Many hope Rosecroft revival is on the way as reopening set

Long-beleaguered Rosecroft Raceway is slated to reopen Thursday after being closed for more than a year, the first step in what some believe will be a revival of the Prince George's County harness racing track.

Rosecroft will reopen for simulcast betting -- bets placed at Rosecroft on races being run at other harness tracks. Owner Penn National Gaming, which bought the Fort Washington track out of bankruptcy in February, plans to bring back live racing on Oct. 21. The 20 racing days will be the first season for the track since the former owner halted racing three years ago.

"For the first time in a very long time, things are looking good for the standardbred industry in the state of Maryland," said Dan Myer, a standardbred owner, trainer and breeder who plans on racing again at Rosecroft this year. "Ocean Downs is great, but we can't sustain the industry on Ocean Downs alone."

After buying the track for $12 million, Penn National has spent about $700,000 in repairs and renovations. The company plans to invest $1 million this year, according to spokeswoman Karen Bailey.

Christopher McErlean, Penn's vice president of racing, said the company planned to "make a pretty big splash" and get state and local officials involved in the ramp-up to the fall racing season. Rosecroft plans to run 54 racing days next winter and spring.

Myers said he hope the next step for Penn, which runs several "racinos" across the country, is to legalize slots at the track. Alternative gambling proposals for Rosecroft have failed the last two Maryland General Assembly sessions.

"Any form of expanded gaming would be good -- unfortunately, that's just the way it is in the horse racing world today," Myers said.

After nixing live racing in 2008, Rosecroft came up short on its bills and lost its right to simulcast thoroughbred races like the lucrative Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. It declared bankruptcy in June 2009.

A simulcast thoroughbred agreement must be in place by next year for any Maryland track to receive a state subsidy.