Laurel Park will begin a 69-day meet Sept. 5 with average daily purses of $240,000 and an expanded stakes schedule.
Before the seven-day Maryland State Fair at Timonium meet that ended Labor Day, there had been no live Thoroughbred racing in Maryland since Preakness Stakes (gr. I) day in late May at Pimlico Race Course.
Laurel, operated by the Maryland Jockey Club, has been able to increase purses because of revenue from video lottery terminals at three facilities in the state. However, the new meet, which runs through Dec. 31, will be the first with competition from the nearby Maryland Live! VLT casino, which opened in the spring.
The minimum purse at the outset of the meet is $13,000--for $5,000 claimers that haven't won two races lifetime. Maiden special weight purses have increased to $38,000, with entry-level allowance races set at $40,000.
Starter allowance races for horses that have started for a claiming price of $5,000 or less will go for $22,000.
As usual the turf course at Laurel will be used extensively for the first three months of the meet. Four to five grass races are scheduled each day over the first three days.
MJC president Tom Chuckas said the Jackpot Pick 5, which had a Preakness week carryover of more than $1 million, will return. The minimum betting amount is 50 cents, but there needs to be a single 50-cent ticket with all five winners in the sequence to pay off; otherwise, multiple winners split 60% of the pool each day and 40% carries over.
Live racing will be held most weeks on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule. The 34 stakes on the schedule could be worth $4.1 million should $25,000-$50,000 in Maryland-bred bonuses be paid out in 16 of the stakes, officials said.
Maryland Million day is set for Oct. 6. The Fall Festival of Racing, featuring the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, is scheduled for Oct. 27.
"The Maryland Million is the staple event of the Laurel fall meet," Chuckas said. "Bringing back the Fall Festival of Racing was important to us, and we thank the horsemen for working with us to not make it happen and also to be willing to boost the purse of the Dash up $200,000 from a year ago. This will help us draw some of the nation's top sprinters not going to the Breeders' Cup the following weekend."
First post at Laurel is 1:10 p.m. EDT.