Racing at Laurel was canceled yesterday when jockeys asked for a deeper racing cushion that took management all afternoon to provide. After the work was completed, the track was reinspected, and horses galloped over the surface without incident.
"The track is now raceable," said Vince Bracciale, Jockeys' Guild representative. "If it stays close to this overnight we will have no problem. We will race."
Today's forecast calls for a chance of freezing rain or sleet.
Yesterday's cancellation marked the fourth straight day that racing was canceled or curtailed. Thursday's card was cut short after the fourth race when two horses collided in the stretch after one broke its front legs.
The jockeys had elected not to ride on Monday and Tuesday because a sudden drop in temperature after heavy rains made the track "icy and dangerous," according to their spokesmen.
Yesterday morning jockeys met with race track expert Arthur Read, the designer of Laurel's track. Read was summoned from Canada by Laurel President Frank DeFrancis for yesterday's meeting. "I looked the track over," Read said, "and the base is in fine condition."
DeFrancis said, "I'm heartened by what Mr. Read has said. There is no ice in the base and there are no soft spots . . . We should be back racing on Saturday."
Read said the problem was caused by the track getting "too much water on it over the weekend, and the fast drop in temperature . . . simply froze the track." Yesterday, sand was put down, and Read said the track has a three-inch cushion.
King Leatherbury, Maryland's leading trainer, said, "I've complained a couple of times. You spend time getting a horse ready, going through all the preparation, and they cancel racing.
"The bottom line is this: The jockeys are the ones risking their lives. If they're willing to ride on it, I'm willing to run my horses on it."
Yesterday, the state racing commission approved Laurel's request to operate the next two Wednesdays -- normally nonracing days -- before its meeting ends Feb. 16.