Snow forces Laurel to alter schedule


What began as a major three-day weekend of stakes races turned into a three-stakes race day at Laurel Park after snow and the threat of it forced the cancellation of racing yesterday and today.

Even the three stakes bunched together tomorrow could be in jeopardy depending on when the storm departs. Racing officials are hoping the snow, no matter how much falls, stops in time for them to clear and prepare the track by 12:40 p.m. post time.

"We anticipate being open for business on Monday," Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said yesterday.

He said that when he and other officials canceled racing yesterday, the forecast called for snow throughout the day. If they had run the races and snow had gotten into the track and then frozen, he said, they could have lost use of the track for several days.

"It really was a no-brainer," Raffetto said. "Once you put moisture in the track and it freezes, it creates myriad problems. We could have totally destroyed ourselves for the near future."

He said that losing two days of wagering on such a highly anticipated weekend "is crushing to us. We can have an outstanding Monday, but you can't make up that kind of loss."

The $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap, featuring the popular Xtra Heat, was supposed to take place yesterday. The 5-year-old mare based at Laurel could set the record for most stakes wins by a filly or mare. She is tied at 24 with Susan's Girl, a three-time champion from the 1970s.

The $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap was scheduled for today. And the $200,000 General George Handicap was the featured race tomorrow. Now, the General George will be the ninth race tomorrow, the Barbara Fritchie the 10th and the Campbell the 11th.

The amateur boxing matches scheduled yesterday at Laurel - "Rumble at the Races" - were rescheduled for next Sunday. The Xtra Heat bobblehead giveaway will take place tomorrow as planned. Admissions workers will stamp patrons' hands, limiting each person to one bobblehead.

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