Joe De Francis is sticking to his 3 p.m. post time on Fridays when Pimlico Race Course opens this week for live racing.
The meet begins on Tuesday and runs through Aug. 25. Then, between Aug. 26 and Sept. 4, racing shifts for 10 days to the Maryland State Fair at Timonium. Pimlico will reopen for one final 1995 stand from Sept. 5 to Oct. 2.
Post time on all days, except Friday, is 1 p.m.
De Francis has been pleased with the response to the Friday "happy hour" format that he and his sister, track co-owner Karin De Francis, who runs Pimlico/Laurel's customer service department, instituted earlier this summer.
On Friday afternoons between 5:30 and 7:30, drink specials and a free buffet were offered on the second floor of the Laurel clubhouse, usually attracting between 600 and 800 fans, horsemen and employees.
During the rest of the summer, the "happy hour" format will include reduced food and drink prices at all bars and concession stands between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Pimlico. At Laurel, which will be open only for simulcasts, a complimentary buffet and drink specials will be offered in the Silks Cafe.
It's a scaled-down version of a similar Friday format offered at Arlington International Racecourse in Chicago and an attempt by Pimlico/Laurel management to offer something slightly different during the summer months.
During the first part of the Pimlico live meet, the track will offer 10 stakes in 23 days.
Clever Clever, a 5-furlong turf specialist, is among the nominees for Tuesday's opener, the $50,000-added Park Heights Stakes.
Pimlico closes for winter
Again, De Francis plans to close the stable area and racetrack at Pimlico for training from December through February, although the grandstand will remain open for simulcasting.
Trainers at Pimlico will be assigned stalls at Laurel and the Bowie Training Center.
At the last board meeting of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the Pimlico horsemen requested that their winter stall assignments be made when Laurel opens its fall-winter meet Oct. 3.
The idea is to move outfits going to Florida for the winter, and aren't supporting Maryland racing year-round, out of Laurel and Bowie at that time.
However, Lenny Hale, Pimlico/Laurel's vice president of racing, said that's not going to happen.
"As soon as there's room at Laurel and Bowie [and outfits there ship south for the winter], then the Pimlico trainers can move in," Hale said. But that's not likely to occur until mid or late November.
Timonium's purse largess
Since Timonium has tied into the Maryland mile track's simulcasting network, the half-mile track expects to offer about $900,000 in purse money at its coming 10-day meet.
About $810,000, or approximately $81,000 a day, will be offered in overnight purses, putting it slightly ahead of the $76,500 daily purse distribution offered at Delaware Park.
The other $90,000 will be split equally among three overnight stakes.
These include the $30,000 Bobby Hale Stakes, 2-year-old colts and geldings at 6 1/2 furlongs, Aug. 26; the $30,000 Linkage Stakes, 3-year-old colts and geldings at 6 1/2 furlongs, Aug. 27; and the $30,000 Winning Colors Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, 6 1/2 furlongs, Sept. 4.
In addition, Timonium will offer two Maryland-bred stakes: the $40,000 Alma North Stakes for 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, at 1 1/16 miles, Sept. 2; and the Taking Risks Stakes, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles, Sept. 3.
Georgeanne Hale is racing secretary at the Timonium meet.
'Team Joan' at the races
For about 20 years, Joan Wilson was a fixture on the horse show circuit, exhibiting such champions as Posh, Peterbilt Special, Shine My Shoes and Princeton.
Now, the Laurel horsewoman is putting her efforts into developing a name for herself at the racetrack and showing that the little guy still has a place at the Maryland tracks.
Over the past year or two, Wilson has gotten started by purchasing other people's castoffs such as Prospect of Praise for $1 and Cullen for $1,000 and holding them together to win races.
The most she's paid for a horse is $3,500 for the 5-year-old mare, Widow's War, who has won three races and earned about $16,000.
The hard-knocking mare's reward? "I'm only going to race her two or three more times and then breed her," Wilson said. "Next spring she goes to Allen's Prospect."
Wilson credits her success to her "team," jockey Donnie Miller Jr. and exercise rider Frank Calogero.
On the agenda this week
An all-star lineup of Maryland horse breeders and owners will testify in Easton tomorrow about possible effects of casino gaming on the horse racing industry at the first hearing of the Tydings Commission.
The task force, headed by former Sen. Joseph D. Tydings, was formed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening to study the pros and cons of initiating casino gaming in Maryland.
The horse people expected to testify include Alaire duPont, Billy Boniface, Cynthia McGinnes, Josh Pons, Baird Brittingham and Amanda Tuttle.
On Thursday, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations meets in Chicago to discuss its future.
The Maryland Racing Commission is taking a hard line on horse-abuse cases. The board has sent out a directive stating that any instances involving cruelty to horses will result directly with a hearing before the commission instead of the stewards. Most recently, a groom at Laurel was suspended for seven days for severely kicking a thoroughbred. . . . Among the dozen runners in Dick Dutrow's New York string are four horses owned by Herb and Arlene Kushner of Rockville. Dutrow paticularly likes a Time For A Change, a 2-year-old filly that the Kushners bred but have yet to start. Dutrow has shipped De Francis Dash winner Lite the Fuse to Saratoga. . . Pat Brackett, the racing commission veterinarian who was run over by a loose horse during Preakness week, is continuing to recover at her home in Crofton. She is wearing a neck brace that has been successful in stabilizing two displaced vertebrae. She hopes to return to work next month. . . . Monkton trainer Tom Voss got off to a winning start on opening day at Saratoga. He saddled jumper John's Call to win at 1 1/8 miles. . . . 1994 Eclipse Award-winning sprinter and De Francis Dash winner Cherokee Run has been retired to stud at Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Ky., where he joins another 1994 champion, Holy Bull.