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Today's Tracks

Friday April 23rd

  • Fairview (SAf)    6:20am
  • Doncaster (UK)    8:05am
  • Sandown Park (UK)    8:15am
  • Cork (IRE)    8:20am
  • Perth (UK)    8:30am
  • Worcester (UK)    11:05am
  • Kilbeggan (IRE)    11:55am
  • Chepstow (UK)    12:05pm
  • Harrahs Philly (Chester)    12:25pm
  • Tampa Bay Downs    12:30pm
  • Freehold Raceway    12:30pm
  • Pimlico    12:40pm
  • The Meadows    12:45pm
  • Gulfstream Tropical    1:00pm
  • Belmont Park    1:00pm
  • Keeneland    1:05pm
  • Turf Paradise    3:25pm
  • Lone Star Park    3:35pm
  • Plainridge    4:00pm
  • Santa Anita Park    4:00pm
  • Fonner Park    4:00pm
  • Stronach Pick 5    4:10pm
  • SunRay Park    4:15pm
  • Golden Gate Fields    4:20pm
  • Penn National    6:00pm
  • Vernon Downs    6:10pm
  • Golden Hour Wagers    7:00pm
  • Remington Park    7:00pm
  • New Zealand    7:15pm
  • Meadowlands (H)    7:15pm
  • Yonkers Raceway    7:15pm
  • Northville Downs    7:30pm
  • Sam Houston    7:45pm
  • New Zealand 2    8:05pm
  • Los Alamitos (QH)    9:00pm
  • Australia A    9:10pm
  • Australia B    9:30pm
  • Australia C    9:55pm
  • Seoul Korea    10:00pm
  • Caulfield AUS    10:15pm
  • Australia D    10:20pm
  • Morphettville AUS    10:25pm
  • Busan Korea    10:30pm
  • Wangaratta    10:30pm
  • Singapore    11:55pm

Carryover Information

Carryover Wager Type Track Date
$13,583 JP Hi 5 KEENELAND Apr 22
$1,210 JP Pick 7 GATTON AUS Apr 22
$1,280 Pick 6 YONKERS RACEWAY Apr 22
$1,874 JP Hi 5 THE MEADOWS Apr 22
$1,021 JP Hi 5 HARRAH'S PHILLY Apr 22
$1,395 JP Hi 5 PLAINRIDGE Apr 22
$931 Pick 6 PLAINRIDGE Apr 22
$1,260 JP Pick 6 Hoosier Apr 22
$9,403 JP Pick 6 Turf Paradise Apr 22
$10,238 JP Pick 6 Pimlico Apr 22
$44,277 JP Pick 6 Gulfstream Apr 22
$6,341 JP Pick 6 TAMPA BAY DOWNS Apr 23
$187,515 JP Hi 5 PENN NATIONAL Apr 23
$110,029 JP Pick 5 FONNER PARK Apr 23
$3,018 Pick 4 FREEHOLD RACEWAY Apr 23
$4,462 JP Pick 6 Golden Gate Apr 23
$31,684 JP Hi 5 HAWTHORNE Apr 24
$3,115 JP Pick 6 HAWTHORNE Apr 24
$5,185 Pick 6 NORTHFIELD PARK Apr 24
$20,219 JP Pick 6 CAL EXPO Apr 24
$26,319 JP Pick 5 POCONO DOWNS Apr 24
$20,114 JP Hi 5 WOODBINE HARNESS ???

Player News

  • Today’s “Lock” is at Yonkers Raceway on race 2 with the #5-Bluffinner-Class and speed of the race=Win;) driver is Trond Smedshammer. Last ‘lock” Won again! Howard’s record is now at: 729 of 1155 wins with 200 seconds and 74 thirds. Remember to place your wagers at!

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  • Hump Day “Lock” stays at Northfield Park on race 12 with the #5-Victor Hic Has-Drop and pop for driver Hunter Myers. Last ‘lock” Won again! The pick record is now at: 728 of 1154 wins with 200 seconds and 74 thirds. Have a great day! Thank you for your support of!

