At its monthly meeting, the Maryland Racing Commission today approved a pair of racing dates requests, allowing the Maryland Jockey Club to shift days from later in the year to July and signing off on the Maryland State Fair’s request for seven days of live racing ending on Labor Day. Both requests were approved unanimously.
For the Maryland Jockey Club, live racing will commence on July 3, marking the first time since 2003 that the central Maryland track will card live racing in July. For most of the last decade-plus, those dates have belonged to Colonial Downs in New Kent, VA, but that track did not run in 2014 and has not scheduled any racing for 2015.
Laurel will run a Friday-Sunday schedule from July 3 through August 27.
“We took a lot of weekdays off the end of the year and sprinkled them in July and August,” explained MJC vice president and general manager Sal Sinatra.
Post time on Saturdays and Sundays will be 1:30 p.m., with Sundays focused on family activities, including petting zoos, pony rides, face painters, carnival rides, and the like. The track’s Friday cards will feature twilight racing with a special 3:40 p.m. post time, live bands, and a themed buffet.
“We’re delighted to have a summer racing program back at Laurel beginning in July,” Sinatra said in a release. “We have some fun activities planned for our Friday twilight programs for the entire family, and our horsemen are excited about putting out quality programs.”
The meet will also see the debut of a new wager, the Super High 5. The bet requires a player to pick the first five finishers in order in a given race and includes a 15 percent takeout that is equivalent to the industry’s lowest.
Following the conclusion of Laurel’s summer meet, racing in the Free State will shift to Timonium. The Commission approved seven days of live racing at the bullring facility: August 28-30 and September 4-7, the last of those days being Labor Day.
According to Maryland State Fair general manager Andy Cashman, the Fair intends to take a number of steps to encourage newcomers to play the races, including an on-site tutorial and a first-time betting window.