Wind knocks Laurel card off course
After 2 races, jockeys yield to weather, call it quits
The wind was so strong at Laurel Race Course yesterday that it almost blew the jockeys off the horses.
After combating wind and rain for two races, the riders called it quits.
"I asked them after the first race, how it was out there. And they, replied, 'Brutal,' said Lenny Hale, Laurel's vice president of racing.
"Not only were they drenched when they got to the starting gate, it was also cold."
The jockeys agreed to ride one more race and management cut out the post parade.
"But the wind got stronger. Just as I was trying to convince them to ride the third, the wind blew a screen door off the jock's room. So, it was just impossible," Hale added.
Tim Yelton, director of operations for Turf Sciences, Inc., which charts horses' speed during races, clocked the wind at 41 miles per hour.
The horses were going quite a bit slower.
"It was tough on the speed horses. They were running against the wind on the backstretch," said Kenny McMillan, rider of Rosalta, who won the first race. "I came from off the pace. When I went wide into the stretch, the wind blew up behind my horse and really helped push us into the lead. Then when I stood up after the wire, I thought I was going to get blown off."
Mark Johnston, who finished fourth on Ah Fifi in the second race, said "it wasn't the rain or the track, which was safe. It was just too windy. The horses were all over the place, and they were bad in the gate. It was an unanimous decision [to discontinue riding]."
It was the fourth cancellation at Laurel this winter, but the first while a card was in progress. Last month the track lost three days because of snow.
Track president Joe De Francis and general manager Jim Mango were at Pimlico yesterday involved in labor negotiations when the cancellation occurred.
The seventh and eighth races from yesterday's card have been rescheduled as the seventh and eighth races tomorrow.
Maryland tracks are moving closer to offering full cards of electronic races from tracks such as Gulfstream, Oaklawn and Santa Anita parks.
By a vote of 114-7, the House of Delegates passed a bill yesterday that allows the state's thoroughbred and harness tracks to commingle betting pools with out-of-state tracks on full-card simulcasts. A similar measure passed the Senate a couple of weeks ago.
"The bill [considered on an emergency basis] now goes to the Governor. We hope he signs it next week," Laurel-Pimlico operator De Francis said.
Leading Laurel jockey Edgar Prado is in Japan riding in an international jockeys' competition and is expected to be gone about 10 days. . . . Trainer Al Dearstyn is expected to be released today from Calvert General Hospital in Prince Frederick. He had a heart attack and mild stroke several weeks ago, but said he plans to be back at the track shortly. . . . New York owner Robert Perez is sending five more horses from Aqueduct to add to his Laurel division, which is trained by Zeke Rolon.