06/29/2016 12:36PM

Enhanced video board among new improvements as Laurel Park reopens


With the Pimlico meet in the books, Maryland racing on Friday returns to Laurel Park, where, except for a short break for the Timonium fair season, it will remain for the rest of the year.

Racing will be held at the Laurel summer meet Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until Aug. 21. Fridays will be twilight cards with a 3:40 p.m. Eastern first post. The Saturday and Sunday cards will begin at 1:25 p.m.

The seven-day Timonium meet will run from Aug. 28 through Labor Day. Racing will then return to Laurel on Sept. 9 and continue through Dec. 31.

Several capital improvements were made at Laurel during the Pimlico season, according to Sal Sinatra, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates both tracks for The Stronach Group.

The infield video board has been replaced and the track’s graphics redesigned.

“It’s the same size as the old board, but the picture is better; it adjusts to outside light,” Sinatra said. “We’ve moved the odds from the side of the screen to the bottom, which makes the viewing area bigger. It will help during post parades. It looks a lot better.”

The Ruffian Room on the second floor, which is used to accommodate groups, has been renovated, and betting carrels on the first floor of the clubhouse have been updated.

“We spent almost half a million dollars redoing the Ruffian Room,” Sinatra said. “We also did the outside bar, which is an entrance area for groups.”

The six-lane turf course at Laurel will be used heavily throughout the meet. It received a needed break during the seven-week Pimlico stand.

“The turf is in fabulous condition,” Sinatra said. “It’s back to brand new.”

Last year was the first time in many years that Laurel had raced during the summer. Because those dates were added to the schedule, the horsemen’s purse account became overpaid, limiting the number of races that could be run. This year, the purse account is in better shape.

“We were hampered by the purse account and could only run eight races a day,” Sinatra said. “This year, we can run nine, 10, 11 races – whatever we can fill.”

The summer meet doesn’t have much of a stakes schedule, but Maryland Pride Day is scheduled for Aug. 20.

“It will be four or five stakes and some allowance races for Maryland-breds first preference and Maryland-sired horses second preference,” Sinatra said. “It’s kind of the opposite of Maryland Million Day, which is primarily for Maryland-sired runners.”

Intriguing group of maidens

One of the more interesting races on the opening-day card at Laurel is race 7, a five-furlong maiden race for 2-year-old fillies that drew a full field of 10, plus an also-eligible.

Friesan Gal, trained by Robin Graham, is a half-sister to Lexington Street, who went 3 for 5 last year as a 2-year-old and won the Maryland Million Lassie.

Both Friesan Gal and Lexington Street are owned and were bred by the Marathon Farms of Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles.

Lexington Street, trained by Gary Capuano, was given the winter off and has worked three times since June 11.

Inspired Flight, trained by Phil Schoenthal, comes into the race off a sporty work tab that includes three bullet half-miles at Laurel Park.

Riley’s Choice, by Distorted Humor, is owned and bred by the Sagamore Farm of Under Armour founder Kevin Plank and is trained by Horacio DePaz. Sagamore and DePaz sent out the 2-year-old colt Recruiting Ready to win his debut by 10 1/4 lengths at Pimlico on May 28.

“Recruiting Ready kind of set the bar really high for us, but she’s pretty competitive,” DePaz said of Riley’s Choice.

Sale of Rosecroft nearly complete

The Stronach Group is set to close on the purchase of Rosecroft Raceway from Penn National Gaming on July 31, according to Sinatra.

Rosecroft, located in Fort Washington, Md., will be the first harness track owned by The Stronach Group. A 54-day Standardbred meet will begin there Sept. 12. Rosecroft will give the Maryland Jockey Club an offtrack-betting outlet close to the Washington market.

The Maryland Jockey Club currently has OTBs in Boonsboro, Timonium, the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, and the Riverboat on the Potomac in Colonial Beach, Va.

“Without Rosecroft, those facilities will generate $35 million to $40 million in handle a year,” Sinatra said.