American Sailor
Photo of Laurel Park in April by The Racing Biz.

Laurel Park won’t race Friday or Saturday. But – if all goes according to plan, which is a pretty big “if” – racing could resume as early as Sunday, Maryland Jockey Club acting president Mike Rogers told horsemen on a Zoom call Jan. 11.

The track did not run any of its four scheduled cards last week, and it has been partially closed to training for the last week, as well. Rogers told horsemen at a meeting Jan. 8 the racing strip had been insufficiently winterized prior to the snow and cold that arrived in central Maryland last week.

“We continued on the same plan [to winterize the track] that we’ve always been talking about,” Rogers said during today’s call. “But we really accelerated it, and that began yesterday.”

The plan is to work thousands of tons of coarse sand into the track’s cushion, gradually reducing the presence of silty clay in it.

“We made great progress yesterday,” Rogers said.

“It’s moving along very, very well,” agreed NYRA track super Glen Kozak, who is consulting on the project.

Horses were able to gallop on the track Tuesday morning and will do so again Wednesday. Thursday, Rogers said, horses could “potentially work.”

Thursday is also the day the track typically takes entries for Sunday. The plan now – agreed to by Rogers and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association president Tim Keefe – is for the track to accept entries Thursday to try to run starting Sunday.

“I absolutely think [we should] give it a shot on Sunday,” Keefe said on the call.

So the good news is that racing could resume this weekend. The bad: even if the track is ready to handle the stress of racing, more weather is headed Maryland’s way. Temperatures are predicted to dip into the teens late Friday into Saturday, with snow showers predicted for Sunday.

If racing is able to take place, Sunday and Monday, it’s possible the track will also add Tuesday, Jan. 18 and Wednesday, Jan. 19 to the schedule to make up two of the missed days.

Keefe made that proposal during the meeting, and while Rogers said he had no “major objection” to it, he also said that the track’s ability to run the unplanned days would depend on its ability to get workers – gate crew, valets, and many others – integral to putting on the show.

Rogers did reassure horsemen that the MJC is “committed to making up” the racing days missed – six so far this year, to go along with a half-dozen more in December.

There are a lot of moving parts to the situation going forward. Among them are how to make up those days and whether to postpone the half-dozen stakes scheduled for Jan. 22, since, without a track to train on for more than a week, some of the likely contenders may not be race-fit by that date.

But those are problems for a different day. First on the agenda is getting the Laurel Park main track fully operational once again.