Updated on 09/15/2011 12:58PM

Relocated Laurel meet opens


A change in venue awaits Maryland racing fans Thursday when Laurel Park's fall meet opens at Pimlico.

The Maryland Jockey Club was forced to relocate Laurel Park's 24-day meet to Pimlico because of repairs needed in Laurel Park's grandstand, where chunks of glass were breaking free from the building's glass enclosure.

Lou Raffetto Jr., the MJC's chief operating officer, said he is "cautiously optimistic" Laurel Park's structural problems will be corrected and the track will reopen on Oct. 17 for the remainder of the year.

The move means that the Maryland Million, Laurel Park's signature event, will be run for only the second time in its 15-year history at Pimlico, on Oct. 13.

The Laurel Park meet at Pimlico runs through Oct. 13 and features 20 stakes, with at least one stakes scheduled for every Saturday during the stand.

Because of a 13-day meet held at Pimlico in August, Laurel Park's meet at Pimlico will consist of only four days of racing a week. Sundays will be dark until November, when racing is expected to resume at Laurel Park. By state law, the MJC must run 220 live racing cards a year.

Raffetto said that despite the change in location, he is hopeful Laurel Park's meet at Pimlico will serve as a a strong lead-in for the return to racing at Laurel Park.

"I think as we progress into the fall, the racing will get stronger and the horse flesh will be there," said Raffetto, who noted Maryland must compete with several tracks during the summer and early fall, including Delaware Park and The Meadowlands, which both close early in November.

"I'm hoping the caliber of racing is such that we see success from our wagering network in-state and across the country," he said.

The highlight of the fall meet is the Maryland Million, which offers more than $1 million in purses for horses sired by Maryland stallions. Eleven stakes are on the Maryland Million program, including the $200,000 Classic and eight other stakes, worth $100,000 apiece.

In an attempt to create a Preakness Day-like atmosphere, the MJC will open the Pimlico infield to the public on Maryland Million Day only. The infield charge will be $3 and includes musical entertainment.

"By utilizing the infield, it will be very much like the Preakness and should be a fun day for everybody," Raffetto said.

A nine-race card awaits fans on opening day. The feature is the $40,000 Contrary Rose Stakes, a six-furlong dirt race for fillies and mares. Eight entered the Contrary Rose, including trainer Michael Dickinson's solid entry of Classic Olympio and Lorline.

Dickinson is coming off a high-percentage meet at Pimlico's recently concluded 13-day summer stand, where he won four races from five starters.

Mario Pino, among the top 10 riders in the nation in wins, is named on both of Dickinson's horses.

A strong jockey colony is in place for the Laurel Park at Pimlico meet. In addition to Pino, Ramon Dominguez, the leading rider in the nation in wins, will be a regular at Pimlico this fall. Dominguez has already won three riding titles in Maryland this year, starting with Laurel Park's winter meet, followed by Pimlico's spring and summer meets. Rick Wilson and Mark Johnston, fan favorites because of their many successes in Maryland, also will be on hand.

Scott Lake, who tops the nation in wins among trainers, and Dale Capuano, third in wins, will have outfits at Pimlico. They will be joined by leading Maryland trainers Tony Dutrow, H. Graham Motion, and Hamilton Smith.

When racing resumes at Laurel in the fall, the $300,000 De Francis Memorial Dash, Laurel Park's only Grade 1, will be run on Nov. 17, along with five other stakes.


* RACING SCHEDULE: 24 days, Thursday through Oct. 13; dark Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, except for Columbus Day Oct. 8

* POST TIME: 1:05 p.m; 12:30 p.m. Oct. 13 Maryland Million Day

* ADMISSIONS: $3 grandstand and clubhouse; $3 infield on Oct. 13 Maryland Million Day

* PARKING: Free general and clubhouse parking

* HIGHLIGHTS: 16th annual Maryland Million

Oct. 13 - Eleven stakes worth $1.05 million; including $200,000 Maryland Million Classic.

* LOCATION: Hayward and Winner Avenues; four miles from Baltimore Beltway (Int. 695) in Baltimore, Md.

* SIMULCASTING: Mondays 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Tuesdays 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays to 2 a.m.

* PHONE: (410) 542-9400

* INTERNET: www.marylandracing.com