"This isn't the ideal solution," said Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "It's a compromise. Everyone had to give a little."Thoroughbreds will continue to race at Pimlico through July 7. Colonial Downs will operate from July 4 to Aug. 7. It will overlap with Pimlico two days: July 4 and July 7.Laurel will open Aug. 8 and run until the Maryland State Fair at Timonium begins Aug. 25. What happens after Timonium's 10-day fair meet remains up in the air.Horsemen and the MJC are discussing how to deal with the purse cuts. Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the MJC, said one certainty is "a good solid cut of the stakes program. We've been running way too many stakes anyway." Some stakes will be reduced in value and some will be eliminated, Raffetto said.Also, horsemen and management must decide on a fall and winter schedule, a purse structure, and a possible reduction in races. They promised commissioners they would present a plan at next month's commission meeting.Representatives of the Virginia racing community expressed relief at finally being able to plan and promote their month-long meet. They had hoped to race in June and July, not July and August."It's fair to say this isn't the ideal time for us," said Anne Poulson, a Virginian who heads a task force of racing leaders from the two states. "But we needed to get some date certainty. We didn't have anymore time to fight amongst ourselves."She said Virginians had hoped to open June 9 and receive the benefit of simulcast betting on that day's Belmont Stakes (gr. I). And she said Virginians had preferred racing earlier in the summer when it was cooler.
"But I do believe this is a good compromise," Poulson said, "and we will make the best of it."This will be Colonial Downs' fifth season. It operated the first four in the fall with minimal success. Virginia's racing establishment wanted to try summer dates this year in hopes of drawing tourists and avoiding the competition of numerous fall events. Colonial Downs is about 20 miles east of Colonial Williamsburg.Maryland horsemen supply about 75% of the horses that race at the colonial-style track. Joe De Francis, president and chief executive officer of the MJC, urged Maryland's racing commissioners to meet with their Virginia counterparts this fall to help devise a racing schedule for 2002 in an effort to avoid "the internal disarray and disharmony" that marred the process this year.
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