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They're off for eight days at Timonium

Maryland racing shifts to the quaint Timonium track today for the annual meeting held in conjunction with the state fair.

For the third straight year, the stand will be limited to eight programs, the outgrowth of cutbacks in purse subsidies, and will feature only two stakes offering $50,000 each to Maryland-bred horses.

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Live racing will not be conducted Monday or Tuesday at a meet that concludes on Labor Day, but simulcast betting will be available at the track. Post time is 1 p.m. daily.

Travis Dunkelberger, who amassed an amazing 26 victories (including seven in one day) on seven cards in 2000, is expected to lead the jockey colony on hand in the absence of Ryan Fogelsonger, the defending riding champ at Timonium. Fogelsonger, the Eclipse Award winner as the nation's top apprentice last year, shifted his tack to California after Laurel Park's summer meet concluded yesterday.

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Dale Capuano returns to head the trainer brigade after amassing seven Timonium wins last summer.

"The first year we went to an eight-day format, we handled more money than we did in 10 the previous year," said Timonium general manager Howard "Max" Mosner. "Our goal was to race 10 this time, but that was reconsidered because of the economics of the situation. With the purse account not in good shape, that would mean cutting back on races and purses."

Live handle has declined in recent summers, but the overall handle has risen, thanks to simulcast wagering on tracks such as Saratoga in New York, Monmouth Park in New Jersey and Delaware Park, the three staples of the out-of-town network. Timonium plans to take a fourth track on certain days and stay open later today to allow people to bet on Saratoga's Travers Stakes.

Daily purse money will average approximately $127,500, including the stakes races, the Alma North on Aug. 30 and the Taking Risks on the final card. The vast majority of the runners are expected to be Maryland-based horses, because out-of-town entries have declined recently with the increased purse money (driven by slot machine revenue) being offered at nearby Charles Town (W.Va.) and Delaware Park.

Mosner said the $5,000 bonus to the top trainer -- formerly calculated by wins -- will be based on a point system this year, with five points being awarded to a horse that finishes first, three to a runner-up, two for third place and one for fourth.

NOTE: A raffle to benefit The Disabled Jockeys Fund and children of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks will be held Labor Day after the final race.

Tickets are $2 and may be purchased at the main grandstand entrance, the reserved seat booth on the second floor, the jockeys' room and in the grandstand seating areas.

Among the items to be raffled are autographed bobbleheads of Seabiscuit (signed by actor Tobey Maguire) and New York Yankees star Derek Jeter; a guitar signed by the Rolling Stones; a framed and autographed Eddie Murray game jersey; a Roberto Alomar New York Mets jersey, and a framed Masters embroidered rare house flag autographed by golfing greats including Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.


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