With unrelenting rainfall rendering the turf course unusable, and the horsemen's parking lot under water, Laurel Park postponed the 20th Maryland Million Day yesterday until next weekend.
The event, a celebration of the thoroughbred racing and breeding industry in the state, is second only to Preakness Day in importance on the Maryland racing calendar and routinely draws crowds of 20,000.
"We had five inches of rain by 6 a.m. this morning," Chief Operating Officer Lou Raffetto said. "We knew there was no chance we could run on the turf. We thought we could never do the Maryland Million justice in light of the current weather. With the amount of rain we had and the amount of rain we are expecting, we were concerned about the horses and the jocks."
After consulting with officers from Maryland Million Ltd., the decision to postpone the races was made at 8 a.m. The Maryland Million now will be run Saturday, with the first post time moved up to 12:15 p.m. The races will be redrawn on Wednesday at 11 a.m.
"We're going to redraw the races; we'll have to," said Michael Pons, president of the Maryland Million board of directors. "Some people may want out. It's the only fair way to do things.
"There are a number of horses running from out of town. I'm hoping they stay in. We thought in the interest of fairness somebody may have been pre-entered and put up the money and they deserve a chance" to run.
Raffetto said postponing the Maryland Million and losing a Saturday of racing will cause a large financial hit to the tracks. The New York Racing Association, which normally doesn't pick up the Laurel simulcast signal, had planned to offer wagering on the Maryland Million at Belmont Park.
"You can't make this kind of day up," Raffetto said. "You lose a Saturday like this, even if you bounce back, it's a hit, no two ways about it. You lick your wounds and go on."
Since the Maryland Jockey Club moved to a five-day racing schedule this week, the Grade III $150,000 Safely Kept Breeders' Cup for 3-year-old fillies will be moved from Saturday to Oct. 16. Other races scheduled for Saturday will be used as extras through the week, Raffetto said.
"Who would have figured in the biggest drought in Maryland in years, we would be canceled because of rain?" Pons said.