New York invader Daimon has been installed as the 3-1 favorite by track oddsmaker Eric Johnston to win tomorrow's $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Race Course.
The 7-year-old mare, trained by Hall of Fame conditioner H. Allen Jerkens, is the most lightly regarded of a trio of distaff runners that Jerkens nominated to the race. But he did not enter high weight Raise Heck, who probably will start at Aqueduct next weekend in the Correction Handicap, and Classy Mirage, who won yesterday's feature at Gulfstream Park.
Although the Fritchie drew a dozen starters -- three more than last year -- none of the entrants is a graded stakes winner and no big-name jockeys, such as Chris McCarron, Laffit Pincay Jr. or Chris Antley, who competed in 1993, are listed to ride.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't get the two high weights [Raise Heck and California mare Arches of Gold], but it's still a competitive race," said Lenny Hale, vice president of racing at Laurel/Pimlico.
A third of the field is composed of out-of-town starters, three from New York (Daimon, Fleeting Ways, Imah) and one from Florida (Tenacious Tiffany). The rest are Maryland-based fillies and mares, all of which are local stakes winners except 20-1 long shot Known As Nancy.
Johnston said that Daimon, who will be ridden by Rafael Mojica, "has speed and can carry it. I fully expect her to run back to her two seven-eighths [of a mile] victories last spring at Aqueduct and Hialeah." In her last start, Daimon won Aqueduct's Berlo Handicap by 5 1/2 lengths over Strategic Reward.
Local runners Buffels and Sentimentaldiamond are the second and third choices, respectively. Mark Johnston is named to ride both horses, but will opt for Buffels, said Donald Barr, the trainer of Sentimentaldiamond. Last night Barr said that he still was looking for a jockey.
New Laurel starter
Jimmy Havens, who has been the starter at Delaware Park for the past four years, has replaced Eric Blind as the starter at Laurel/Pimlico.
Havens, 59, began starting the Laurel races yesterday and brought two Delaware assistants, Bruce Wagner and Robert Syndor, with him.
Havens said he began working on starting gates about 30 years ago and also served as grass course superintendent at Delaware for the last 10 years.
He will commute to Maryland from his home in Bear, Del.
Blind has been reassigned to a job in the racing secretary's office and worked as a patrol judge yesterday.
Laurel/Pimlico general manager John E. Mooney said that there will be other changes in many departments "as we go along."
New Virginia site schedule
Don Price, executive director of the Virginia Racing Commission, said that since three new members have been named to his board, he has revised visits and hearings to proposed racetrack sites.
He listed the following schedule yesterday:
* March 9: Prince William, Loudoun counties.
* March 14: Virginia Beach, Portsmouth.
* March 16: New Kent County.
Price said the commission will meet March 1 and probably will vote at the meeting whether or not to permit an amendment made by Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis to move the site of his proposed track to a new location in Loudoun County.
NOTES: A full field of 14 horses is expected for Monday's $200,000 General George Stakes, but California-based Mister Jolie won't be among them. His trainer, Neil Drysdale, said the horse came back "dull" after a workout and won't be shipped to Maryland. . . . Business at the new Colonial Beach, Va., OTB parlor is climbing each day. At the opening on Tuesday, a total of $25,861 was bet on thoroughbred races. On Wednesday, without a live Laurel card, the figure increased to $26,870. Yesterday the handle exceeded $30,000. Nightly harness bets are running between $6,000 and $9,000.