Laurel's Fall Stakes Schedule Approved

The fall stakes schedule for Laurel Park was approved Aug. 19 at the monthly Maryland Racing Commission meeting.

The program includes only 11 $50,000 state-bred stakes races and the 12 races on Maryland Million Day, which is restricted to the offspring of Maryland-based stallions. The 23 stakes races will total $2.23 million.

The leaner schedule is a result of the Aug. 6 announcement that the Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association agreed to eliminate all the open stakes races for the fall meeting, including the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I), as the industry faces a shortfall in the purse account.

“Eliminating graded stakes races is deeply troubling, but this is the reality of our business in its current state,” said Tom Chuckas, president and chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. “We are hoping the slot machine referendum going before voters Nov. 4 will pass, which will level the playing field between Maryland and the tracks in Delaware, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.”

Last year, the 68-day fall campaign featured 32 stakes races for $3.285 million. Two years ago, during a 73-day stand, the meet included 43 added money races for $4.725 million.

The 65-day 2008 fall meeting, which begins Sept. 4, is headlined by the 23rd annual Maryland Million Oct. 4, with purses of nearly $1.7 million. The 17-week fall meeting will conclude Dec. 27.

The De Francis Dash is one of just three grade I races contested in Maryland, along with the Preakness Stakes and Pimlico Special. Other races put on hiatus include the Laurel Futurity, Selima Stakes, and Safely Kept Stakes (gr. III).