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Sources: Chuckas will lead Jockey Club

The Baltimore Sun

Former Rosecroft Raceway executive Tom Chuckas Jr. will take over the leadership of the Maryland Jockey Club, several industry sources confirmed yesterday. An official announcement will be made next week.

"Tom is an experienced manager," Maryland Racing Commission member John McDaniel said. "He has been in horse racing for years. And I think he has done a lot with small resources.

"I think he has the business experience. I'm not sure he has experience in thoroughbred racing, but that might not be necessary. In all our dealings, Tom has always been very cooperative. And when we were working on the 15-year agreement between the thoroughbred and standardbred industries, he was very helpful."

McDaniel said commission members were made aware of the change several days ago. Though Magna Entertainment Corp., as of yesterday afternoon, had not asked for time on the agenda for the commission's Tuesday meeting, he said he anticipated a formal introduction then.

Yesterday, Chuckas, who will replace MJC president and general manager Chris Dragone, declined to comment.

Dragone, who said his only focus this week is Saturday's Preakness, arrived at the MJC in November after the firing of then-president and chief operating officer Lou Raffetto.

Pumping dirt

Nick Zito missed the draw in order to bed down Stevil, who arrived late yesterday at the Preakness barn. But that didn't stop him from stating his view on dirt tracks.

"My purpose ... is to protect the dirt surfaces as good as we can," he said.

Zito made the point that he and his wife, Kim, work daily with a horse shelter to rescue horses and save horses' lives. "Because I speak out on synthetic surfaces, it's not because we never want to protect horses," he said.

Zito, who believes dirt tracks are still the best when properly maintained and cared for, said Oaklawn Park spent $100,000 on resurfacing its dirt track and installing an on-site soil analysis lab, and that the result has been a 30 percent reduction in breakdowns from a year ago.

"If [Oaklawn] can do something like that with that least [amount of] money, there should be more research into dirt," Zito said.

A good breath

Giant Moon breezed a half mile a little faster than Richard Schosberg had wanted, but the trainer said the time of 47.77 seconds wasn't a problem.

"It's not like he worked [five furlongs] in :57," Schosberg said. " ... It's basically to open their lungs up and sharpen them up, and I think that's what we did. He's super. ... He's very, very sharp right now."

Et cetera

Trainer Rick Dutrow said he has scratched plans to breeze Big Brown for the Preakness late this week and will simply gallop the horse up to the race. ... The Preakness hasn't run yet, but already the Belmont Stakes is shaping up. Officials there report Kentucky Derby competitors Denis of Cork, Tale of Ekati and Anak Nakal are expected to run in the June 7 race.

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