08/20/2014 12:21PM

Shorter Timonium meet should help races fill

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Hugh McMahon was the leading trainer at the 2013 Timonium meet with 9 wins.

Racing will return to the Maryland State Fair on Friday as Timonium will begin a seven-day meet over its five-furlong track.

This will be the first racing in the state since Pimlico concluded June 7. When Timonium ends Sept. 1, racing will shift to Laurel Park on Friday, Sept. 5, and continue through the end of the year.

Racing at the Timonium fairgrounds dates to 1887. The current grandstand was built in 1958, and the track was lengthened from a half-mile in 1974.

Last year’s Timonium meet was extended to 10 days when the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association board agreed to fund an additional three programs. Racing this year will be held Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then Friday through Monday over Labor Day weekend.

“Last year, the races were difficult to fill because we ran 10 days straight,” said director of racing Georganne Hale. “It would be different if you spread the 10 days out over three weekends because people would have a chance to run back, but the 10 straight days last year were tough because of the horse population.”

Hale expects an easier time this year. Not only will the meet be shorter, but Maryland horsemen had fewer racing options this summer after the Colonial Downs meet in Virginia was canceled due to a bitter standoff between the track and horsemen over racing dates.

“The horsemen are excited to be back racing in Maryland after having to travel to different tracks all summer,” Hale said. “We’ll have nine races on opening day and 10 on Saturday.”

Purses at Timonium will average approximately $150,000 per day, according to Hale, the same as last year. Horses bred in Maryland will earn an additional statebred bonus of 17.5 percent. In 2012, purses at Timonium averaged $100,000 per day as casinos in the state were just beginning to take hold.

Maiden-race purses in the condition book are $30,000, and allowance and optional-claiming races have purses of $31,000 or $32,000. Restricted $5,000 claiming races will run for $12,000 to $13,000, and $18,000 claimers will race for $19,000.

A total of 69 horses are entered for opening day, an average of 7.7 horses per race. The card has two first-level allowance races, a maiden race for 2-year-old fillies, and a maiden race for 3-year-olds and up.

A $10,000 trainers’ bonus will be up for grabs. The winners will be determined by a points system that credits horsemen for firsts, seconds, thirds, and starters at the meet. The winner will receive $4,000, and second, third, and fourth will be worth $3,000, $2,000, and $1,000.

Last year’s leading trainers by wins were Hugh McMahon (9) and Scott Lake (5). They each have one horse entered Friday.

Charles Frock leads all trainers with four opening-day entrants. Kevin Patterson, who is third in the Charles Town standings, and Hamilton Smith each have three.

The leading riders by wins last year were J.D. Acosta (16) and Travis Dunkelberger (10). Dunkelberger led the Timonium standings in 2012. Acosta, who leads the Charles Town standings, has six Friday mounts; Dunkelberger has two.

Also riding on opening day are Gerald Almodavar, who is second in the Charles Town standings, and Victor Carrasco, who finished second in the Pimlico standings.