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Racing News

Kirkpatrick & Co Presents In Their Care: Paye Looking Forward To Passing Her Love Of Horses To The Next Generation

Kirkpatrick & Co Presents In Their Care: Paye Looking Forward To Passing Her Love Of Horses To The Next Generation

In younger days, Courtney Paye felt obligated only to her horses while she ventured from coast to coast as a groom. She sampled life in Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia while being employed by such prominent trainers as Richard Baltas, Christophe Clement, Dallas Keen, Peter Miller and, currently, Tom Amoss.

The native of Orange County, Calif., was living her own version of Disneyland, the carefree amusement park that lit the night sky around the corner from her childhood home.

“If somebody would have told me when I was a little girl that one day you’re going to be able to make a living working with horses and you’re going to travel and see things, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Paye. “It would have been the best possible thing that could have happened.”

Her life took an even better turn several years ago when she met Jose, a fellow groom who came to the United States from Peru with the determination to build a better life. They quickly fell in love and will celebrate their second wedding anniversary in June.

Then came a most unexpected turn, bringing an equal measure of anxiety and excitement. At age 40, Paye will soon have more than horses, a husband, three cats, two dogs and a ferret to care for. She is eight months pregnant with a daughter who will be named Kinsley.

“I never dreamed of being a mother. I dedicated my life to these horses. That’s been my life,” Paye said. “But I believe the universe unfolds the way it is supposed to and here I am at 40, eight months pregnant with our daughter, and we’re very excited.”

Despite severe morning sickness that made early stages of her pregnancy extraordinarily difficult, she worked throughout the winter months at Oaklawn Park. She recently helped establish Amoss’ barn at Indiana Grand, which is overseen by assistant trainer Katy Allen.

“I think Courtney doesn’t think that she needs much help at all and we’ve been kind of careful because we don’t want to treat her like something is wrong with her,” Allen said. “But all of the guys constantly jump in to help her. Nobody wants her going up in the hay loft. Nobody wants her bedding down stalls or picking up hay bales or feed bags or anything like that.

“It’s really been kind of a team effort in the barn. Everyone has been on the same page and it wasn’t like I said anything to the other grooms. It was just something they did.”

Paye gives Serengeti Empress a kiss after her win in the Grade 1 Ballerina

With the blessing of her obstetrician, Paye intends to report to the barn every morning, stopping to greet each of the horses assigned to her before she begins her chores, until her body signals that she must stop. She typically thrives on her daily routine.

“Those quiet mornings I have with them before the sun comes up, before the training starts, that’s my favorite time of day,” Paye said. “I love taking care of them. I love trying to keep them happy.”

Serengeti Empress is foremost among the horses she has tended to. The filly became so attached to her last summer at Saratoga Race Course that she would gently bite Paye’s toes as she prepared to leave the stall. It was as if to say, “’Please stay and fuss over me a little longer.’”

Paye fusses over every horse.

“She is not just a person who works with horses. She is a horse person,” said Jose, 34. “She doesn’t care if the horse is going to run in a $5,000 claiming race or a stake. She takes care of every horse.”

Paye’s dedication deep into her pregnancy also stems from the reality that she and Jose have modest means with which to satisfy major expenses they will soon encounter. There is no such thing as maternity leave for backstretch workers. They consider themselves fortunate to enjoy a rare day off.

“My husband and I have a bit of money set aside. But it is a big stress, to be honest,” Paye said. “I know we can make it work. I don’t really have a full plan, but we’re just going to do it. He’s going to keep working as hard as he can and I’ll get back to work as soon as I can.”

Although Jose toils primarily as a groom, he is licensed as an assistant trainer and looks forward to advancing his career. He noted that there are ample opportunities to gain extra income on the backside.

“I worry,” he said, “but I’m going to start doing extra things so we can afford everything.”

While Kinsley is an infant, they are considering giving up an apartment they rent near Indiana Grand to live in a recreational vehicle that has many payments remaining.

Paye and Serengeti Empress prepare to leave Saratoga

Amoss is well known for his dedication to hard-working employees facing challenging circumstances.

“Tom is really willing to work with people like that,” Allen said. “He doesn’t leave anybody stranded.”

Allen said it is possible that Paye might assist with laundry or paperwork as a way to generate income before she can return to the barn.

“Her job is cemented with us,” she said.

Paye already knows that Kinsley’s earliest memories will be of the racetrack.

