Return of Bowie, upgrades to Laurel barn area discussed

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Oct. 25, 2018

Improvements to the stable area at Laurel Park and the rehabilitation of the Bowie Training Center were among the issues discussed during the Maryland Racing Commission meeting Oct. 25 at Laurel.

A few members of the MRC, at the request of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, toured the Laurel backstretch about a month ago. Maryland Jockey Club President Sal Sinatra told the commission management is focusing on improvements to traditional barns, including several that will be re-roofed.

An assessment by officials with The Stronach Group, he said, indicated the two tent barns—a third one is constructed but not occupied—were probably located in the wrong part of the barn area near Route 198. The overall barn area at Laurel is being studied as part of a facilities master plan.

Sinatra said repair of roads in the barn area already has begun, with more extensive paving planned for November. The MJC also is addressing complaints about a lack of running water in some sections of the barn area.

MRC Chairman Mike Algeo said that “in terms of safety and health,” drainage problems and standing water was a primary concern of commissioners. The situation is complicated by geography—much of Laurel Park sits on low-lying land adjacent the Patuxent River.

As for Bowie, which closed as a training center in the spring of 2015, The Stronach Group has held onto the property, which is dissected by Race Track Road, pending a decision on the future of Pimlico Race Course. The Maryland Stadium Authority in November is expected to release Phase 2 of its study into the feasibility of rebuilding Pimlico for racing and year-round multi-purpose uses.

“The master plan includes a rebuild of Bowie as a training center,” Sinatra said. “It had been mothballed while we waited on (the Pimlico report), but we believe it’s a front-burner issue.”

MRC members requested that a TSG representative attend the commission’s November meeting to provide a detailed outline of the master plan for MJC facilities. MRC member Konrad Wayson said the commission needs to know where the process stands in relation to how front-side facilities improvements impact those in the barn area.

Racing dates for Laurel and Pimlico, as well as Rosecroft Raceway, for 2019 will be submitted for approval at the November meeting. It is expected additional days will be added to the calendar at Laurel next year in keeping with a multi-year trend; a proposal calls for 168 programs at Laurel and 12 at Pimlico. The Maryland State Fair at Timonium was approved for its customary meet from late August through Labor Day and would run another seven days for a total of 187 Thoroughbred dates in the state.

(Bowie Training Center photo by Tom LaMarra)