07/17/2012 3:37PM

Laurel boosts stakes purses, De Francis Dash now $350K


Thanks to an influx of revenue from slot machines in Maryland, Laurel Park will beef up overnight and stakes purses for its fall meet that begins in September.

Under a schedule released Tuesday which was approved by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Maryland Horse Breeders’ Association, Laurel will race 69 days from Sept. 5 through Dec. 31. Daily average purses, which were $185,000 at the 2011 meet and $210,000 at this year’s winter meet, will rise to $240,000. The stakes schedule calls for 32 races that are so far worth a collective $2.86 million. Purse values for four races for Maryland-breds will be announced later. In contrast, the 2011 fall meet contained 27 stakes worth $2.3 million.

The purse for the Frank De Francis Memorial Dash, which was restored to the schedule last year at $150,000, will be more than doubled to $350,000. The Dash, formerly a Grade 1 event, is the anchor of a restored Fall Festival of Racing, which includes five stakes on turf.

The Oct. 27 Fall Festival of Racing shares top billing at the meet with 27th running of the Jim McKay Maryland Million Day, for the offspring of Maryland-based stallions, on Oct. 6.

All stakes that had been $75,000, with the exception of those that are part of Maryland Million Day, got a purse boost to $100,000.

Two stakes restricted to Maryland-breds, the Geisha and the Squan Song, were dropped from the schedule, but seven other stakes were either restored or created as new races, accounting for a net gain of five stakes.

The Gin Talking for 2-year-old fillies and the Laurel Turf Cup are back, but in a different form. The Gin Talking, formerly a turf sprint, has been revised to seven furlongs on the main track. The Laurel Turf Cup, switched to six furlongs on the main track in 2011 because of weather, will become a 1 1/2-mile marathon. First contested in 1952 and a Grade 3 race for 16 years, the Turf Cup was run at 1 1/2 miles between 1991 and 2001.

The Broad Brush, at 1 1/8 miles, returns for the first time since 2001.

The newly created stakes are the Lady Dean for 3-year-old fillies, the City of Laurel for 3-year-olds, and the Willa On the Move for fillies and mares.

Live racing will be conducted four days per week, Wednesday through Saturday, excluding holidays.