Laurel Race Course, whose main track has been unraceable since Friday, was granted permission yesterday by the Maryland Racing Commission to conduct up to 12 racing days at Pimlico beginning Thursday.
Laurel management announced that two of its major stakes races -- the $100,000-added Selima for 2-year-old fillies scheduled Saturday and the $100,000-added Futurity for 2-year-old colts scheduled Oct. 27 -- would be run as scheduled at Pimlico.
Laurel rebuilt its main racing surface prior to this meeting. But the track has been plagued by heavy rains and the decision to run at Pimlico clearly suggests that the damage to the base of the track was more severe than originally thought.
In a prepared statement, Laurel management said it "arrived at this decision after giving full consideration to the interests of the horsemen and the public and to insure that the construction of the new base will be acceptable to horsemen and jockeys."
Three racing cards had been canceled during the first two weeks of the meeting.
Laurel's annoucement yesterday was a turn-around from Sunday when the track said it possibly might be able to reopen Wednesday at the earliest.
Horsemen did not relish the possibility of a move when it was first discussed because it puts additional financial burdens on them to move their stables.
However, yesterday, Fendall Clagett, director of
The Maryland Division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said: "It seems like that's the only thing you can do. If they tried to rush it, they simply could not expect to have a track that would hold together late in the meet. It's the only thing to do under the circumstances."
The horsemen would be faced with training costs and no racing for approximately two weeks or else expensive shipping fees to the Meadowlands or Belmont Park. By the same token, the state loses approximately $50,000 daily in pari-mutuel taxes when the track is dark.
Clagett said that the Thoroughbred Racing Board should be more aggressive in making sure that the Laurel track and plant are in proper condition for fall and winter racing.
"It's a very sad commentary that Laurel should have the problem," Clagett said. "Every other track in the area is operating. The racing commission has got to take a look at racing dates in the future. The plant should be air-conditioned and the track should be in shape for the time of the year they are racing."
The Washington, D.C. International, a grass race and the premiere event of the Laurel season, is scheduled for Nov. 10.