Take heart, horse racing fans who thought the Pimlico Special wasn't so special this year when it was run side-by-side with the Preakness.
The 1994 Special is reclaiming its old date and will be run on May 14, a week before the May 21 Preakness.
The race grudgingly was moved last spring both by track operator Joe De Francis and state horsemen to accommodate (( the wishes of ABC-TV, which telecast the Preakness and wanted the Special to fill up air time on its Triple Crown show. The move was also made at the request of the officials of the now-defunct American Championship Racing Series, who wanted the race televised.
But the move proved to be a financial disaster both for the track and state horsemen. The Pimlico Distaff replaced the Special on the preceding Saturday and the handle was down by more than $1 million and cost the horsemen's purse account several
hundred thousand dollars. The financial loss was supposed to be compensated by the Special's exposure on national TV, but no one is buying that line of reasoning any longer, especially with a current purse overpayment of $1.2 million.
Horsemen have informed management that they won't allow the Special to share the Preakness card again and De Francis has agreed "barring any unforeseen circumstances," he said.
ABC has yet to be informed of the move and the situation could get sticky since the network has the race under contract for another year.
But if ABC cancels the Special coverage, it is bound to be picked up by ESPN on its "Racing Across America" show.
This dispute has got to end
Had enough of Loni and Burt in the tabloids and Bobby and Tom and Joe and Marty in the local press?
Join the throngs who hope that now that Tom and Bob Manfuso have triggered the Russian Roulette clause (that allows them to sell their interest in or possibly buy total control of Laurel and Pimlico), a settlement will be reached between the Manfusos and the De Francises. Their personal vendetta, which has been damaging to Maryland racing, has got to end.
Coming on the heels of the most successful Maryland Million ever and the coming Turf Festival and Horse Fair, it would be nice to concentrate once again on racing and horseflesh.
But there are bound to be many twists and turns before the Jan. 7 deadline when De Francis must decide if he is going to purchase the Manfuso stock or allow himself to be bought out.
Now that the Manfusos have resigned from their positions on the board of directors of the Maryland Jockey Club -- which has its own well-publicized plan to form a Maryland-Virginia racing circuit -- they are free to align themselves with rival groups in the bid to gain a license in the Old Dominion. They could use the money, derived from their sale of Laurel/Pimlico stock, to help build a Virginia track that competes against Maryland. Or if they are successful in acquiring Laurel/Pimlico, they could forge their own alliance with a Virginia group to incorporate into their own interstate circuit.
No one, of course, publicly is saying that this is going to happen, but it is a possibility.
The battle could go down to the wire.
Horse fair stars at Laurel
The top four Grand Prix Jumping riders representing the United States in team and individual competition at the Washington International Horse Show at USAir Arena in Landover next week will have a pre-show competition at Laurel Race Course next Sunday.
The riders, who include Margie Goldstein and Mark Leone, will be part of the first International Turf Festival Horse Fair and will stage their competition on the Laurel turf course after the fourth race (about 2 p.m.).
Other events scheduled during Saturday and Sunday's races will be the appearance of ex-champion jockey Angel Cordero Jr. and his miniature horses; a parade of the packs of the Elkridge-Harford and Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds; jousting; Roman and trick riding; a demonstration by the Potomac Polo Club and a performance of Paso Fino horses.
In addition to the equine demonstrations, about 20 vendors will have tented booths in the Paddock Park area adjacent to the Laurel racing secretary's office.
The fair is patterned after the popular Belmont Park Horse Fair and is being co-ordinated by Phoebe Hayes, who runs the Belmont Fair for the New York Racing Association.
Jacobs working for Manfusos?
One of the ironies involved in the dispute between the Manfuso brothers and Joe De Francis and his minority partner, Marty Jacobs, who is executive vice president and chief counsel for Laurel/Pimlico, is that Jacobs could keep working for the Manfusos if they buy the tracks.
According to the stockholders agreement, executed four years ago, Jacobs is guaranteed a job for 10 years no matter who owns the racecourses. There is no stipulation for a buyout of his contract.
Jacobs had no comment last week about whether he would stay on.
Commission upholds stewards
At a hearing before the Maryland Racing Commission last week, the board unanimously upheld a stewards ruling that suspended jockey Tommy Turner for seven days and disqualified his mount, Exotic Sea, from a winning race at Laurel on June 13.
Turner claimed that his mount did not impede Larry Reynolds on runner-up Fast Frauline. But his claim was disallowed first by the stewards and then on appeal to the commissioners.
They're at it again
The Horsemen's Bloodstock Services sales company, which held its inaugural yearling auction at Laurel Race Course last month, is holding a second sale on Nov. 21, at the Timonium Fairgrounds.
About 175 horses of all ages have been catalogued for the sale, including five horses of racing age owned by HBS founder, Jeanne Vance.
Vance is selling her stakes-placed runners Lost Dutchman and Money Run, as well as the 3-year-old Seattle Slew filly, Aunt Hep, and another Seattle Slew offspring, Harry The Hat.
At the sale, there will be video monitors where sellers can show tapes of their horses in action at their own farms or on the track.
Two weeks later, the Fasig-Tipton Co. is holding its annual December Mixed Sale on Dec. 5 and 6 at Timonium.
Trainer Mary Eppler has obtained the services of New York jockey Jose Santos to ride Grab The Green on Saturday in the $250,000 All Along Stakes at Laurel. . . . Track management will keep certain areas of its grandstand open on Sunday nights to show the simulcast thoroughbred races from California. But, according to state law, no betting is allowed on flat runners after 6:15 p.m. The off-track sites are also telecasting the California races. . . . Trainer Vinnie Blengs, who has had one of his most successful years ever and has been a leading trainer in Maryland and at Saratoga, is moving his entire outfit to Florida this winter. -- Blengs leaves about Nov. 1 with 10 or 12 of his turf horses. Then his assistant Eddie Reyes will take the rest to Gulfstream Park a few weeks later. Last year Reyes stayed in Maryland during the winter. "He won 24 races, but after all the telephone calls and plane trips back and forth, we didn't make any money," Blengs said. J.W.Y. Martin Jr., president of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association, and past president King Leatherbury, have joined the review committee, chaired by racing commissioner C. Frank Hopkins, that is reviewing the Maryland-bred Fund program, which distributes about $4 million annually in breeders' subsidies.