Training Open As Laurel Cards Races For Saturday

Laurel Starting Gate | Maryland Jockey Club

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Laurel Park will be open for training on Thursday and Friday, with the intent to run this Saturday, Apr. 29, Alan Foreman, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (THA), said by phone Wednesday afternoon.

Last Saturday's cancelled Apr. 22 card of 98 entries included a pair of $100,000 races in the Native Dancer S. and the Primonetta S., scheduled for the main track. This time around, the racing office has taken 116 entries over 11 races with the same slate of five stakes.

The decision to cancel last Friday into the weekend came one day after a horse had to be euthanized, while the another was vanned off and reportedly euthanized. Both ran over the dirt surface Thursday, Apr. 20 in the fourth and fifth races–making five fatalities within the month.

With numerous talks between the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (MTHA) and the Stronach Group last weekend and into Monday, the two sides agreed, with the approval of the Maryland Racing Commission, to allow Laurel and Pimlico's former track superintendent John Passero to conduct his own third-party assessment of the track's suitability for racing.

“Mr. Passero made recommendations and adjustments based on his expertise and understanding of Laurel, and the horsemen respect those decisions,” Foreman said. “Training is open Thursday and Friday, and it is my understanding that he will be present to ensure that all goes well during that time.”

The Friday forecast calls for heavy rains that could derail the running of Saturday's card, but Foreman confirmed that Passero would be present into the weekend.

“If rain moves in, then we could have to postpone,” Foreman said. “There will not be training Saturday morning, and that will give him [Passero] time to issue further findings. There is an air of palpable confidence and we know this will lead to a positive situation for everyone. I only regret that we did not come to a decision sooner.”

Within the ranks of Maryland's horsemen others have expressed ongoing concern. Trainer Lacey Gaudet said, “I won't be participating in breezing or racing this weekend. The weather is also a factor in that, but everything is still awfully raw, and I just want to be confident before my stable moves forward. I can't thank all of my owners and clients enough for supporting that decision as a horseman.”

Laurel's 11-race card on Saturday also includes three turf stakes and an allowance one, which could be rained-off and moved to the main track, if racing is deemed safe to proceed.

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