Sinatra Brings Turf Starter Series To Pimlico

pimlico 4 20When racing moves to Pimlico Race Course this spring, a new series of races – the “Whips International” Turf Starter Handicap Series – will offer owners a new way to utilize their horses, offer fans a new way to familiarize themselves with more of the area’s horses and offer trainers a new way to develop their horses without fear of having them claimed. And the top finishing trainers will earn bonuses, too.

“I ran this kind of series at Parx [Racing in Pennsylvania] and it was very well received,” said Maryland Jockey Club vice president and general manager Sal Sinatra, whose idea it is for the series. “Here, trainers like the idea. It’s three new races and a bonus trainers can use.”

The series will run April 4, with a purse of $25,000; May 2 for $30,000, and June 6 for $35,000. It will feature two races each of those Saturdays, one for colts and geldings and another for fillies and mares. It is for horses who have run for $5,000 or less in 2014 or 2015.

The three races will progress in length from one mile to a mile-and-a-sixteenth, to a mile-and-an-eighth. Earned points will decide the overall winner, with 10 points for finishing first in a race, seven points for second and five points for third.

Starting a race garners one point. Horses finishing first, second or third in the first two legs of the series will have a preference to get in the third leg. At the end of the series, the trainer who finishes with the most points will receive a $2,500 bonus, second is worth $1,500 and third, $1,000.

“This is exciting,” said trainer Mary Eppler, who ran in the starter series at Parx. “One of the great things about it is a place to run your horse where they can’t get claimed. And the series is great because they increase the distance in each race, providing a way to develop your horse – and a trainer gets a bonus at the end. You get to develop your horse without worry.”

Eppler, whose horse Idol Talk won a starter series at Parx and was also a stakes winner, said she can’t remember the last time they had this kind of racing in Maryland, though she sees the starter races being added elsewhere, like Monmouth Park, and becoming more popular.

“It’s good for the horses that might not be capable in the better allowance races,” she said. “With this, you can develop your horse free from worry. And the fact that it’s a handicap, that levels the playing field. If a horse is so impressive that he runs away with the first race, they’ll increase his weight to make it more competitive and he might not win the second race.

“I will be looking forward to the spring, very much.” said Sinatra, who continues to look for sponsors for the races, said he also hopes to run a similar series in the fall, when racing returns to Laurel Park.

Purse Release