12/08/2004 12:00AM

Laurel opening delayed

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Racing at Laurel Park will not return until after the new year because workers rebuilding the racing surfaces have encountered weather delays and continue to address problems with surface foundations.

Jim Gagliano, executive vice president of racing operations for the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates the track, said Tuesday that Laurel's dirt track could open for training Dec. 20, and after at least two weeks of training on it, Laurel could reopen for racing in January. That schedule was in effect pending a final inspection of the racing surface Wednesday.

The most recent tentative date for reopening had been Dec. 26. The project was originally to have been completed in September. Laurel's track sits atop a flood plain, and soggy ground has complicated installation of a secure foundation.

Racing in Maryland will continue at Pimlico until Laurel reopens.

The distances of four stakes scheduled to be run at Laurel have been altered to be run at Pimlico.

The Squan Song for Maryland-bred fillies and mares will be run at six furlongs rather than seven. Three one-mile stakes - the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship, the Maryland Juvenile Championship, and the Native Dancer - will now be run at 1 1/16 miles.