“She’s going to grow up different from other kids,” the mother-to-be said. “She’s going to travel. She’ll definitely ride a horse before she can walk.

“I hope that she wants to work with horses. I would love for her to work at the racetrack. If she doesn’t, that’s okay, too. I just want her to have a passion in life.”

Whatever the future holds for Kinsley, she will be blessed with loving, devoted parents. She will be in the best of hands.

Tom Pedulla wrote for USA Today from 1995-2012 and has been a contributor to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Blood-Horse, America’s Best Racing and other publications.

If you wish to suggest a backstretch worker as a potential subject for In Their Care, please send an email to that includes the person’s name and contact information in addition to a brief description of the employee’s background.

The post Kirkpatrick & Co Presents In Their Care: Paye Looking Forward To Passing Her Love Of Horses To The Next Generation appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance Accreditation To Resume Following COVID-19 Pause

NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance Accreditation To Resume Following COVID-19 Pause

Following an eight-month hiatus from conducting on-track accreditation visits due to the impact of COVID-19, the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance (Alliance) has begun the process of re-accrediting racetracks, the NTRA announced today.

Accreditation by the Alliance has taken on additional meaning following the passage of The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) in December of 2020. The HISA federal regulations, which are set to be enacted in July 2022, note that the new Authority may extend provisional or interim accreditation to a racetrack accredited by the Alliance.

Applications for Alliance accreditation are available on the NTRA website at:

The current Alliance Code of Standards is available at:

“Racetracks across the nation are gradually beginning to welcome back customers and participants, so it is time to begin the process of re-accrediting many of the 21 racetracks currently accredited by the Alliance,” said Alex Waldrop, President and Chief Executive Officer of the NTRA. “The Alliance will also consider applications from other non-accredited racetracks that wish to be accredited before the expected launch of HISA in 2022.”

The Alliance accreditation process begins with the submission by the racing association of a comprehensive written application, which must be supported by extensive documentation. Once the application is complete, an audit is performed by an Alliance inspection team that carefully examines each applicant’s operations and conducts interviews with track management and other key personnel including track superintendents, racing office officials, track veterinarians and safety officers, as well as jockeys, owners, trainers, stewards, regulatory veterinarians, wagering security officials, customers and others to confirm full compliance with the Alliance Code of Standards.

The 21 racetracks currently accredited by the Alliance are: Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, Canterbury Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Ellis Park, Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Indiana Grand, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Laurel Park, Monmouth Park, Parx Racing, Pimlico Race Course, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Sunland Park, Turfway Park and Woodbine.

The post NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance Accreditation To Resume Following COVID-19 Pause appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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OBS Spring Sale Ticks Along Thursday

OBS Spring Sale Ticks Along Thursday

by Jessica Martini & Christie DeBernardis

OCALA, FL – While there weren’t the seven-figure fireworks of its second session, action remained brisk during the third session of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training Thursday.

“There was still plenty of activity,” OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski said at the conclusion of business Thursday afternoon. “Maybe there was a natural ebb and flow of horses in the catalogue, but there were still a lot of horses who sold well today.”

With a handful of high-priced pinhooks, de Meric Sales was the session’s leading consignor with 12 sold for $2,368,000, including the day’s top-priced offering, a filly by Curlin purchased by Pete Bradley for $670,000.

Through three of four sessions, 540 horses have sold for $54,310,000. The cumulative average is $100,574 and the median is $50,000. With 98 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate was just 15.4%.

At last year’s pandemic-delayed Spring sale, 475 horses sold through the auction’s first three days for a gross of $40,350,500. The average was $84,948 and the median was $49,000.

At this point in the pre-pandemic 2019 auction, 519 horses had sold for $56,217,000 for an average of $108,318 and a median of $65,000.

“There was action at all levels,” Wojciechowski said of Thursday’s session. “Somebody asked me earlier in the week about the lack of Korean buyers here because of the changes in what their government allows them to purchase. I said that I felt like we had the capability of picking up that slack domestically and it has certainly borne out that way.”

Consignors and buyers alike have been impressed by the strength of the market in Ocala this week.

“It is a fantastic sale.” consignor Eddie Woods said. “I think there is more money here than there are horses to be bought. There is all kinds of money for the good horses.”

