How do you tell an owner that he lost a race because his horse stepped on a goose?
That's the unlikely scenario that occurred at Laurel Park yesterday when Lizzie of Live Oak, nearing contention about halfway through the $20,500 feature, ran into a flock of geese that had wandered onto the track's turf course.
These are not the graceful flamingos of Hialeah Park, but a band of fat Canada geese that normally hang near the infield pond and are usually content to stay there.
But yesterday, hidden from the stewards' view by an infield willow tree, about a dozen of them had strolled onto the course near the five-eighths pole. When the field of seven fillies and mares barreled around the clubhouse turn, that's what confronted some wide-eyed jockeys.
"I thought there must be 50 of them. I couldn't steer away. So I aimed right for them, thinking that might scare them away," said Mark Johnston, who rode Lizzie of Live Oak, the second choice. "But that didn't happen. The geese just stayed there."
The entire field swept through the geese, but it appeared Johnston and "Lizzie" were the only ones to hurdle, and then step on, a goose.
"First we thought she had jumped something. Then we thought she had broken down," said trainer Frannie Campitelli. "It turned out later that she had actually hit, and then stepped on, a goose."
Lizzie of Live Oak dropped back about five lengths, then rallied again and finished third, beaten by 1 1/4 lengths by Oh Nonsense and Simply Wild.
"No doubt about it, it cost us the race," said Johnston.
"There are 1,001 ways to lose a race," added Campitelli. "Now, I guess there's 1,002."
As for the goose, it appeared to be largely unscathed.
It's uncertain if the incident will prompt goose patrols or provoke other measures to fence in the wandering fowl.
Casino set to run Rosecroft
An agreement should be reached over the weekend that spells out the responsibilities and fees that will be charged by the Bally Entertainment Corp. when it takes over management of Rosecroft and Delmarva raceways late next week.
"We're in the process of getting that document ready now and should have it completed on Monday," said Charles Lockhart, executive vice president of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners' Association, the horsemen's group that is buying the two harness tracks with financial and managerial guidance from Bally.
Bally will not only manage the tracks for the horsemen, but is lending the organization $10.6 million to buy them from the current owners, Colt Enterprises, Inc.
Originally, $6.6 million was being borrowed from First National Bank of Maryland to complete the deal, but Bally offered better terms than the bank, resulting in savings of about $500,000, Lockhart said.
On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means committee will hold a hearing in Annapolis to learn details of the deal. On Thursday, the Maryland Racing Commission is expected to transfer Colt's license to Cloverleaf. Settlement will take place in the offices of a Baltimore law firm.
"Once closure is made, we're immediately responsible for running the tracks," Lockhart said. "Bally will move right in with some of their personnel. But, initially, current management will stay in place."