Two-year-old Party Special hesitantly took to the track of Rosecroft Raceway on Friday afternoon, side-stepping along the field before coming to a sudden halt. The shadow from a pole had startled her.
“This is her very first time off the farm,” said Jackie Macleod, a lifelong horseman who brought Party Special out for the afternoon. Macleod eventually managed to take her for a lap around, to get her acquainted with the track.
Although the first official race at Rosecroft will not be held for another couple of weeks — Oct. 21 — Friday marked the kickoff of the return of horses to the once-storied Prince George’s facility.
Macleod, who breeds and trains racing horses on his farm in Linthicum, said he was impressed by the condition of the track, considering the amount of time it had been closed and the heavy rains brought on when Hurricane Irene moved through the region in August.
“Everybody’s all excited,” said Sharon Roberts, a representative for the raceway’s horsemen. “My phone is ringing off the hook. They’re excited to come back and to race, and to be a part of Rosecroft again.”
The raceway closed in July 2010 after falling into bankruptcy. After a 14-month hiatus, Penn National Gaming bought Rosecroft at auction.
This month will mark the first time live races have been held there since June 2008, Roberts said.
Currently, the facility simulcasts harness and quarter horse races from across the country. Penn National is pushing to bring slot machines and table games to the site.
Roberts estimates there will be nine or 10 live races during the first few weeks the raceway is open.
Other preparations are also taking place around the arena. Major repairs have been made to the roof, and machine lifts used to replace light bulbs can be seen around the track.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in,” Macleod said. “Its been a little dry run — a little scary, but I’m very optimistic and things are looking good.”
The grand opening of Rosecroft Raceway is scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 28.