09/03/2012 2:29PM

Laurel Park: More money flowing as fall meet opens


Bigger purses, more stakes, and the continuation of an exotic wager experiment that proved highly successful last spring are among the noteworthy changes as Laurel Park launches its 69-day fall meet on Wednesday.

A year ago, Laurel’s daily overnight purses averaged $185,000 and 27 stakes were worth $2.3 million. Thanks to an influx of revenue from slot machines in Maryland, Laurel’s overnight purses will now average $240,000. The fall meet contains 34 stakes worth a cumulative $3.6 million.

In addition, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association will provide $25,000 to $50,000 bonuses for Maryland-bred runners in 16 stakes, meaning the 34 stakes could be worth more than $4.1 million.

The Frank De Francis Memorial Dash has gotten a $200,000 purse boost to $350,000. The Dash, formerly a Grade 1 event, will anchor a Fall Festival of Racing card on Oct. 27. All five stakes that afternoon will be scheduled for the turf.

“This will help us draw some of the nation’s top sprinters not going to the Breeders’ Cup the following weekend,” said Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club.

The other major event day of the fall is the 27th running of the Jim McKay Maryland Million, for the offspring of Maryland-based stallions, on Oct. 6.

Laurel will make extensive use of its turf course during the fall and plans to revive its 50-cent Jackpot Pick 5, which did well during a trial run this spring at Pimlico.

“Expect to see plenty of turf racing during the meet,” said Chuckas. “For the bettors, we are bringing back the Jackpot Pick 5, which was very popular for us in May at Pimlico, where the Preakness week carryover grew to over $1 million.”

The Jackpot Pick 5 is a 50-cent minimum wager that pays the jackpot carryover to a single, unique 50-cent ticket. Multiple winners or “best of fives” split 60 percent of the daily net pool. The remaining 40 percent builds the jackpot carryover.

Four of Wednesday’s opening-day nine-race card are scheduled for the turf, including the featured $100,000 Jameela, a six-furlong sprint for Maryland-bred fillies and mares. The race will be the return to grass for 3-year-old filly Jazzy Idea, who was unable to transfer her success on grass to the main track in a pair of Grade 1 sprints at Saratoga, the Test and the Prioress.

On turf, Jazzy Idea is 4 for 6 lifetime, including wins in the Thirty Flags at Belmont and the Crank It Up at Monmouth Park, plus a second against older females in The Very One at Pimlico.