12/15/2004 1:00AM

Md. horsemen air concerns


At a contentious meeting of the Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday, horsemen restated their concerns over the long-delayed rebuilding of the racing surfaces at Laurel Park.

At the meeting, executives of the Maryland Jockey Club said the rebuilding of Laurel's dirt track was nearly complete and that Laurel would open for racing on Jan. 22, about a month later than an earlier scheduled reopening.

Lou Raffetto Jr., the MJC's chief operating officer, told commissioners that the latest estimate for resuming training on the renovated track is Dec. 26.

Richard Hoffberger and Wayne Wright, president and executive secretary, respectively, of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horse-men's Association, which represents owners and trainers, complained of design flaws and faulty construction that have delayed completion of the dirt track and put off completion of the turf course until next year.

"It's likely this track will fall apart," Hoffberger told commissioners. "The project has been flawed from the beginning. . . . Virtually anything that could go wrong has gone wrong."

On Tuesday, Wright blamed the state's racing commissioner, Tom McDonough, for the "debacle," as Wright put it, of horses being stabled in tents at Pimlico, horsemen at Laurel having no track over which to train, grooms being displaced, fans being disgruntled, and the prosperous Laurel fall-winter meet being lost. He called for McDonough to resign.

Told of Wright's comments, McDonough said, "Everybody's entitled to their opinion."