Handle takes its toll at Timonium Lack of simulcasts cited


The figures are eye-opening.

Through the first six programs of its annual 10-day race meeting at the Maryland State Fair, Timonium Race Course is suffering a heavy drop-off in business.

The daily handle is down an average of $137,157 and the track has not yet challenged the corresponding figure from last summer on any day.

"We're all in shock right now," said track general manager Howard M. "Max" Mosner. "We made an error in judgment, assuming that people who come here wanted live racing.

"The fact is, a lot of people are not coming because there is little simulcasting [of full cards from out-of-state tracks]. They are now used to not going for just the live racing. None of us felt that would be the case."

Maryland's mile tracks have been simulcasting entire programs from New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, California and Illinois since late April. At Timonium, one or two simulcast races are incorporated into each card.

Timonium is expected to petition the state legislature next year to change the current law, which permits full-card simulcasting and commingled pools only at the mile thoroughbred and harness tracks.

"I'm kind of upset with myself, that I didn't anticipate this," said Mosner. "We have to ride this one [meeting] out, step back and re-evaluate."

The signs began on opening day Saturday when the handle fell a whopping $211,372. But it was a hot and humid afternoon, and officials were hoping for better when the weather moderated.

It didn't happen, although the economic picture is slightly better than it was last year, when the track was booming.

The quality of the horses on the live programs hasn'tchanged much, there are decently sized fields and no major spills have occurred at the tricky five-eighths mile oval.

"The number of horses we have is more than adequate and we have great reports on the track's condition," said Mosner.

Timonium will have a long time between meets to mull the considerations for next summer:

* The cost of the technology for full-card programs.

* The track's proximity to Pimlico, which could harm its chances of becoming an OTB outlet.

* Whether all the changes are worth the investment for a short meeting.

"We may not be able to be an OTB site because we're within 35 miles of Pimlico," said Mosner. "And we have to decide whether all this is worthwhile just for 10 days. There are a lot of things to consider."

NOTES: A race for the jockey's title has developed. Apprentice Austreberto Salazar (eight winners) was shut out yesterday and shares the lead with fellow bug rider Walter Cullum (who had two winners) and veteran Alberto Delgado (who had one). . . . Third choice Shuffle Off went wire to wire for 1 1/16 miles under jockey James Thornton to capture yesterday's feature, a $7,500 allowance race. Favored Riskey Red rallied to finish second for the fourth straight start. . . . Keith Feustle of Hampstead, a chart-caller for Equibase, replaced regular track announcer Dick Woolley for the call of the fourth race. It was a first for Feustle.

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