The Maryland Jockey Club announced April 7 that it has begun the final preparations for the new turf course at Laurel Park. Last summer Magna Entertainment Corp., the MJC's parent company, began a multi-million dollar renovation that included the widening of both racing surfaces. The new main course, which was raised and increased in width from 75 to 95 feet, was completed in early January. The grass course has been expanded from 75 to 142 feet and allows for five or six different courses to race on.The MJC announcement came in a letter to the Maryland Racing Commission and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association."We are now ready to finish the work on what promises to be one of the finest turf courses in the country," said Jim Gagliano, executive vice president of Maryland Racing Operations.Over the past several months the turf course has been surveyed at specified intervals that revealed small but persistent areas of pocketing water. To eradicate this and create an optimum drainage structure, vertical pipe has been installed into every under drain outfall to allow water to drain off the turf course into the infield. Additionally, the drainage pipe under the turf gaps has been lowered and the grade of all the ramps modified onto the turf course.To monitor the progress of the drainage modifications, 11 lateral drains in test trenches have been installed. Sophisticated soil moisture sensors will be used to monitor the area. Data is collected every 30 minutes and is sent via radio transmission to an on-site weather station, where it is downloaded, stored and analyzed. "We expect that by June 1st, weather permitting, we will begin installing the sod," said Gagliano. "This process should take approximately 12 days, which will give the turf course ample time to take hold, allowing us to utilize it for our fall meeting, which is now scheduled to begin September 8th."
The current winter meeting at Laurel concludes April 17.