Despite Maryland racing's problems, the figures for the long winter session at Laurel Park revealed a decided upturn yesterday.
"We're extremely pleased," said Jim Mango, chief administrative officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. "Despite losing two days to snow, we were up 10 percent [in betting handle] in the last couple of weeks and about 6 percent overall."
All of the numbers for the Pimlico-at-Laurel session (25 days of live racing, five simulcast days) that ended the meeting showed significant gains.
Particularly impressive was a rise of more than $2 million in the total Maryland handle to almost $50 million and a gain of nearly $5 million on the co-mingled (out-of-staters betting on Maryland events).
"Actually, we've been doing very well since we left Virginia last year," said Mango. "And the live race handle had been dropping. But we attribute the gains to the large amount of horses we had available."
The only decline appeared in total attendance, which fell by slightly more than 100 fans a day over the session that began last Oct. 14.
It means fewer people are appearing at the Maryland outlets, but they are wagering more.
As usual, Edgar Prado captured the Laurel jockey crown with 197 winners, easily outdistancing co-runners-up Mario Pino and Mark Johnston at 103.
The training title went to Hamilton Smith (51). Tied for second were King Leatherbury, Ferris Allen and Dale Capuano.
Prado has 87 victories this year.
Synchronized holds on
Synchronized was hard pressed, but held off a late charge by Mysterious Jak to capture Laurel's final feature, the $53,050 Wide Country Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles.
Second choice of the wagering public, George Yemec's filly earned $31,830 to increase her lifetime bankroll to nearly $135,000. She has now won four straight starts.
"She acts as if she can run all day," said victorious jockey Jose Espinoza. "When we made the lead turning for home, she acted a little confused, but I just sat there patiently and we got straightened out. She went back to running when the other horse [favorite Mysterious Jak] came up inside."
A Canadian-bred horse, Synchronized shipped well and was in an ideal position -- near the front in a route race.
"This is a really honest filly, the most honest I've ever trained," said Martin Wansborough. "Her heart is as big as a house."
Special draws talent
A number of leading handicap horses are pointing toward the Grade I, $500,000 Pimlico Special on May 8.
Included are Free House, Precocity and Real Quiet. But the status of Silver Charm was clouded yesterday by an out-of-the-money performance in the Dubai World Cup.
Free House is training in Southern California after winning the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap. Precocity beat Real Quiet in the New Orleans Handicap. It was Real Quiet's first start since his narrow loss to Victory Gallop in the Belmont Stakes.
Apprentice Joe Rocco Jr. scored his first victory in Maryland aboard Bad Birdie in the first race, winning by 10 1/4 lengths. Then, he closed out the Laurel meet with a come-from-behind win on Classic General. Scott Regan saddled both mounts. Tommy Lee, retiring overseer of the jockeys' room, presented the trophy to the winning connections for Synchronized in the feature race. Jockey Rick Wilson took off his mounts yesterday because of sickness.
Pub Date: 3/29/99