With an emphasis on racing over its world-class turf course, Laurel Park will look to maintain the momentum from a record-setting Preakness Meet at Pimlico Race Course at its 33-day summer stand starting Friday, June 9.
A total of 98 horses, an average of 9.8 per race, were entered for a 10-race season-opening program that gets under way at 1:10 p.m. Six races will be contested on grass over the Kelso and Fort Marcy course layouts.
Highlighting the card is a $40,000 maiden special weight for 3-year-olds and up set for 5 1/2 furlongs on the Fort Marcy turf course that attracted a field of 11 led by 124-pound highweights Kamehameha and Early Grey, who will break side-by-side from Posts 7 and 8, respectively.
"Our racing program has grown into one of the most competitive in North America, and we continue to receive great support from horsemen throughout the country," said Sal Sinatra, President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. "We're looking forward to a great summer meet with full, competitive fields on our main track and turf course. We're also excited about fans coming out to see all our renovations and enjoy our food and drink specials by Chef Mike Norman, and specials throughout the meet."
Hamilton Smith and Tim Keefe shared last summer's Laurel training title, and both are among many familiar faces returning along with Kieron Magee, Maryland's leading trainer the past three years who has won or shared four of the state's last six meet titles including the first two of 2017; and Mary Eppler, the first woman to capture a training title in Laurel history at its fall meet that ended Dec. 31, 2016.
Among the new faces spending their first full summer in Maryland are New York-based Linda Rice, who established a string during the winter-spring meet where she shared leading trainer honors with Magee; and Ken Decker, whose barn includes several multiple stakes winners and young talent from Jacks or Better Farm.
The jockey colony will be without Trevor McCarthy, Maryland's leading rider in 2014 and 2016, sidelined six months following shoulder surgery stemming from a May 21 spill at Monmouth Park, where he won his 1,000th career race eight days earlier. The 23-year-old McCarthy is scheduled for surgery June 12 and expected to make a full recovery.
Jevian Toledo returns to defend his summer meet title against a competitive group that includes Horacio Karamanos, closing in on his 2,000th career victory; perennial leading rider Victor Carrasco; Feargal Lynch and Kevin Gomez, who shared the Pimlico meet title with Karamanos; and Hall of Famer Edgar Prado.
A total of 21 stakes worth $1.6 million in purses will be offered during the meet, which will conduct racing on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Sunday, Aug. 20. Seven of the meet's 11 Saturdays will feature stakes led by a program with five turf stakes for Maryland-bred/sired and Virginia-bred/sired horses worth $450,000 June 24. In all, 15 grass stakes are scheduled for the summer.
The stakes program kicks off Saturday, June 17 with the $75,000 Alma North for 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs on the main track. The richest stakes of the meet is the $100,000 Stormy Blues, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-old fillies July 15.
Opening weekend will feature the first of two FEGENTRI International Federation of Gentlemen & Lady Riders races during the meet. A Flat Calendar Ladies event is scheduled for June 10, while a Flat Calendar Men's race is scheduled for Saturday, July 22. Also July 22 is the $75,000 Concern Stakes for 3-year-olds going seven furlongs.
Once again, Laurel will take part in PDJF Day Across America on Saturday, July 29, a day of awareness and fundraising at tracks across the country to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Following Laurel's summer meet, racing will be conducted at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium from Aug. 25 through Labor Day, Sept. 4 before returning to Laurel for its year-ending fall meet that begins Friday, Sept. 8.