01/27/2016 3:57PM

Mid-Atlantic: Parx close to reopening for training

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Parx Racing began its winter break Dec. 23 and will resume racing Feb. 13. The track closed for training Jan. 3 and was scheduled to reopen last week following the installation of a new safety rail. The project has taken longer than planned, however, and last weekend’s snowstorm, which totaled 24 inches at Parx, also affected the time line.

“I think we will reopen for training between this Saturday and Monday,” said Sam Elliott, the director of racing at Parx.

The new inner rail is a product of Horsemen’s Track and Equipment Inc., of Louisville, Ky., which has patented the design as the “Rider Protection System.” The company’s safety rails are in use at a number of tracks, including Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Laurel Park, Mahoning Valley Race Course, Oaklawn, and Fair Grounds.

After the old rail was taken down, the project hit a snag when new holes that were dug began filling up with groundwater. Once that problem was solved, Parx track superintendent Gerard Weipert wanted to “dig out the drainage ditches along the inside, which he did,” Elliott said.

“The slide on top of the safety rail is about halfway installed,” Elliott said Tuesday. “After that is completed, Gerard has to put the boards under the rail, which keep the cushion from sliding off the inside, and then regrade the racetrack.”

The delay has been difficult on horsemen stabled at Parx, who have had to back off their horses’ training.

“Some of the horsemen are upset over the delay and inconvenience,” Elliott said. “And while they’re not happy now, in the long run, the new rail will be worth it.”

Two companies submitted estimates to install the new rail, with one estimate being double the other, according to Elliott. “To management’s credit, they went with the higher estimate,” he said. “When we had the impasse with the jockeys over insurance, the rail is one of the things they brought up, and we said we’d address it, and we have.”