Laurel’s recent renovation of its dirt track came after three horses suffered fatal breakdowns during morning works over a 10-day period in April. Initially, racing at Laurel was shifted to Pimlico Race Course with Laurel open for only light training. A total renovation of the racing surface became necessary after further inspection showed that the depth of the track’s cushion, the top layer that horses run over, was inconsistent in spots, demonstrating that the track’s problems went deeper than just the immediate surface.
According to a report from The Racing Biz, some officials in Maryland had warnings that there were serious problems with the track surface as far back as 2017.
Maryland horsemen had been reporting their concerns about Laurel for years, until the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association commissioned former track superintendent John Passero to inspect the surface and recommend any necessary changes in 2017. Passero found inconsistencies with the depth of the cushion in parts of the surface, but while his report went to some board members of the MTHA and some commission members, it’s not clear exactly who did and didn’t get the information at the time and there were no immediate changes made to the track as a result.
For much of the intervening years, two commissioners told The Racing Biz they heard concerns about the track surface but also heard the commission as a whole and The Stronach Group report at public meetings that they’d had no complaints about the racetrack.
Now, as renovation of the dirt oval at Laurel is nearing completion, the horsemen, the track ownership and the commission are hopeful that improved communication, aggressive maintenance and possibly improved reporting of non-fatal injuries can help eliminate such a problem going forward.
Read more at the Racing Biz.
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