Racing at Laurel Park. Photo courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club.

Laurel Park Cancels Live Racing Due to Recent Spate of Injuries

TVG Staff Report

The Maryland Jockey Club announced on Dec. 2 the cancellation of racing at Laurel Park through Dec. 5 to complete repairs to the track and analyze recent equine injuries. 

The cancellation of live racing comes in the wake of the Thoroughbred Daily News reporting that seven Laurel Park horses have died since Nov. 6, and eight total have perished this autumn after sustaining fractures while racing or training over the newly installed main dirt track there. According to the TDN, the most recent death occurred in Laurel’s eighth race Nov. 28.

“We’ve looked at every potential factor, and what we’re focusing in on right now is the racing surface at Laurel,” Alan Foreman, an attorney who represents the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, told the TDN. “I think everybody understands that’s what we’re looking at, because with this red-flag cluster of fatalities, most of them were happening at about the same spot on the racetrack,” which he described as being in the middle of the homestretch.

In the statement released Thursday, the Maryland Jockey Club announced that while racing is suspended, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Maryland Jockey Club are working with industry experts to analyze surface composition and maintenance procedures directed at the safest possible racing surface.

“Until now, and through collaborative measures among industry participants, Maryland racing has experienced the lowest fatality rate in its history,” the statement continued. “The safety, health and welfare of equine athletes is the primary responsibility of all stakeholders in Maryland and must be taken seriously. The Maryland racing industry remains laser focused on this problem and collectively pledges to do whatever is necessary to ensure that Maryland’s historic racing industry remains world-class.”

According to the Equine Injury Database, Laurel Park had a fatality rate of 1.36 per 1,000 starts in 2020, just below the nation average of 1:41 last year, including a rate of 1.49 on the main dirt track.

Laurel Park reopened this past August following a four-month reconstruction of its dirt surface, which included the replacement of the cushion, base and substructure.

The multi-million-dollar track renovation by the Maryland Jockey Club included the installation of an entirely new cushion on top of a newly laid base with subsurface drainage improvements. 

The main dirt track was closed on April 11th after necessary remediation was identified as part of ongoing maintenance.

While the main track at Laurel Park was closed, the Maryland Jockey Club also enhanced the turf course irrigation infrastructure for more consistent water application and improved the turf drainage with an aggressive deep-tine aeration program.