After signing the ticket on the session-topper, Bradley echoed those sentiments.

“There is tremendous depth to the market,” Bradley said. “Ciaran [Dunne] said it the other day. Even the lower end of this market is more than surviving. There are people there for $30,000 and $50,000 horses. Which we really need to see. This is as strong as I’ve seen this market, especially given what this world has come through. It is still awash in money. There is a lot of money out there. And this sale has been great for the guys who pinhooked this year. It took a lot of guts to pinhook this year. People in the horse business have guts and short memories. And that always helps in this game.”

The Spring Sale concludes with a final session Friday with bidding beginning at 10:30 a.m.

“I think it will be a good day,” Wojciechowski said. “People who have maybe been unable to buy anything for the last three days might have a sense of urgency and there are still some really good horses tomorrow. I expect it will be a good day.”

Bradley Splurges for Curlin Filly

Bloodstock agent Pete Bradley helped contribute to a big day for the de Meric Sales consignment when he purchased a filly by Curlin (hip 830) for $670,000 at OBS Thursday. The bay juvenile, purchased by the de Merics for $200,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale, is out of graded winner Funny Proposition (Medaglia d’Oro). She worked a furlong in :10 1/5 during last week’s under-tack preview.

“I bought her for a partnership,” Bradley said after signing the ticket on the filly. “She put in one of the best works of the day. And a Curlin–what do you say? And a Curlin filly–what do you say twice? She wasn’t cheap, in this market though where horses are bringing $500,000 and $600,000 with little or no pedigree–that’s not a slight, that’s just what it is–that’s what I thought we would have to pay for her. And I got lucky and I got her.” @JessMartiniTDN

Brother to Top Oaks Contender Proves Popular 

Hip 644 has gotten a big update since the de Merics purchased him for $100,000 at Keeneland September with his full-sister Search Results (Flatter) opening her account with a trio of wins, including the GIII Gazelle S. Now one of the leading GI Kentucky Oaks contenders, she made her brother a coveted prize in Ocala and it was Lauren Carlisle who won out after a vigorous round of bidding early in Thursday’s session, taking the chestnut home for $625,000.

“He is a beautiful homebred for Machmer Hall, great partners and friends of ours,” Tristan de Meric said. “They raise a horse beautifully. Obviously, the update with Search Results going to the Oaks and being one of the favorites, couldn’t have had better timing. This horse did a lot of it on his own, but the update didn’t hurt at all. We have high expectations for him. He should have a bright future. He was an awesome student. He wants to run. He is everything we love about Thoroughbreds.”

Carlisle was acting on behalf of an undisclosed client, but said the colt would be trained by Tom Amoss. MyRacehorse, who has been quite active at this sale, signed on as a partner.

“We are super pumped about [Search Results],” said Carlisle. “Hopefully, in a week, she might have a really big update. We thought the colt was an outstanding physical. He had a good video [:10 1/5]. There wasn’t anything to not like about him.”

Hip 644 was bred by Sandy Willwerth and Carrie and Craig Brogden’s Machmer Hall, which also bred his GSP dam Co Cola (Candy Ride {Arg}) and his undefeated full-sister, who was purchased by Mike Ryan for $310,000 at Keeneland September. Co Cola produced a Nyquist colt this year and was bred back to Flatter.

“Every time he breezed it was even better,” Carrie Brogden, standing alongside her mother, Sandy Willwerth. “Then we got lucky with Search Results. She was actually a day topper [at KEESEP]. We had the mare catalogued to sell in foal, but after [Search Results] was a day topper, we scratched the mare. We actually bred [Co Cola], sold her and she became a graded stakes horse. When she was done racing, Chris Brothers called me privately and we bought her back as a broodmare prospect, so it is circular for us.”

The horsewoman continued, “I love the fact it is women, Valery [de Meric] and I and my mom and Lauren. These women are making their voices heard. Twenty years ago when I moved to Kentucky, you didn’t see that. Now things have changed. It was completely Valery’s decision to buy that Flatter colt off of us and I encouraged her. We have one of our good luck partners Gus King in on the horse and it is just a dream.”

