Limited training resumes at Laurel; surface project progressing

Limited training resumed Tuesday, Jan. 11, at Laurel Park, and during an online community meeting held by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association later in the day officials indicated they are hopeful live racing can resume Sunday, Jan. 16—weather permitting.

Mike Rogers, an executive with The Stronach Group (1/ST Racing) who serves as Acting President of the Maryland Jockey Club, said “great progress” was made Jan. 10 on the accelerated plan to add another 2,000 tons of coarse sand to the cushion on the dirt track. Previously, about 2,000 tons had been worked into the surface as part of a winterization project that was stalled by a storm that dropped eight inches of snow on the Laurel area.

“If we stay on this path, it looks like we would be in a position to take entries Thursday for Sunday, but there is also a weather system that could potentially hit us this weekend,” Rogers said. “We’re willing to do it, or we could take a conservative approach and cancel racing Sunday and Monday (Jan. 17). We want to make sure the horsemen are comfortable with that as well.”

MTHA President Tim Keefe said entries should be taken for the Sunday program, and he asked if additional cards could be added Tuesday, Jan. 18, and Wednesday, Jan. 19. After the Monday holiday card, racing is scheduled to resume Thursday, Jan. 20. MJC officials said they are open to the suggestion but must first confirm there will be enough employees on the operations side for what otherwise would be simulcast-only days.

Ferris Allen, a member of the MTHA Board of Directors, agreed with Keefe. “I think we need to put out some positive vibes,” Allen said. “We also have a lot of other days to make up. The horsemen have been patient and people have been hurt economically (by cancellations).”

There will be further discussions about how to rework the racing schedule to make up days, and a purse increase also is under consideration pending a meeting of the MTHA Purse Account Committee. Another suggestion was the addition of races by having an earlier first post time in the near term.

Rogers said the MJC is hopeful workouts at Laurel can resume Thursday, Jan. 13. Updates as usual will be provided through the MJC and MTHA text system.

Glen Kozak, who oversees racing surfaces and facilities for the New York Racing Association, arrived at Laurel Jan. 10 to assist in the cushion recomposition project. He said 1,000 tons of cushion was removed on the first day alone.

“It’s just about getting the product into the cushion so it can be maintained (for winter racing),” Kozak said.

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