After Two Fatalities, Racing At Laurel Cancelled

Laurel ParkMaryland Jockey Club


The Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park, announced late Friday that racing at Laurel has been cancelled at least through this weekend.

“The Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) announced that after consultation with the Maryland Racing Commission, racing will be cancelled this weekend at Laurel Park while MJC works with the Maryland Racing Commission to understand and address any issues of concern raised relating to recent injuries,” the statement read.  “MJC will also be discussing plans for implementation of updated safety and veterinary protocols similar to those that have been in place in California since 2019 and have proven to significantly reduce the number of equine fatalities during racing and training.”

The decision came one day after Golden Pegasus (Golden Lad) broke down in Thursday's fourth race at Laurel and had to be euthanized. In the fifth race, Bigmancan (Can the Man) pulled up lame and, according to the official chart, had to be vanned off the track. According to Tim Keefe, the president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, Bigmancan also had to be euthanized.

Friday's decision came one day after Maryland Jockey Club management met with horsemen to solicit input on the state of Laurel Park's racing surface. No immediate action was taken after the meeting and the day's racing, unfortunately went ahead and included the two injuries.

On Friday, Keefe emailed Mike Rogers, the executive vice president of 1/ST RACING and acting president of the Maryland Jockey Club, recommending that racing at Laurel be suspended for the weekend and moved to Pimlico Race Course starting April 27. Rogers did not return a phone call from the TDN seeking an update on the problems with the track and whether or not racing would be moved to Pimlico. The current Laurel meet is not scheduled to end until May 7.

“We further recommend that training at Laurel Park consist only of joggers and gallopers and horses be shipped to Pimlico for workouts until such time the surface at Laurel Park has been evaluated and deemed safe by our consultant John Passero,” the letter stated.

The racing surfaces at Laurel have been an on-going concern for a while. The Saturday April 8 card was canceled “out of an abundance of caution to do a full evaluation of the racing surfaces.” Two horses were injured that morning while training. Racing was not scheduled for the following day, which was Easter. It resumed on April 13.

“I'm not a track superintendent and none of us are,” Keefe told the TDN. “But you had an incident the day before Easter when two horses were injured. One was just galloping. The other was breezing. Their consultant, Dennis Moore, came out for a few days and he was here yesterday morning. He came and looked at the track and assessed things. Dennis listened to the trainers and heard their thoughts and concerns. He's a very well-respected, long-time track superintendent on the West Coast. He does a great job at Santa Anita. He didn't really have any smoking guns for us but we've had more frequent injuries than we have had in the past. There is an increased number of injuries and we have some concerns. We have a long history with John Passero, who was the track superintendent here in Maryland for many, many years. He had a falling out with the Stronach Group back in the early 2000s and they don't want him on the property. But he is the one guy our horsemen can rally around and have confidence in. We would like him to have the chance to look at the track and give some recommendations and we want those recommendations implemented. We believe he's the one person who can get us to where we need to be. But the Stronach Group won't let him on the racetrack, so we are at an impasse. We need a third-party consultant to come out here and tell us the track is safe.”

Racing was canceled at Laurel for several months in 2021 due to issues with the track. After running on April 11, racing did not resume at Laurel until Sept. 9. During the shutdown, racing moved to Pimlico. What ensued was a multi-million dollar rebuild of the Laurel main track, which included replacing the cushion, the base and the substructure. There were further cancellations during the month of December, 2021 when it was announced by the Maryland Jockey Club that time was needed to make repairs to the track and to analyze recent injuries.

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