Horse Racing Could Resume At Laurel Park Saturday

Written By Derek Helling on April 27, 2023Last Updated on May 8, 2023
laurel park race horses dirt track

For bettors who handicapped Saturday’s horse races at Laurel Park, all that effort and time might not turn out to be a waste. As of Thursday morning, it looks like at least some of those competitions will occur at the Maryland horse racing track.

The state’s regulatory body has given a preliminary approval to Saturday’s schedule at Laurel Park. For the track’s stakeholders, moving on from the suspension of horse racing could prove a matter of survival.

Laurel Park receives tentative green light for racing

Even though Laurel Park management 1/ST Racing insisted the track was safe for racing, results suggested otherwise. Five horses have died after racing on the track in the past two weeks, including two that suffered fatal injuries in consecutive races on April 20.

1/ST suspended racing after those deaths amid protests from the Maryland Jockey Club. The Thoroughbred Horsemen Association and the club negotiated a potential resumption of action. Among the terms of that agreement were an inspection of the track by an independent party.

According to Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun, the independent assessor gave his preliminary evaluation late Wednesday. Thoroughbred Association President Tim Keefe said the consultant “recommended maintenance tweaks and suggested the track’s cushion ‘didn’t have enough body to it.’” However, Keefe said he believes the track will address those matters in time for Saturday’s race card.

The consultant has yet to issue a full report to the Maryland Racing Commission. Until then, the commission’s approval for Saturday’s races remains tentative. Barring something unexpected, though, Saturday’s schedule should take place.

For Laurel Park, it’s important to address this issue for several reasons. Among them are that the continued operations of the track could be on the line.

Laurel Park or Pimlico Race Course?

At this time, questions abound about whether Maryland’s horse racing landscape is robust enough to support two tracks. Should the answer to those questions prove negative, it seems Laurel Park could get left in the dust.

A bill in the Maryland Senate, SB 720, looks to deploy funds to update horse tracks in the state. However, there’s no guarantee that should that bill become law, the state would allocate funds evenly between Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course. In fact, Pimlico could receive the majority or all of that money.

Pimlico could take priority because it is the site of the annual Preakness Stakes. That race is one leg of the sport’s Triple Crown. Modernizing the track, which could include a significant expansion, could prove too costly to leave much to affect similar upgrades at Laurel Park. There has even been talk in the past in Maryland of possibly moving the Preakness to Laurel.

For that reason, Laurel Park needs to avoid any perception of current shortcomings. Such attitudes could make it easier for authorities in Maryland to focus on Pimlico to Laurel Park’s detriment. Saturday’s races could be pivotal for many reasons, should they actually take place.

Photo by AP Photo/Terrance Williams; Illustrated by Playin USA
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of Playin USA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including legislation and litigation in the gaming industry. He enjoys reading hundreds of pages of a gambling bill or lawsuit for his audience. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa.

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