A report prepared by Biologically Applied Engineering shows the recent one-week renovation of the main track at Laurel Park was largely a success, but it also strongly recommends daily attention as part of a Maintenance Quality System.

The report was presented by Dr. Mick Peterson (pictured), the principal in Biologically Applied Engineering and Executive Director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory who also oversees equine agriculture programs at the University of Kentucky. He visited Laurel Labor Day weekend to examine the dirt surface at the request of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

The renovation entailed a peel-back of the surface material to examine the base; five areas of the base were patched and compacted. Some clay was added to the surface material before it was replaced, and drainage issues around the track were identified and remedied.

It was the first time in more than 10 years the entire dirt surface was examined and overhauled. The MJC, during the late-August project, also aerated and reseeded the turf course.

“The report is pretty self-explanatory,” said MTHA President Tim Keefe, who monitored the work performed in August during a short break in the Laurel racing season. “It’s important for all of us to realize the importance of the racing surface and make sure it’s maintained properly. We’re fortunate in Maryland to have The Stronach Group and (MJC President) Sal Sinatra being open to doing just that.”

Peterson in the report said work performed by the Maryland Jockey Club crew prior to the second day of testing proved successful in addressing primary concerns. He said the test results, which showed consistent cushion depth, were verified by ground-penetrating radar data and measurements from a biomechanical surface tester.

“The consistent color and lack of lighter or darker sections in the radar indicates that the repair of the base was successful in providing a firm base for the cushion, and the grading and mixing was successful in producing a consistent surface,” Peterson said in a letter to the MTHA. “The consistency is the most important and least controversial aspect of improved surfaces.”

Peterson said areas with “additional depth” are located on the inside of the two turns and small section of the chute, but they “are very typical and the variation in depth is less than in most racetracks.”

The biomechanical surface tester was used at all primary points of call per eighth of a mile and the two finish lines. The report notes vertical variation is much smaller than that of a few comparison tracks, and though horizontal variation is slightly higher, it’s consistent.

Peterson recommended additional samples of the surface be taken and tested because the material had not be mixed and graded before his first visit on behalf of the MTHA.

“These good results should not lead to complacency,” Peterson said. “The purpose of the Maintenance Quality System is to develop a systematic tracking of daily maintenance of the surface. The maintenance and the weather will change the condition of the track significantly. Tracking of weather and maintenance is critical to understanding the daily condition of the track and to ensuring the most consistent possible track for the horses and riders.”

Sinatra said that going forward, Peterson’s company will perform on-site quarterly reviews of the surface and that the MJC will employ recommended protocols.

“We’ve engaged him,” Sinatra said. “He has program that we will follow. The report is very good, and I’m pleasantly surprised. Our guys worked really hard (on the renovation), and obviously we need to continue this work. We’ve got to keep on it, because we want the safest surface we can have for horses and riders. Without the surface you don’t have the horses.”

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