The Maryland Racing Commission voted 4-3 yesterday to allow Magna Entertainment to proceed with plans for the redevelopment of the racing surfaces at Laurel Park this summer.
Over objections of horsemen, who feared they would be displaced from their barns at the track and left without a place to stable their horses, the commission voted to conditionally allow the plans to go forward. The commission will review the project at its next meeting on July 13 to determine whether it is moving along at a satisfactory pace.
While a new, wider, better draining turf course is installed at Laurel, along with a wider dirt course and a relocated paddock, horses based at the track will be dispersed to Pimlico, the Bowie Training Center and Timonium.
Horsemen were concerned the project would not be completed by the time they must be out of the Timonium barns on Sept. 20.
"If we come to the July meeting and there are huge issues, we're not going to do something we can't reverse in the future," said Lou Raffetto, chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. "I'm convinced [the project] will be done on time."
Representatives of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association could not be reached to comment.
Training will come to a halt on June 14 at Laurel and "we'll start moving dirt the 14th," Raffetto said. "We're mobilizing right now."
Raffetto said all the permits needed from Anne Arundel County have not yet been secured, but he expressed confidence it would not be a problem.
Racing Notes: The Maryland Jockey Club concluded its Pimlico spring meet Sunday with a rare raise in on-track wagering, which climbed 0.7 percent in comparison with a similar 48-day meet last year.
A total of $24,407,532 was bet on live racing at the meet, while wagering on races simulcast from out of state fell 19.7 percent, from $91 million in 2003 to $73 million this spring.
Pimlico's signal enjoyed strong growth out of state, rising 12.7 percent to $168.7 million. Total wagering rose 0.5 percent to $266.2 million. . . .
Live racing in the region shifts to Colonial Downs in New Kent County, Va., on Friday for a seven-week meet that runs through July 22.
Highlights include the $500,000 Virginia Derby, a Grade III grass stakes race for 3-year-olds that has attracted stars such as Tapit and Master David in early nominations.
Post times are 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
The Maryland Jockey Club expects to resume racing at Pimlico following the Colonial meet, although no requests for dates have been made to the Maryland Racing Commission. The MJC and horsemen are still meeting to determine if racing dates and/or purses will be cut this year after the failure of the state legislature to pass a slot machine bill that would have provided revenue for the struggling industry. . . .
Jockey Steve Hamilton rode three winners on Sunday to edge Ryan Fogelsonger, 49-46, for the Pimlico meet riding title. It was the first career title for Hamilton, who quit riding in Maryland for four years to work in oil fields in Oklahoma.
Dale Capuano won the training title, saddling 24 winners. Michael Gill led owners with 31 victories.