The de Merics and Brogdens enjoyed more success during Thursday’s session. Their Curlin half-brother to champion Drefong (Gio Ponti) (Hip 744) bringing $425,000 from Mike Ryan and a Curlin filly (Hip 830) summoning $670,000 from Pete Bradley.

“I can’t say enough about our relationship with the de Merics,” Brogden said. “We trust in each other. We have done so well with our homebreds and they allow us to retain pieces.”

Van Leer Perseveres for One of the Last Pioneers

It was a match race to the wire for Hip 786, but it was Gayle Van Leer who crossed the line first to take home a colt from the last full crop of Pioneerof the Nile for $575,000 on behalf of Kretz Racing. The colt will join the barn of California-based conditioner George Papaprodromou.

“These kinds of horses are so difficult to buy,” Van Leer said. “We have been trying all week, so it is nice to get something we really wanted. That was the horse we targeted from the very beginning, but it’s been very tough to buy at the top end, so we are very glad to be able to get him.”

She continued, “I loved his balance. He is just put together so nicely and has a lovely stride to him. He is just a solid type that we think can be a two-turn horse.”

The dark bay colt breezed in a sharp :20 4/5 for Eddie Woods during last week’s breeze show.

“I knew he would sell really well, but you never know what they can bring,” Woods said. “You need a duel like the one that just happened to make it happen for you. We had a lot of good people on him and rightly so because he is a really nice horse.”

Hip 786 is the second foal out of Fancy Day (Ire) (Shamardal), whoo is a daughter of GSW Tizdubai (Cee’s Tizzy). A $145,000 RNA at Keeneland September, he was bred by WinStar and is from the last full crop of their top stallion Pioneerof the Nile, who died in March of 2019 after breeding just a few mares.

“He didn’t look anything like that as a yearling,” Woods said. “He was a small, undeveloped horse, but he just bloomed through the winter and worked fantastic.”

First Pinhook a Score for Eisaman

While parents Barry and Shari Eisaman have gone from strength to strength–led by the $850,000 homebred colt by Gun Runner Tuesday–this week in Ocala, it was their 22-year-old daughter Kristina who got into the action late in Thursday’s third session of the Spring sale. The younger Eisaman celebrated her acceptance into vet school by selling a colt by Klimt (Hip 902) for $310,000. She had purchased the juvenile, her first-ever pinhook attempt, for $25,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale.

Eisaman said she always planned to follow in the veterinary footsteps of her father, but it wasn’t until recently that she decided to also make the family’s Ocala operation part of her future.

“I always knew I wanted to do veterinary medicine, but it wasn’t until I got older and was in college that I realized that pinhooking was what I wanted to do and I started getting more interested in what my parents do,” Eisaman said Thursday afternoon. “I always knew I wanted to do something with horses, but it wasn’t until this past year that I knew this is what I wanted to do.”

Her decision was helped along by the pandemic, which last spring interrupted her studies at the University of Florida.

“I kind of think COVID had a lot to do with it, because I never would have come home,” Eisaman said. “I would never have come back to the farm and I would never have started working  with my dad. So it’s a blessing in disguise. I found what I want to do and I’ve found my passion. I am so thankful for that.”

With her new found direction, Eisaman headed to Lexington with her parents last September.

“I had just gotten off the plane [in Lexington] and I was standing there with my parents,” Eisaman recalled. “And my mom said, ‘We are just looking at what catches our eye.’ And this chestnut colt came in and I said, ‘Hey, mom. Look at this.’ We looked further into him and decided let’s go for him. And we did.”

Eisaman signed her first ticket on the colt from the first crop of GI Del Mar Futurity winner Klimt last fall and watched him blossom into his 2-year-old form which saw him work a furlong at last week’s under-tack show in :10 flat. The colt was purchased Thursday by Kaleem Shah, who also campaigned his sire.

“He has changed a lot,” Eisaman said of the juvenile. “He’s always been very mature, but he’s gotten bigger and he’s so built. He always comes out and does the right thing. He knows what he supposed to do and he’s very businesslike. But he’s aggressive. At the breeze show, they could barely pull him up after he galloped out. He is all business. And I really like that about him. He loves to train, which I think is very important. He’s very competitive. The more he trains, the more it seems like that is what he wants to do. He has the right mentality.”

