Horse Racing

Horsemen Hopeful Laurel Park Racing Will Resume Dec. 10

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Maryland Jockey Club officials are making adjustments to the dirt racing surface at Laurel Park in hopes of resuming timed workouts as early as Monday, Dec. 6, and returning to live racing on Friday, Dec. 10, according to Timothy Keefe, president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

Racing this weekend at Laurel was cancelled after an alarming number of fatalities – four from racing injuries and three while training – occurred between Nov. 6-28. It was the second time in 2021 that racing at Laurel was halted because of track conditions. The first occurrence was in April after a spike in musculoskeletal injuries, which led to racing being shifted to Pimlico on an emergency basis. Track ownership undertook a multi-million dollar track renovation project that wasn’t completed until August, with racing resuming at Laurel in September.

Keefe said he joined Maryland Jockey Club officials and racing surface experts – Dennis Moore from California, Glen Kozak from the New York Racing Racing Association, and former MJC track superintendent John Passero – in inspecting the track’s cushion and base. The top layer, or cushion, was peeled off from the rail out approximately 30 feet to facilitate inspection of the base.

One change that’s being made, Keefe said, is to add a three-eighths-inch layer called a hard pan or pad between the cushion and limestone base. The pan will be the same material as the cushion but more compacted.

Keefe also said a coarse sand will be mixed into the cushion to help the material bind together and serve more effectively in softening the impact of a horse’s hooves hitting the ground.

“They’re hoping to lay the cushion back down on Saturday,” Keefe said. Horses have been allowed to exercise on the outer portion of the track, but there have been no breezes or timed workouts. They could resume as early as Monday, Keefe said, and if all goes well he is hopeful racing will resume on Friday.

The Maryland Racing Commission will address the safety of the main track at a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 7 and are expected to press Maryland Jockey Club officials for a path forward. Mike Rogers, longtime executive with the Stronach Group that owns Laurel Park and Pimlico, has been acting president and general manager since former president Sal Sinatra left the company for a position at Equibase earlier this year.

“Mike has been great, very helpful, as we’ve addressed this situation,” said Keefe. “And Aidan Butler (Stronach Group’s chief operating officer) is focused on this, too.”



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