(Edited press release)
The Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association have agreed to the live racing dates and stakes schedule for the balance of 2009, including the return of the Grade I Frank J. De Francis Dash after a one-year hiatus.
After a 10-week break, live racing will return to Maryland on Saturday, Aug. 1 at Laurel Park. The 11-day summer stand will conclude Sunday, Aug. 23, with live racing taking place on Friday , Saturday and Sunday for three consecutive weeks following opening weekend. The mini-meet will include Maryland-bred stakes races on Aug. 1 (Humphrey Finney), Aug. 15 (Mister Diz) and Aug. 22 (Pearl Necklace).
“Racing in August was significant to the horsemen and bringing back the De Francis Dash to headline the fall meet was just as important to us,” said Tom Chuckas, Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer. “We are hopeful the Friday, Saturday, Sunday format in August, coupled with our first-class turf course, will breathe life into the mini-meet.”
Following the seven-day Timonium state fair meet (Aug. 28-30-Sept. 4-7), the 2009 fall stand will begin Saturday, Sept. 12 at Laurel Park. The 14-week fall meeting will feature live racing on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons (with Columbus holiday exception) through December 19.
The 57-day stand is topped by the 24th annual Maryland Million (Sept. 26), a 12-race stakes program for Maryland sired horses, and the return of Laurel’s marquee race, the $300,000 De Francis Dash, which was not carded in 2008 due to a purse account shortfall, on Oct. 24.
The De Francis Dash is one of three grade I races contested in Maryland, along with the Preakness Stakes and the Pimlico Special.