The Maryland Jockey Club announced Oct. 8 that it intends to extend the current Pimlico meet until mid-December, with the re-opening of Laurel Park scheduled for Dec. 26. The current Pimlico stand was tentatively scheduled to end on Nov. 2.The backstretch and racing surfaces at Laurel Park have been closed since mid-June as Magna Entertainment Corp. began a $16 million renovation, which includes the widening of both racing surfaces. The turf course will be expanded from 75 to 142 feet, while the dirt course will be increased from 75 to 95 feet."The Maryland Jockey Club and Magna Entertainment Corp. are indebted to the Maryland horsemen for their patience and consideration during this period," said Jim Gagliano, executive vice president of Maryland racing operations. "We remain convinced that the short-term inconveniences, while considerably burdensome, will be outweighed by the greater good in the long run."
Favorable weather over the past several weeks has helped the project make considerable progress, according to the MJC. Much of the racing surfaces (turf and dirt) have been graded, leveled and capped with a stone road base. The schedule calls for 100% of the tracks to be covered with road base by Oct. 13, and the main track's limestone and turf course's sand base (drainage layer) to be completed by Nov. 15, at which time the rails will be installed. Training on the Laurel Park main course is expected to begin Dec. 5. "We feel the extra time afforded by the later date will allow the Laurel Park track crew the opportunity to work the surface into the best racing shape possible," added Gagliano. "The delay to December 26 will also allow us the opportunity to optimize marketing at the height of the holiday season."Pimlico Race Course will now play host to the Fall Festival of Racing on Nov. 20, an event headlined by the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I).