Dirt, turf course work planned for Laurel during downtime

The Maryland Jockey Club will use the roughly three weeks of downtime during the Maryland State Fair at Timonium meet to work on the turf course and main track at Laurel Park in advance of the fall meet that begins Sept. 6.

The work on the dirt track has led to a revised training schedule, the MJC said. On Monday, Aug. 26, training will be available from 5:30-10 a.m. with one break from 7:30-8 a.m. The main track will be closed Tuesday, Aug. 27 through Thursday, Aug. 29.

MJC Track Superintendent Chris Bosley said a crew will be working on a pre-existing spot by the 11/16 pole.

“We’ll be using the new (patch) material we tried at Pimlico, and that spot so far couldn’t be any better,” Bosley said. “We’re getting a jump on a few things during this much-needed break.”

As for the turf course, MJC Racing Secretary Chris Merz said the outside rail on the course will be replaced with a safety rail—the same rails used to create various “courses” or lanes on the grass. The 142-foot-wide course also will be aerated, reseeded and fertilized.

“The aerator will go about 12 inches down, which will allow the roots to go down further,” Merz said. “It will then drain better and create a stronger turf course.”

Merz and Tony Gatto, who oversees the turf course, met with jockeys at Laurel Aug. 17 to get feedback on the course, and Merz said the comments were positive.

At the last Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Board of Directors meeting in late July, trainer Michael Dickinson, who has a long turf straight with three different lanes of grass at his Tapeta Farm, attended to discuss maintenance of a turf course. Dickinson said years of compaction on a course can keep roots from going no deeper than three inches, which stymies growth and impacts the quality of the grass.

The turf course at Laurel is no longer rolled, a practice that leads to compaction. Dickinson also spoke about the value of regular irrigation and mowing.

Laurel on Sept. 21 and Sept. 28 will offer a total of 10 stakes on the grass as part of two big-event programs. In addition, Merz has scheduled a pair of starter handicaps—one for males and one for females—at 1 ½ miles on the turf.

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