Material Added to Penn Surface; Racing a Go

Penn National continues to be plagued by racing-surface problems.

Officials at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course have worked to correct a racing surface horsemen said “fell apart” when new material was added May 9-10.

The material was added during the customary transition from a winter surface to a warm-weather surface.

“They set a new surface (May 10), and it couldn’t hold water,” Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association executive director Todd Mostoller said May 13. “The thing just fell apart when we got moisture. There is some hope the track didn’t have time to ‘set up.' We got some trainers together, and when they walked the surface, they went through the surface to the base.”

Mostoller said 12-15 horsemen unanimously voted May 12 to halt racing for the evening. Trainer was canceled for May 13.

There were similar problems last spring at the Harrisburg-area racetrack. Horsemen documented the situation and eventually presented the information to the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission. There have been problems with the surface on and off for several years.

Penn National Gaming Inc. vice president of racing Chris McErlean said racing would resume the evening of May 13. More sand was added to the surface, he said, and it appears to be fine.

"After the races (May 11), we got an inch of rain," McErlean said. "I think what happened was we got caught in a short timeframe (with the surface conversion). I don't think the track is going to be an issue. Maybe a lesson we learned is that we need to take more time (with the conversion project).

"The mixture is fine, and the track is safe."

Two horses broke down at Penn National the evening of May 11. One suffered a rear-leg breakdown, and the other a front-leg injury. Officials suspect the first incident led to the other.

The horses involved were Artist Moon and Half Moon Beach in the mile-and-70-yard race for $7,500 claimers. The final two races were run without incident, and McErlean said the surface wasn't the issue with the breakdowns.

Owner Michael Gill, ejected from Penn National earlier this year, has suggested track conditions led to the breakdown of several of his runners during the fall and winter. Horsemen at that time said the surface, after repairs made in 2009, wasn’t a problem.