09/14/2004 11:00PM

Maryland tracks take heat

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The Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday criticized the Maryland Jockey Club and its parent company, Magna Entertainment Corp., for everything from construction delays to apathetic customer service.

"The truth is," said commissioner John McDaniel, "the commission has no more tolerance. Period."

Meeting at Pimlico, the commissioners addressed their grievances to Jim Gagliano, who has been in charge of racing operations at Pimlico and Laurel Park since July 1.

Gagliano said rebuilding the track surfaces at Laurel had fallen behind schedule because of wet weather and that racing could not resume until late October at the earliest. Although the primary goal of the $16 million project was building a new turf course, that has been postponed until next year.

Wayne Wright, executive secretary of the Maryland Thorough-bred Horsemen's Association, said that what most horsemen and some commissioners had predicted - that the Laurel surfaces could not be rebuilt this summer, as Magna executives had promised - has happened.

"Now it's not a problem, it's a disaster," Wright said.