The colt was popular at the barn all week, but Eisaman said she tried to temper her expectations.

“I knew he was looked at a lot and I knew that he was probably going to go for six figures, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much,” she said. “But everybody kept saying,

‘You’re going to get into vet school this week and then you’re going to pay for vet school this week.’ Once it hit $120,000, I thought, ‘That pays for my vet school.’ I was kind of in shock, though. I was just watching as the numbers ticked up.”

In addition to vet school, Eisaman is hoping to invest in additional yearlings this coming fall, but she is going into the business with her eyes wide open.

“It’s a hard lifestyle,” she said. “And I am aware of that and I am not going into it blindly. I am aware that it’s challenging and I am looking forward to that challenge.” @JessMartiniTDN

Ramirez Scores with Shackleford Colt

Omar Ramirez, who spent the last 12 years learning the trade with the Gladwells’ Top Line Sales, is consigning under his own name at just his second auction, but scored a pinhooking coup with the sale of a colt by Shackleford (Hip 747) for $285,000 to GMP Stables LLC/Anthony Melfi Thursday in Ocala. Ramirez had purchased the colt with a client for $35,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearlings Sale.

“I bought him for me and my client at the Maryland sale. That was my first time at that sale,” Ramirez said while celebrating his biggest result to date. “He had a beautiful conformation and he had a beautiful walk. His mind was so good, the same with him here. He was a classy horse. I said to my client, ‘We need to get him.’ I thought he might go for more, so I was very happy to get him for $35,000.”

The chestnut colt is out of Elusive Tara (Elusive Quality), a half-sister to graded winner Big Bend (Union Rags) and multiple graded placed Miss Chatelaine (Pulpit). He worked a furlong in :10 flat during last week’s under-tack show.

“I knew coming into this sale he was going to be one of my big horses,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t know how good he was going to work with the weather and he worked late in the afternoon. But he did everything right.”

Ramirez offered a pair of fillies in his first consignment at the OBS March sale and sold a daughter of Uncaptured for $65,000.

His eight-horse April consignment is stabled in Barn 13, just across from the Top Line consignment in Barn 14.

“I had been working for Top Line for 12 years,” Ramirez said. “They taught me a lot. They are like my family, so I love them and they’ve been supporting me so much. I told them this winter that I wanted to do this venture and they said ok. That’s why I’m next to them.”

While Ramirez made his first trip to the Midlantic Yearling sale last fall, it likely isn’t his last visit to the Timonium auction.

“I bought six horses over there and they all worked really well here,” Ramirez said. “I have a couple more coming today and tomorrow. I am sure I will go back for that sale.”


The post OBS Spring Sale Ticks Along Thursday appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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June Now Best Guess for Laurel’s Main Track to Be Fixed

June Now Best Guess for Laurel’s Main Track to Be Fixed

Mounting problems that have forced the closure of the main dirt track at Laurel Park are now tentatively anticipated to be fixed by the start of June. But difficulties related to the sourcing and testing of materials for the base and cushion are keeping the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) from setting an exact timetable for the return of racing and training at its primary venue.

On Thursday, the Maryland Racing Commission (MRC) met at Laurel for the board’s first in-person monthly meeting since the onset of the pandemic. But Laurel’s scheduled racing for Apr. 22 had already been moved 28 miles north on an emergency basis to the MJC’s sister track, Pimlico Race Course, which was pressed into action two weeks prior to its scheduled opening because the situation at the torn-up Laurel track has escalated into a “million or multi-million dollar project” that has no simple fix.

That time frame and the cost estimate were provided to the commission by Steve Koch, the senior vice president of racing for The Stronach Group (TSG), which owns the MJC and both tracks.

Commission members expressed frustration at how the main track problems got so out of hand so quickly, and they grilled Koch and TSG for not having the foresight to identify and remedy the difficulties earlier.

“I think it’s an accumulation of bad decisions over time and not putting the money in the track to get us from ‘We have no issues’ three weeks ago until today, where we’re shutting the whole thing down and tearing it up,” said commissioner Konrad Wayson.

Koch acknowledged the work is extensive and disruptive to Maryland racing, and he articulated that TSG is in a spare-no-expense mode to make sure Laurel’s track is deemed safe.

