Laurel Aims for Apr. 17 Start to Turf Season

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LaurelMJC/Jim McCue

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Although winter weather has delayed a planned aeration project to aid with drainage on the Laurel Park turf course, track management is projecting that with a little help from Mother Nature, grass racing could begin by Apr. 17.

Speaking at the Feb. 25 Maryland Racing Commission meeting, Sal Sinatra, the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns Laurel and Pimlico Race Course, described the turf maintenance as similar to work that is often undertaken on golf courses.

Except that at Laurel, Sinatra said, this “deep drill and fill” involves going down “12 to 18 inches instead of the usual eight inches.”

In a typical drill and fill project, once a drill bit cores out a column that is generally an inch or less wide, the machine inserts new, clean growing media (usually sand) into the soil to improve water movement and oxygen levels without damaging the deep roots that are typical in racecourse grass mixes.

“I think we're hopeful that by mid-April,” the course will be ready for racing, Sinatra said, adding that “we have stakes scheduled on the 17th, and that's our goal.

“The most important thing right now is assisting in drainage, particularly from all the excess rolling [of the course] for a few years that's compacted it,” Sinatra continued. “I think if we can get that done early, we should be okay to run mid-April.”

Sinatra also updated the commission on main-track maintenance performed earlier this winter on a problem area near the five-furlong pole.

“We have pipes under there and it looks like a spring runs directly under there,” Sinatra said, adding that the maintenance crew did a “pretty massive repair,” but that only time will tell if it's a permanent fix.

“I think the best approach is going to be when we get probably to Pimlico and get some good weather to be able to go back and [dig down into the Laurel track to make sure] that it didn't bubble back up,” Sinatra said.

“That's what's happened no matter how much limestone and stuff [we're] putting there,” Sinatra continued. “The water underneath is eroding it, and then we hit that dip. Hopefully [we] got past that. But I know [the maintenance crew] went down quite a bit and we actually had to extend [the pipe] last time. So I'm hoping that this is the time [that the issue is resolved].”

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