FORT WASHINGTON – It’s racing season again in Prince George’s County.
Hundreds of fans turned out to Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George’s County Saturday for the start of live harness racing for the year.
Jeff Jester said he used to drive and train horses at the track and still loves to come out for the races.
“When horse racing gets in your blood, you have to come out,” he said.
Rosecroft Raceway plans to hold harness races on 54 dates this year, the most in Maryland since 2008. They have a 25-date race season that runs through the beginning of June and plan to hold a 29-date race season starting in October.
The track, which originally opened in 1949, has seen its share of struggles in the past few years. They stopped live-racing in 2008, filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and shut down completely soon after.
“I’ve seen it when it was the best, and unfortunately it’s struggling to even stay alive now,” Steve Warrington, who rode in one of the horse races that night, said.
Penn National Gaming bought the facility out of bankruptcy in February 2011. They reopened for simulcasting in August 2011.
Dan Herbst has been working at the track for decades and said he grew up on the grounds.
The crowds used to be much larger, he said.
“The would back traffic up from here to the District line,” he said.
Times have changed.
“Horse racing’s a great sport, but people would rather be able to lose their money quicker,” he said. “People don’t appreciate what goes into horse racing and what’s involved.”
Some fans believe that increased gaming could save the troubled racetrack.
“I hope we get slots so we can come here all the time,” said Warren Bell, a fan who has been visiting Rosecroft for more than 20 years. “Otherwise, racing in Maryland is going to be dead.”
The Maryland House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to hear a bill Friday that could allow a casino in Prince George’s County. Rosecroft Raceway is one of the locations that has been talked about as a possible casino site.