Live pari-mutuel racing would become a reality for Virginia in September with the long-awaited opening of Colonial Downs racetrack in New Kent County. The Virginia Racing Commission approved an amended dates request, which called for the track’s inaugural Thoroughbred meeting to run from Sept. 1 to Oct. 12.
- The fourth edition of Maryland Spring Challenge Day was met with clear weather, excellent racing, and appreciative fans. It was started in 1994 from an idea from Maryland Horse Breeders Association vice president, C. Oliver Goldsmith, who felt that racing needed a Maryland Million-type event in the spring or summer. The day took on an added dimension as the Grade 3 Federico Tesio Stakes became the launching point for the new Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships. The race’s winner was George Steinbrenner’s Kinsman Stable runner Concerto.
- Urbane, Grade 1-winning millionaire and a divisional Maryland-bred champion in each of her three seasons of competition, was retired. The daughter of Citidancer and the Pleasant Colony mare Dumfries Pleasure campaigned throughout her career for Jan, Mace and Samantha Siegel, who purchased her for $25,000 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s 1993 Eastern Fall yearling sale.
Urbane went on to have 11 foals, with seven winners from 10 starters including multiple graded stakes winner Suave (A.P. Indy).
- Telephone wagering was legal in just seven states: Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. But Maryland’s tracks had not yet taken advantage of the law, and Connecticut, with no live horse racing, also had no televised racing – a prerequisite to the kind of success recorded in Pennsylvania and New York.
“I don’t think there is any potential market bigger than telephone wagering,” said general manager Phil O’Hara of Penn National race course, where telebetting helped to raise purses, build OTB parlors and buy two racetracks (Pocono Downs and Charles Town). “Computers I see as an extension of telephone wagering. In-home, interactive wagering has the largest potential.”
- Hay Patcher, one of the most influential broodmares ever to make her home in this region, died. Owned by Robert Meyerhoff, 24-year-old dam of stakes winners Broad Brush and Hay Halo was not bred in 1996 or 1997, but had remained in apparent good health until several days before her death, when she became ill with an abscessed lung.