Large panels of glass in the grandstand overlooking the track at Laurel Park have been cracking at an alarming rate. The situation, which already has forced the transfer of some racing dates to Pimlico Race Course, has prompted the Maryland Jockey Club to hire a team of experts to find the cause and propose a solution.
"At this point, we really don't know," MJC president Joe De Francis said. "We've still got engineers crawling all over the place."
MJC officials have closed portions of Laurel Park, which currently serves as a simulcasting center. And, with the consent of the Maryland Racing Commission, the MJC switched its Aug. 8-24 racing dates from Laurel to Pimlico.
That brief meet follows the session at Colonial Downs, which is open now in Virginia, and before the Maryland State Fair at Timonium, which runs Aug. 25-Sept. 3.
Where racing will be held after the Timonium meet remains unclear. The MJC plan calls for Thoroughbreds to run at Laurel from Sept. 6-Dec. 31. But that meet, which includes the Maryland Million and the rescheduled Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, could be conducted at Pimlico if extensive repairs are required at Laurel.
Since the beginning of the year, 10 panels of tempered glass have cracked at Laurel. (They've cracked in the same way a car window splinters but remains in place.) At first, track officials believed the damage was caused by vandals.
The problem comes at a time when Maryland racing is beset by bad news. Loss of a $10-million state purse supplement necessitated moderate cuts in purses and drastic cuts in stakes. More cuts are required. Meanwhile, business is stagnant.