Laurel Meet OK'd--Minus Two Stakes

Laurel Meet OK'd--Minus Two Stakes
Photo: Jimmy McCue
Laurel Park has been approved for a 15-week winter meet at which two stakes were cut.

The Maryland Racing Commission has approved the 2008 Laurel Park winter stakes schedule, which was trimmed by two stakes. The 15-week meet will feature 17 stakes worth a combined $1.75-million.

Fourteen of the races include $20,000 from the Maryland-bred fund.

Headlining the schedule are a pair of grade II, $300,000 seven-furlong events on President’s Day weekend--the Barbara Fritchie Breeders’ Cup Handicap for fillies and mares Feb. 16, and the General George Breeders’ Cup Handicap for males Feb. 18.

Laurel Park racing secretary Georganne Hale canceled two 3-year-old sprint stakes (the Horatius and Smart Halo) as the track and horsemen continue to attempt to balance the purse fund account.

“This is reality as we continue to tweak the program in order to compete with neighboring states,” Hale said in a statement. “We do have a stakes race every Saturday during the meet, and that is something we are working hard to carry on.”

The Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association have been working to conserve purse money this year. Though there will be a statewide referendum on slot machines in November 2008, the racing industry officials are concerned about having sufficient funds through next year.

MJC chief executive officer Lou Raffetto Jr. said he’s hoping for some interim financial relief during the 2008 session of the Maryland legislature, but the state is facing a budget crunch.

The 61-day Laurel meet begins Jan. 1 and will conclude April 12. Racing will be conducted on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule with holiday exceptions.

When the Laurel meet wraps up, Pimlico Race Course opens for its spring meet, which features the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

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