08/21/2013 1:27PM

Timonium: Longer meet offers higher purses


Tiny, old Timonium, the last bastion of Thoroughbred racing at any fair east of the Mississippi River, got a big boost from Maryland horsemen that will enable the half-mile track that operates in conjunction with the Maryland State Fair to expand to 10 days and offer higher purses.

By a 6-3 vote two months ago, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association agreed to spend $600,000 from its purse account to bolster Timonium’s racing program. The biggest chunk of the horsemen’s association’s money – $450,000 – will go toward $150,000 worth of purses daily for three extra days of racing. The remaining $150,000 is earmarked for the State Fair to absorb the expenses of the expanded meet. Last year, purses at Timonium averaged $136,000 a day.

Timonium, which ran its first meet in September 1887, will be open nearly nonstop from Friday through Labor Day. The lone dark day will be next Tuesday. Typically, there will be nine races, with a first post time of 1:05 p.m. Eastern. Ten-race programs are scheduled for the two Saturdays of the meet and on closing day.

Although there are no stakes, Maryland horsemen will be racing for bigger purses. Maiden special weight races, for example, were boosted from $24,500 last year to $31,000, a 22-percent increase. Purses for a first-level allowance climbed from $26,460 to $31,000, while $5,000 claimers who competed for an $11,000 purse in 2012 will now run for $13,000.

The horsemen’s group also donated $5,000 towards a $10,000 bonus that willbe split among the meet’s top four trainers. Last year, Hugh McMahon and Jamie Ness tied for leading trainer honors with five wins. But if you’re paying attention to longer-term trends, Dane Kobiskie is the trainer to closely watch. Kobiskie was Timonium’s top trainer for three straight years (2009-2011), winning with 20 of 53 starters (38 percent) during that stretch. Last summer, however, Kobiskie was a nonfactor, going 0 for 2.

On opening day, Kobiskie has two maidens entered, Lemon Cookie (race 4) and Meant Every Tear (race 6). Ness also has two horses, Superstitious Love (race 5) and Maxine’s Pride (race 7).

McMahon’s lone scheduled starter is Ellipse in the featured eighth race, a first-level allowance at four furlongs. Although winless in his last five starts, Ellipse was beaten 1 1/4 lengths or less in four of those races, all short sprints.

Travis Dunkelberger, the leading rider at the 2012 meet with 10 victories, is named on three mounts Friday. His challengers for top honors include fellow Charles Town jockey J.D. Acosta, who finished first or second in the Timonium standings five times between 2006 and 2011. He tied for fifth with three wins last year.