“We are looking at a total cushion replacement of the main track and some significant work on the base to restore its consistency,” Koch said. “It is not news that we’ve made base repairs to this track since the day is was installed. This problem that brought us here today is all about the cushion. Now that we have the base exposed, it would be perhaps a mistake to cover that back up” without shoring up the base.

“I hesitate to put a firm timeline on this for the moment,” Koch said, although he added that “I would not anticipate this running past the end of the current Pimlico meet.”

Pimlico is scheduled to race through May 31. Laurel’s summer meet is supposed to start June 4.

Koch gave a recap of how the problems progressed, citing adverse winter weather as a starting point. As the maintenance crew began adding in more material with the coming of spring to keep the cushion four inches deep, “it reached a point a couple of weeks ago where were observing the track had lost a lot of its binding qualities, and we weren’t able to maintain a sufficient hardening,” he said.

It then became difficult for the MJC to source the proper cushion materials, because management has “very tight specifications” in terms of composition. Some truckloads had to be sent back because the material didn’t pass quality-control checks, Koch said.

That material shortage led to last week’s TSG decision to halt racing and training at Laurel to avoid “unnecessary risks.” Horses stabled there have had to be shipped to Pimlico for timed workouts, Koch said.

The only fortuitous thing about the switch, Koch said, is that Pimlico was getting race-ready for its upcoming GI Preakness S. meet anyway.

Once Laurel’s base was exposed, the TSG team evaluated it more closely and decided that because of its extensive history of piecemeal repairs, it seemed “less than ideal to be laying brand new, very expensive cushion” onto a substandard base, Koch said.

Koch explained there is now an active project in the backstretch chute that consists of three test strips of various base compositions, “and we are undertaking a scientific exercise” to figure out which one will work best.

“These are very scarce, very technically specified [base] materials, and in fact they’re much more scarce than the cushion materials,” Koch said.

One of the biggest cost factors is the expense of trucking in the materials. Koch said product from the closest quarry to Laurel have not worked. Materials from a different regional quarry that the MJC has used in the past are no longer satisfactory. Now management is looking to source base material from as far away as New York, which figures to be very expensive.

“We will continue to subscribe to the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory top-to-bottom quality control program,” Koch said. “What we cannot do is control every aspect of winter racing and winter weather, and we cannot control the fact that sourcing stone from quarries all over the eastern half of the United States requires a significant shopping and laboratory exercise.”

Koch added that Charles Town Races, which is about 75 miles to the west, is also in the midst of an unexpected post-winter track resurfacing project that has caused a stoppage in racing.

Commissioner Michael Algeo told Koch he didn’t agree with that comparison or putting the blame on a winter transition, which happens every year.

“I don’t know what they’re doing at Charles Town. I don’t really care what they’re doing at Charles Town. I’m interested in what happened at Laurel,” Algeo said. “I’m not a horseman, but I don’t recall this being a particularly bad winter, either by cold, snow, rain. I mean it was winter. This is what we get in Maryland.”

Other commissioners suggested that the MJC’s management is overextended right now: First the pandemic. Then this year the combination of the Laurel turf course needing restoration, the equineherpes virus quarantine, and the Laurel main track problems. All of this while getting ready for the Preakness at Pimlico.

“I would not agree that we are spread thin,” Koch replied, noting that TSG is treating Maryland as an all-hands-on-deck situation right now, requiring TSG executives to be flown in from other properties and the hiring of outside track maintenance and safety consultants.

Another commissioner questioned the wisdom of even putting in a new dirt track at all considering TSG has been floating the idea of putting in a synthetic surface at Laurel in the near future.

“The economics are not desirable,” Koch agreed. “But you can’t shortcut and expect to have a safe and viable racetrack.”

Koch explained that once testing is complete and enough materials have been obtained, work will commence in two phases, starting with the inside 50 feet of the main track followed by the outer 50 feet.

“What that allows us to do is get the horses back on the inside of the track sooner,” Koch said. “And that’s an excellent feedback loop because then the horses can tell us in real time [how the renovated part is] performing. That will be really critical to the project’s success.”

The post June Now Best Guess for Laurel’s Main Track to Be Fixed appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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