The Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday approved a 69-day fall meet schedule for Laurel Park that will begin Sept. 5 and feature more stakes races and higher average purses than a year ago.
The meeting includes 32 stakes races — five more than last year. The average daily purse will rise from $210,000 to $240,000, an increase officials attributed to slot machine revenues.
The meeting, in which races will be held Wednesday through Saturday, ends on New Year's Eve.
A marquee event — the Jim McKay Maryland Million Day, which is for Maryland-sired runners — will be Oct. 6.
The Fall Festival of Racing will be three weeks later.
The schedule was announced after the Maryland Jockey Club reached an agreement with the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.
"It's a very positive stakes schedule," Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas told the racing commission during its meeting at Laurel on Tuesday afternoon.
Chuckas said racing officials are now looking at promotions and marketing.
"It is important to have stakes races bolster our Saturday cards," Chuckas said in a news release. "To build our business from a handle standpoint, races need to be more attractive to simulcast players. We are in the process of finalizing the promotional schedule for the fall, which we expect will bring more fans into the building."
The summer schedule features seven days of racing at Timonium in late August and early September during the state fair.
Also on Tuesday, the commission gave final approval to the Pick (n) Jackpot, in which a bettor must pick the winner of five or more races. The wager was first permitted on an interim basis during the last Pimlico meet.
It was the first commission meeting as chairman for Bruce F. Quade, who is replacing Louis Ulman.
Ulman, who is still a commissioner, completed two one-year terms.
Quade, who became a commission member last year, was appointed to a one-year term as chairman, and will be eligible for another term after that.
Here are the Laurel meeting dates:
October 31-November 1-2-3
November 28-29-30-December 1
December 31Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times