After five-week break live racing returns to Maryland on Thursday with an eight race card at Laurel Park. Opening day at Laurel will feature free admission, a complimentary live racing program, and $1 selected food and beverage concessions. First post is 1:05 p.m. The 22-day summer meet features eight stakes races headlined by the $150,000 Martha Washington Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday.

Jockey Mario Pino, who ranks fifth in the nation with 181 wins this year, enters the meet 42 victories shy of becoming 18th rider in the history of the sport to reach 5,000 wins. Mark Johnston is 41 wins away from 3,000 first place finishes. Only 101 jockeys have reached the 3,000-win plateau. Johnston ranks 41st in the country with 112 trips to the winners‚ circle in 2002.

As these two Maryland mainstays close in on career achievements, the Maryland Jockey Club plans to hold a contest, called Milestone Mania, for Premier Players who can correctly guess the day and race Pino and Johnston hit their respective milestones. Top prize is 250,000 Premier Player points, which is equivalent to a $2,500 voucher.

Other top riders in the Maryland colony include Horatio Karamanos, fresh off the Colonial Downs riding title, and Travis Dunkelberger. Both are in the top 30 in wins for the year. Other regular riders include Ramon Dominguez and Jeremy Rose, the second and fourth ranked jockeys in the nation based on victories. Both will ride at Laurel on Thursdays and Fridays.

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