11/18/2015 3:21PM

Maryland racing season to be almost year-round


The Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday approved 164 racing days in the state for 2016 and the stakes schedule for the Laurel Park winter meet.

With the exception of a break from Feb. 16 to March 10, racing will be conducted year-round. There will be 129 days of racing at Laurel Park, a 28-day meet at Pimlico Race Course, and seven days of racing at Timonium.

The winter break at Laurel meshes well with the schedule at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania. Parx will be closed Dec. 23 through Feb. 13, when Laurel will be running. Parx will then reopen when Laurel takes its break.

The total number of race days is up slightly from 2015. Last year, 156 days of racing were requested by the three tracks, and seven days were lost to cancellations.

“We’d like to keep adding 10 to 15 days of racing a year,” said Sal Sinatra, the general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club tracks of Laurel and Pimlico.

The Laurel winter meet traditionally has run from the beginning of January through March but this year will be extended until May 8, the day after the Kentucky Derby. The Pimlico meet will open May 12 and conclude June 26. The 141st Preakness Stakes will be held May 21 at Pimlico.

There were 37 days of racing at Pimlico this year, with the meet running from April 2 until Belmont Stakes Day on June 6.

“By extending the Laurel meet, we get to use the turf course during April and into May,” Sinatra said. “We also get a fresh turf course at Pimlico for Preakness week.”

There hasn’t been any turf racing at Laurel the last two springs due to winter weather.

Laurel will race Fridays through Mondays from Jan. 1 through Feb. 15. Once Laurel reopens in March, racing will be held Fridays through Sundays. Racing at the Pimlico meet will be held primarily on a Thursday-to-Sunday schedule. The summer and fall Laurel meet will be Fridays through Sundays.

The Timonium meet is scheduled for Aug. 26 to Sept. 5 on a Friday-to Sunday basis.

The stakes schedule for the Laurel winter meet consists of 20 races worth a total of $1.95 million. In 2015, Laurel ran 16 stakes from the beginning of the year through the end of March for the same amount of money.

Four of the five races being added to the schedule were run at Pimlico in 2015. The other, the Weber City Miss, is a new race. Sixteen of the stakes on the 2016 schedule have been reduced from $100,000 this year to $75,000. The Conniver, for Maryland-bred fillies and mares, has been dropped.

The Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie and Grade 3 General George have the same conditions as last winter. The $300,000 Fritchie, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares, will be run Saturday, Feb. 13. The $250,000 General George, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up, will be run Monday, Feb. 15.

Three races have had their distances shortened from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/16 miles: the $75,000 Maryland Racing Media for fillies and mares Feb. 13, the $75,000 Private Terms Stakes on March 12, and the $100,000 Federico Tesio on April 9. The Private Terms and the Tesio are for 3-year-olds.

The Weber City Miss, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, will be run on the same day as the Tesio. Both stakes will be Win and You’re In races in 2016, the Tesio for the Preakness and the Weber City Miss for the Black-Eyed Susan.

Sat., Jan 2 FIRE PLUG 4yo & UP 6 furlongs $75,000
Sat., Jan 2 WHAT A SUMMER FM 4yo & UP 6 furlongs $75,000
Sat., Jan 2 NATIVE DANCER 4yo & UP 1 1/16 miles $75,000
Sat., Jan 2 NELLIE MORSE FM 4yo & UP 1 1/16 miles $75,000
Sat., Jan 16 MARSHUA STAKES 3yoF 6 furlongs $75,000
Sat., Jan 16 FRANK WHITELEY, JR 3yo 7 furlongs $75,000
Sat, Feb 13 JOHN B. CAMPBELL 4yo & UP 1 1/8 miles $75,000
Sat., Feb 13 BARBARA FRITCHIE (G2) FM 4yo & UP 7 furlongs $300,000
Sat., Feb 13 MARYLAND RACING MEDIA FM 4yo & UP 1 1/16 miles $75,000
Sat., Feb 15 MIRACLE WOOD 3yo 1 mile $75,000
Sat., Feb 15 GENERAL GEORGE (G3) 4yo & UP 7 furlongs $250,000
Sat., Feb 15 WIDE COUNTRY 3yoF 7 furlongs $75,000
Sat., March 12 CAESAR'S WISH 3yoF 1 mile $75,000
Sat., March 12 PRIVATE TERMS 3yo 1 1/16 miles $75,000
Sat., March 19 HARRISON E. JOHNSON MEMORIAL 3yo & UP 1 1/8  miles $75,000
Sat., March 26 PRIMONETTA STAKES FM 3yo & UP 6 furlongs $75,000
Sat., April 9 FEDERICO TESIO 3yo 1 1/8  miles $100,000
Sat., April 9 WEBER CITY MISS 3yo F 1 1/16 miles $100,000
Sat., April 16 DAHLIA STAKES FM 3yo & UP 1 mile (T) $75,000
Sat., April 23 HENRY S. CLARK 3yo & UP 1 mile (T) $75,000