Update provided on Laurel dirt course project

The results of an examination of the substructure under the base of the Laurel Park dirt course will play a role in the timeline for completion of the rebuild of the surface, officials said April 23 during a Zoom meeting organized by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

The Maryland Jockey Club received emergency approval to move the remaining two weeks of the Laurel spring meet to Pimlico Race Course, which was scheduled to open May 6. Three racing days at Laurel was lost before Pimlico opened April 22. The meet concludes May 31.

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Federal agencies free up 22,000 additional H-2B visas

The United States Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Labor have agreed to offer 22,000 additional H-2B visas to employers for the second half of the federal fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 2021.

The visas are used by employers, such as racehorse trainers, who seek seasonal guest workers. They are capped at 66,000 annually, with an even split of 33,000 available for each half of the federal government's fiscal year.

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Laurel Park resurfacing project begins

The reconstruction of the Laurel Park dirt surface began in earnest April 17 as heavy machinery began removing the cushion from the base from the rail out.

Maryland Jockey Club Track Superintendent Chris Bosley said that over the next several days the cushion will be removed and the base will be inspected to determine if there are any deficiencies. Bosley said the MJC is in the process of locating base material from New York that was used to successfully rebuild the bases at Saratoga Race Course and the nearby Oklahoma Training Track.

“We hope to have enough cushion removed (April 18) to start the base work,” Bosley said.

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Laurel dirt surface to be stripped, base examine

The entire Laurel Park dirt surface will be stripped of all material and the base inspected during a project that began April 16 and could take two to three weeks to complete, officials said during a racing community Zoom meeting hosted by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

The Maryland Jockey Club and its parent company, The Stronach Group (1/ST RACING), on April 15 announced that racing at Laurel would be suspended and the spring meet would move to Pimlico Race Course beginning Thursday, April 22. The MJC said the Laurel dirt track had not responded sufficiently to cushion repairs made during the winter meet.

The surface will be stripped from the rail out and horses will be permitted to gallop or jog on the outside of the track. Cones will be in place to separate the maintenance work area from the rest of the surface. On Saturday, April 17, training hours will be 5-8:30 a.m. with no break.

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Live racing moves to Pimlico as Laurel surface is evaluated

Live racing at Laurel Park for Saturday, April 17, through Monday, April 19 has been canceled, and the spring meet will move to Pimlico Race Course effective Thursday, April 22. There are eight scheduled racing days remaining during the spring meet.

The Maryland Jockey Club on April 15 announced that the move is necessary because of an “ongoing evaluation of the main track surface conditions. As part of regular track maintenance, the (MJC) identified on April 14 that the main track had not responded sufficiently to wintertime cushion repairs.”

The MJC said it submitted an application to the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to shift racing to Pimlico on an emergency basis. The Laurel spring meet ends Sunday, May 2, and the 15-day Pimlico meet begins Thursday, May 6. The MJC release said racing will be held at Pimlico “until further notice.”

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Legislative session ends on positive note for Maryland horsemen

The Maryland Senate and House of Delegates April 12 both passed broad legislation authorizing implementation of sports betting as approved last November in a statewide constitutional referendum. Most horse racing facilities and off-track betting outlets are eligible for licenses.

The General Assembly also passed a video lottery terminal bill that will generate substantially more revenue for the Purse Dedication Account.

The Senate had amended the House bill (HB 940), which resulted in a compromise hammered out just days before the General Assembly ended its 2021 session April 12. The final vote in the Senate was 47-0, while the House voted 122-16. The measure, which has emergency status to facilitate the awarding of licenses, now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature.

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