MRC approves Pimlico extension, requests timeline

The Maryland Racing Commission May 27 granted the Maryland Jockey's Club request to extend the transfer of Laurel Park's racing dates to Pimlico Race Course through June 30, and also asked the MJC for a schedule of the extensive work being done to overhaul the dirt surface at Laurel.

The MJC earlier was permitted to move the last few weeks of the Laurel spring meet to Pimlico, which began its meet early on April 22. Should it be necessary to continue racing at Pimlico beyond June 30, a request to the MRC would be necessary.

MRC Executive Director Mike Hopkins said that if the weather cooperates, the agency was told the project should be completed by the end of June. MJC President Sal Sinatra, who credited all parties involved with the transfer of horses and backstretch employees from Laurel to Pimlico and the Maryland State Fair at Timonium, said the hope is the project is finished by July 1.

"I can't say enough about the horsemen, the owners and trainers," Sinatra said. "Everybody pitched in—the (Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association) and our team at the MJC."

"Thankfully we have the old mare here; we have a place to run," Sinatra said of Pimlico, where this year's Preakness Stakes day program registered an all-time pari-mutuel handle record of $112.5 million. "Hopefully we'll get through the next month here and give her rest."

Members of the MRC had met with The Stronach Group (1/ST RACING) officials at Laurel to see the project in action, understand its scope, and learn what needed to be done for racing to return to Laurel. MRC member Konrad Wayson asked if the restoration project could be completed by the end of June.

"In order to make the 30-day window with the amount of material that has to be moved in, moved out, and tested, what has to happen?" Wayson said. "Please forward a timeline—a critical path—on what has to happen to get this thing done in 30 days."

The MRC indicated it will keep in contact with the MJC for status reports. The MRC asked trainer Dale Capuano, who is based at Laurel, how much time would be needed for horses to travel over the new surface before it could be used for live racing.

"I'd like to have a least a week before we take entries (for the first Laurel card)," Capuano said.

Commissioners acknowledged there could a scenario whereby Pimlico races part of July before Laurel reopens for racing. The Laurel summer meet is scheduled to run through Aug. 22. Timonium will then race seven programs from Aug. 27 through Sept. 6.

Laurel-based horses began moving to Pimlico a few days after the May 15 Preakness Stakes and to Timonium May 24. All horses were to be relocated from Laurel no later than May 27.

In other business at the MRC meeting:

MTHA President Tim Keefe was appointed to the Maryland Bred Race Fund Advisory Committee. The Maryland General Assembly earlier this year approved legislation that adds a seat for the MTHA on the committee.

The MRC also gave final approval to a change to a portion of the Lasix regulation that now reads as follows regarding horses that are racing "off" Lasix: "Except for a horse that races in any jurisdiction where the rules of the regulatory authority or the conditions of the race established by the racing association do not permit the use of Lasix, a horse on the Lasix program that races without Lasix in any jurisdiction which permits the use of Lasix may not be eligible for its use for a period of 60 days."

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