Work continues in earnest on Laurel surface rebuild

Posted: July 8, 2021

The extensive project to rebuild the Laurel Park dirt surface is continuing in earnest, and as of early July it appeared to be on track for completion by the end of the month.

The Maryland Jockey Club and its parent company, 1/ST RACING (The Stronach Group), earlier said the target is for horses to be able to return to Laurel the first week in August barring any delays in the ongoing project. The timeline is dependent upon good weather conditions and the timely arrival of the cushion material that will make up the new racing surface. On July 7, members of the crew began laying the cushion on part of the surface.

The project entailed an examination of the sub-base, repair of pipes underneath the track, and reshooting the grades. When completed, Laurel will have a new base and a new cushion from the inside rail to the outside rail. MJC and TSG officials said that as the work continued, crews uncovered problem areas that had to be addressed such as a clogged drainage system on the backstretch and inconsistent grading levels on parts of the track.

“As most are aware, things haven’t gone as smoothly as possible,” TSG Chief Operating Officer Aidan Butler said. “The base was in worse shape than we anticipated but we are dedicated to doing this project right without cutting corners.”

As of early July much of the surface already had the new base material in place. The most extensive digging was done on the backstretch, where the base is being replaced in sixteenth-mile increments to allow for proper hardening. Crews were also working from the head of the homestretch toward the two finish lines to repair grading.

MJC Track Superintendent Chris Bosley said he was pleased with the progress and that barring unforeseen issues, delays in material or poor weather conditions, the timeline is workable. The last portion of the surface to be replaced, he said, will be the one-mile chute.

“I think when we get done we will have a very safe, uniform and consistent racetrack,” said Dennis Moore, the TSG Senior Track Superintendent who has been working on the Laurel project.

Given the potential early-August return of many horses to Laurel from the Maryland State Fair at Timonium and Pimlico Race Course, and the fact it could take several weeks before customary training and workouts can begin, the summer meet at Pimlico Race Course will continue through Aug. 22. The Maryland Racing Commission already had granted extensions and is expected to formally approve the latest one at its next meeting July 15.

Regarding relocated backstretch workers who have hotel rooms near Timonium or dormitory rooms on the property, adequate capacity for the workforce will continue on an as-needed basis. Meanwhile, the MJC has undertaken regular repair work, as well as other projects, at Laurel during the down time there. Many barn interiors have been painted; boards are being replaced in barns; and Orkin, hired for rodent remediation, continues its work in the Laurel barn area.