowing for simulcasting past 6:15 p.m., the Maryland Jockey Club no longer is considering cutting weeks from the summer racing schedule in an effort to maintain present race purse levels, Chief Operating Officer Lou Raffetto said.
Following the current meet at Colonial Downs in New Kent County, Va., the MJC plans to run live races four days a week at Pimlico, July 31 through Aug. 27 (it has been running five days a week).
Those dates are traditionally reserved for Laurel Park, but that track is closed through October while ownership builds a new turf course.
The Pimilco meet may see horses ship in from Charles Town , W. Va., when that track closes for renovation Aug. 2-25.
The MJC has eliminated live racing July 28-30 and has gone to a Thursday-Sunday schedule, with eight races run Thursdays and Fridays, nine on Saturday and Sunday.
The reworked schedule "helps us accommodate the same purse schedule," Raffetto said.
Preakness Day, in which the MJC handled a record $87.9 million in wagering -- up 36.5 percent from 2003 -- generated approximately $2.8 million for the purse account, Raffetto said.
"Minus the Preakness and Pimlico Special days, the horsemen were losing $160,000 a week in the purse account," Raffetto said.
The MJC also has signed a 90-day agreement with Rosecroft Raceway to allow the Oxon Hill harness track cross-breed simulcasting, while the Maryland tracks and off-track betting sites can offer wagering after 6:15 p.m.
After the Pimlico fall meet, beginning Sept. 9, Raffetto said the MJC hopes to reopen Laurel on Oct. 8, the day before the Maryland Million.
The racing schedule, agreed upon by the Maryland horsemen, must be approved by the Maryland Racing Commission at its next meeting, July 13.