Laurel gets OK to host Fair Hill steeplechase races in May

The Maryland Racing Commission Feb. 27 signed off a plan by the Cecil County Breeders' Fair to hold its one-day steeplechase meet May 23 at Laurel Park rather than at Fair Hill, where a renovation project continues.

The CCBF and Fair Hill Foundation earlier reached an agreement with the Maryland Jockey Club to move the event for one year. The Fair Hill Races, a six-race program that offers pari-mutuel wagering, will return to Cecil County in 2021.

Laurel hasn't held a steeplechase race in more than 10 years. The May 23 races will fall under the auspices of the National Steeplechase Association.

It was noted at the MRC meeting that even though a new turf course—realignment, advanced irrigation and wider, sweeping, and banked turns to enhance safety—was installed in October 2019, the Kentucky bluegrass mix requires more time to mature. The new course will be available for use during the Maryland 5 Star equestrian competition Oct. 15-18 this year.

The foundation said the upgrades "also allow Fair Hill to expand racing days and provide opportunities for boutique turf meets, training and other world-class equestrian events." The facility hasn't run its full allotment of dates permitted by statute.

The Fair Hill Races, which will be held the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, will overlap with live racing at Pimlico Race Course, which ends its spring meet May 25.

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