Although racing returned Wednesday to Laurel Park for the first time in 10 months, track officials delayed their official "grand reopening" until today. Ten races are scheduled, including two stakes.
The best bet is that the weather will beat last weekend's, when a snowstorm canceled Saturday's opening day and also Sunday's racing. Since then, Laurel Park broke in its new dirt track with racing Wednesday, Thursday and yesterday in preparation for its first stakes races and weekend crowds.
Admission today will be free, as will be programs containing Laurel Park races. The first 5,000 patrons will receive a key chain. In addition, the Maryland Jockey Club will donate $1 for each patron to the Red Cross tsunami relief fund.
Racing will start at 12:35 p.m., and seven of the 10 races will be a mile or longer. The one-turn mile is a new race at Laurel and uses a second finish line, about a 16th of a mile past the original line.
The new dirt track, rebuilt for about $20 million, is 20 feet wider, with sweeping turns and a surface over which horses glide almost noiselessly. Other track upgrades include the Horse Wizard Lounge on the first floor of the clubhouse. It has 36 machines that resemble slot machines and offer simplified betting on races for novices.
Both stakes, the $50,000 What A Summer at six furlongs and the $75,000 Nellie Morse at one mile, will showcase fillies and mares. New York horses will travel south to challenge such local standouts as Sensibly Chic and Silmaril. The Nellie Morse kicks off the year's inaugural Magna 5 wager - five races in about an hour from Magna Entertainment Corp. tracks.
Simulcasting will feature the third annual Sunshine Millions, eight races worth $3.6 million - four at Gulfstream Park and four at Santa Anita Park.