When the Laurel Park fall meeting began in September, Maryland Jockey Club officials had high hopes for its new turf course. After three months the grass courses have exceeded expectations.
The new, sweeping turf course, which has was widened from 75 feet to 142 feet during the summer, has helped the track attact an average of 11.2 starters per grass race. "We have had remarkable success with the size of the fields and the response from the trainers and jockeys who have been on the course," said Lou Raffetto, MJC's chief operating officer. "The one thing about this turf course is that the horsemen have confidence in a sense that if it does rain they know there may be a period of a day or two that we'll be off, but they feel secure that we'll be back on the turf. In the old days if we had an inch of rain we would have been off the turf for the better part of a week."This season, 105 of 134 races featured double digit fields, a 78% rate. Laurel Park's new turf course has seen 29 full fields of 14 facing the starter. Only 11 races featured fewer than eight starters and nine of those have been seven horse fields. The average win payoff is $14.45.
"The turf has been huge for us and was worth the wait," said racing secretary Georganne Hale. Ryan Fogelsonger and Horacio Karamanos have each ridden 21 turf winners during the meet. Graham Motion tops all trainers with seven victories. Beer Stien, trained by King Leatherbury and the Michael McCarthy conditioned Tour Dance are a perfect three-for-three on the new Laurel lawn.
The turf accommodates six track configurations which were named All Along, Bowl Game, Kelso, Dahlia, Exceller and Ft. Marcy, in honor of some of the great horses which have competed on the grass at Laurel Park. The All Along and Bowl Game will not be used the rest of the year in hopes of using them for the final three weeks (March 29-April 15) of the 2006 winter meeting.