Thursday, July 02, 2009


LAUREL, MD. 07-01-09---The Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA) 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, August 1 at Laurel Park. The 11-day summer stand will conclude Sunday, August 23, with live racing taking place on Friday (3:35 twilight post time), Saturday and Sunday for three consecutive weeks following opening weekend. The mini-meet will include Maryland-bred stakes races on August 1 (Humphrey Finney), August 15 (Mister Diz) and August 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 (August 28-29-30-September 4-5-6-7), the 2009 fall stand will begin Saturday, September 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 (September 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 October 24.

The De Francis Dash is one of just three Grade I races contested in Maryland, along with the Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, and the historic Pimlico Special. Introduced in 1990, the De Francis Dash is one of the elite six-furlong sprints in the country with four of the 18 winners-Housebuster (1991), Cherokee Run (1994), Smoke Glacken (1997) and Thor’s Echo (2006)-earning Eclipse Award honors for champion sprinter.

The dates and stakes schedule for the summer and fall meetings were approved by the Maryland Racing Commission and will be officially ratified at the next meeting on Tuesday, July 21 according to Mike Hopkins, executive director of the commission.

The 2009 59-day Laurel winter meeting was conducted from January 1- April 11. The Pimlico Race Course spring stand covered 20 days, from April 18-May 23.

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