Laurel gets back on track despite soaked surface

January 26, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

Laurel Race Course returned to near-normal operations yesterday, running a nine-race live card despite a track soaked by melted ice.

It was the first live program conducted by the track since Jan. 14, a period embracing eight consecutive cancellations because of weather conditions.

But while the show went on without any significant incidents on the track, management was hoping that the latest forecast -- for more moisture of some description in the next two days -- would not result in a repeat of last week's shutdown.

"We'll have to play it by ear the rest of the week," said general manager John Mooney. "Hopefully, we'll only get rain. We can deal with that."

"I'm praying," said track superintendent John Passero, who has worked feverishly on the surface for more than a week in an effort to remove the ice. "If we get more ice, we'll be dealing with the same problems again."

Today is a regularly scheduled dark day with simulcasting only but live racing is due to resume tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.

Jockeys' Guild representative Larry Reynolds and several other riders joined Passero for an inspection of the track yesterday morning, then decided to compete.

"It's nasty," Reynolds said of the surface about an hour before post time. "It'll be muddy and tiring. But the base of it is good, so we'll go for it."

"There will be a sea of mud out there," jockey Rick Wilson said. "The track goes right to the bottom. You just have to ride safely and take care of yourself. I've seen worse tracks."

Horsemen were eager to run after all the inactivity. Passero and his crew helped ease their concerns Monday when they smoothed out areas of the backstretch that still were frozen.

"We're lucky there is a limestone base on this track," said Passero.

Jockeys who worked out horses early yesterday morning expressed some reluctance to run at first. Training also was conducted at Pimlico Race Course, but horsemen stabled at Bowie were prevented from drilling their horses because of icy track conditions.

"I think everything went very well [at Laurel]," said Mooney. "The track is a lot wetter than we would like it, but as long as we're able to float it, we're OK."

Entries were drawn for yesterday's card Saturday and management had decided to run -- contingent on the ability of Passero to get the track into satisfactory condition.

"The condition varies, depending on the temperature," Mooney said. "In the morning the track is firmer, and later it gets thin and sloppy and hoofs hit down to the base. There is so much water content, the moisture just sits on top."

The muddy surface led to 19 scratches, but there were no spills and only one objection -- against winner Mario Pino aboard Java Maria in the seventh race. It was disallowed by the stewards.

NOTES: Graded stakes winner Majesty's Turn scored a front-running victory in an allowance feature reduced to three horses by scratches. He covered six furlongs in 1 minute, 10 4/5 seconds while winning by 9 1/2 lengths. Majesty's Turn is expected to defend his title in the Grade II General George Stakes Feb. 21. . . . More than $1 million was wagered on each of the simulcast cards Saturday and Sunday.

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