Published: Tuesday, 14 December 2021 21:27
Live racing will resume at Laurel Park Thursday, Dec. 16, given positive feedback received during a special Maryland Racing Committee held to provide an update on the reconstitution of the cushion material on the dirt track.
Though racing hasn’t been held the past two weeks, the track remained opened for light training and workouts were permitted beginning Dec. 10. Mike Rogers, Acting President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, told the commission Dec. 14 that almost 270 horses worked over a five-day period with positive results.
More than 1,200 tons of coarse sand was added to the surface in part to prepare it for winter racing. “We’ve seen dramatic improvement in the cushion in the colder weather,” Rogers said. “The feedback we have been getting has been very positive. I’ve personally received comments from trainers and riders. We’re very happy and pleased with where we are.”
“I definitely concur with Mike Rogers,” said trainer Tim Keefe, President of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “We’re definitely seeing a different racetrack. Feedback from other trainers and the jockeys has been very positive. Everything is moving the right direction.”
MJC Track Superintendent Chris Bosley has been working with John Passero, the retired longtime MJC track superintendent, and Glen Kozak, Vice President of Facilities and Racing Surfaces for the New York Racing Association, both of whom were brought in as consultants to assist in the project. Passero and Kozak both told MRC members the surface is ready for racing.
“It’s a changed track,” Passero said. “They’re adding more of a medium coarse sand to give it body, has plenty of depth, and it’s kind to horses. I think it can only get better, and the workouts and times are an indication it’s going in the right direction.”
Several jockeys participated in the online MRC meeting and reported that the surface is noticeably improved. Victor Carrasco and Xavier Perez also said it’s important for all riders to offer regular input on the racing surface and to talk to veterinarians if they believe any horse they are riding may have issues.
MRC member Dr. Tom Bowman, who chairs the MRC Equine Safety, Health and Welfare Advisory Committee, said input from all parties is critical in regard to racing surfaces and equine health and welfare.
“We need to allow horsemen, veterinarians and riders to all have input and we need to collect it on a regular basis,” Bowman said. “We need to reinstate regular reports on (racing surface) details and give a public voice to people who are concerned. We need a process—an early-warning system. I don’t think this is the end of the process, I think this is the beginning of the process.”
In a follow-up email to trainers after the meeting, Rogers said: "As part of the Maryland Jockey Club's commitment to improving the communication with all stakeholders, we will be having Dr. Heidi Thomas make her rounds and visit each trainer on a regularly basis. Dr. Heidi Thomas has been with the Maryland Jockey Club for 13 months now and has practiced veterinary medicine for over 25 years. Dr. Thomas has extensive experience including more than 20 years of private practice and several years as an Association Veterinarian for tracks such as Tampa Bay Downs.
"The purpose of Dr. Thomas' visits is to allow trainers to provide her with any feedback on veterinary issues they are experiencing, which will help us identify any trends. This information will be extremely valuable for all stakeholders and allow us to proactively identify common issues that trainers are experiencing."