08/05/2001 11:00PM

New meet opens - subbing for Laurel


Pimlico Racecourse will substitute for its sister track, Laurel Park, when it opens on Wednesday for an abbreviated 13-day summer meet.

The Maryland Jockey Club, which owns Pimlico and Laurel, moved its summer meet to Pimlico in Baltimore after panes of glass enclosing the Laurel grandstand began mysteriously cracking earlier this summer. The MJC has yet to determine the cause of the damage, and Laurel's six-week fall meeting has also been moved to Pimlico while the problem is being examined.

Racing will be held Wednesday through Sunday for the first two weeks. The meet will end on a Friday, Aug. 24, after which racing will move to the state fair at Timonium.

The richest race of the meet, the $125,000 Straight Deal Breeders' Cup Stakes, will be held on Aug. 18. The Straight Deal is for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

Problems with Laurel's grandstand are the latest in a series of setbacks for Maryland racing. Earlier this year, legislators declined to renew a $10 million purse subsidy for the industry, and racing officials cut back stakes purses as a result.

The MJC normally uses Pimlico sparingly during the year because of the poor condition of its grandstand and barn area. Additionally, Pimlico's turf course is typically more fragile than Laurel's track during the summer.

Because of the change of the dates, Pimlico will play host to the Maryland Million this year for the first time, on Oct. 13. The Million is the state's second biggest day of racing, behind Preakness Stakes Day, which is also held at Pimlico.