A turbulent 20-day summer-fall meeting ended yesterday at Pimlico Race Course with management pleased with the financial harvests of commingling, but eager to overcome computer problems that have generated criticism.
"This was really the first meet where we entered into the racetrack world of the next century," said Pimlico general manager Jim Mango. "We have taken in 10 commingled pool sites and that is increasing our handle tremendously."
The total live handle from the corresponding meeting last year dipped 9.8 percent at Pimlico and the Laurel simulcast site -- to an average of $1,318,156.
But with an average commingling handle of $507,435 on 19 of the 20 days factored in (one program of commingling was canceled due to a malfunction), the overall business picture has brightened.
The commingling portion of the handle amounts to 28 percent of the combined pool. The originating track receives a small percentage from each commingling output for exporting the product.
"This has allowed bettors to have pools that are comparable to larger jurisdictions, and odds that are less subject to change by large wagers," said Mango.
"Then, there is the positive impact on racing programs and purses. The more money for purses, the better racing. The whole thing is like a ball going down a hill."
For growth comparison, the average commingling handle during the Laurel summer meeting was $196,699 and the average combined handle almost $200,000 less daily.
But the brief run at Pimlico was not bereft of problems.
A computer breakdown Sept. 13 prevented patrons from cashing in winning tickets for the last four races on that day's card. The payoffs were not announced until the next day, and payoffs were made two days after the race.
In addition, computer glitches at another track on Sept. 12 caused a delay in determining results of the first National Pic-6, an electronic mass betting pool.
"There were some mistakes," said Mango. "You can't have the benefits of all this without some pain. But they are happening in New Jersey, Florida, anywhere this is being done.
"We had some problems with the presentation of the Pic-6 at first. We tried to do too much. But we hope the problems are behind us and we're optimistic."
Edgar Prado won the fifth race on Hopeful Angel yesterday and completed the meet with 24 winners to take his fifth Pimlico riding title, seventh overall in Maryland.
Four winners behind Prado was Michael Luzzi and Joe Rocco was third with 19. Rocco had the best winning percentage among the regular riders, 21 percent.
The first two finishers in last year's Budweiser International, Leariva and Sillery, will arrive Tuesday from France to prepare for the 1992 race on Oct. 17.
Leariva underwent a two-month recovery from a cracked pastern bone before running last Sunday in a Group II race in Paris, finishing fifth.