Laurel opens its doors with later post time; Daily start set for 1:30 in bid to build numbers

Laurel Park's summer racing meet will open today at 1:30 p.m., a later post time intended to make bettors more willing to spend their afternoons and evenings at the track.

The first race will be at 1:30 p.m. daily, except in July and August, when the Friday cards will start at 4 p.m.


Racing will continue at Laurel through Aug. 25 before Timonium launches its 10-day stand in conjunction with the Maryland State Fair.

The Grade I, $300,000 De Francis Dash, second only to the Breeders' Cup Sprint in financial value and prestige for the thoroughbred distance, will highlight the Laurel meet. It will be held July 15.


Mondays will be dark and Tuesdays will be simulcast-only days through July 25. The only exception will be Independence Day week, when live racing will be held on Monday and Tuesday and simulcasts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Maryland Jockey Club officials are counting on the later post times to bolster a live handle that has sagged by more than $11 million from 1999 figures through the first half of the year.

"We experimented with a later post at Pimlico and it seemed to have some favorable results," said chief operations officer Jim Mango.

"This is consistent with what's happening with other tracks around the country."

Betting on the live program increased significantly in June at Pimlico, as did out-of-state wagering on Maryland racing.

The six-furlong De Francis, named in honor of Frank De Francis, who resuscitated Maryland racing in the 1980s, traditionally attracts the nation's top sprinters for the feature race of their summer.

Possibilities abound, including defending champion Yes It's True from the D. Wayne Lukas barn, California standouts Big Jag and Kona Gold, Carter Handicap-winner Brutally Frank, True North Handicap-winner Intidab, and Riva Ridge Stakes champion Trippi, a 3-year-old.

There should be a modicum of local interest, too, with the speedy Just Call Me Carl and Maryland Breeders' Cup winner Dr. Max also among the eligibles.


In all, Laurel will hold 10 stakes races carrying a minimum of a $75,000 purse and will conduct Summerfest on July 29 with the accent on activities for children.

Opening day will include free grandstand admission, a free live-card program and $1 food and beverage concessions (excluding alcohol) for all patrons.

The first feature will be the $40,000 Chase Me Stakes.