09/18/2003 12:00AM

Approaching hurricane prompts cancellations


Inclement weather caused by the approach of Hurricane Isabel prompted three East Coast tracks to cancel racing on Thursday.

Pimlico officials threw up the white flag as Hurricane Isabel headed toward the Baltimore area, and canceled both Thursday's and Friday's racing cards.

"We had anticipated some winds [Thursday] afternoon but once the forecast called for heavy rain moving in earlier than expected, we had to make a decision," said Lou Raffetto Jr., the chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. "We didn't want to get into the card and have an issue with the wind and rain. We thought it was in the best interest of everyone involved to cancel live racing."

Pimlico left its doors open for simulcasting on both days. Live racing was scheduled to return on Saturday. It is unlikely that the scrapped cards will be made up.

Monmouth Park, in the Jersey Shore community of Oceanport, got in only three races Thursday before the effects of Hurricane Isabel forced cancellation of the rest of the card.

The races were run into a northeast wind with gusts in excess of 25 miles per hour. With the forecast calling for even stronger winds throughout the afternoon, the riders held a meeting after the second race and decided to contest one more race before calling it a day.

The track canceled Friday morning training but as of Thursday afternoon planned to race on Friday.

"The weatherman tells us the sun will be out by the first race, so as of now we're on," said Bob Kulina, Monmouth vice president and general manager. "Right now, it looks like we're going to go."

Charles Town in West Virginia canceled its Thursday evening program because of heavy rain from Isabel. Penn National in Grantville, Pa., was scheduled to run its Thursday evening card.

- additional reporting by Mike Farrell