02/24/2016 10:16AM

Parx back on track for this weekend


Considering that the main track at Parx Racing had been closed for seven weeks to install a new safety rail and that no horses could train, director of racing Sam Elliott was understandably concerned that the entry box Monday afternoon might be closer to empty than full.

“I’ve been in this business for a long time,” said Elliott, who prior to becoming director of racing at Parx in January 2015 spent six years as vice president of racing and 11 years as assistant racing secretary at Suffolk Downs. “I never took entries and was not able to make a card. I was wondering, ‘Is this going to be a first?’ ”

Fortunately for Elliott, he got sufficient support from horsemen who had been running at Penn National and Laurel Park to cobble together a nine-race card for Saturday and an eight-race program for Sunday. There are 74 horses, including one also-eligible, for opening day and 65 horses for Sunday.

“They’re not great cards, but we’re back racing,” Elliott said.

Four allowance races in the condition book for opening day failed to fill, but Elliott brought back a nonwinners-of-two allowance for Sunday and got seven entries for the one-mile race, the only event that isn’t for claimers on the program. The non-claiming races Saturday are a pair of maiden special weight events for 3-year-olds, including one at a mile, as well as a 5 1/2-furlong $8,000 starter allowance.

Parx closed its track for training Jan. 3 to install a new safety rail, a job that was originally estimated to take three to four weeks. Due to stretches of severe winter weather and an unforeseen problem that left sections uneven along the inside of the track, it stayed closed until Monday, when training resumed.

“There were no drastic drops,” said Elliott, referring to the uneven patches. “It was more like gradual drops over a couple hundred yards. We wanted to fix it the right way, and that took time.”

According to Equibase, 12 horses worked three furlongs – six trained by Greg Sacco – five others breezed a half-mile, and one worked five furlongs on the first day workouts were recorded. Times were noticeably slow, with the bullet for a half-mile going in 51.98 seconds.

“The dogs were out 16 feet,” Elliott said, referring to the orange cones placed to prevent horses from exercising close to the rail. “I don’t think the horses were being pushed hard. It was more like something between an open gallop and a work.”

Of the horses on Saturday’s card, 21 made their last start at Laurel and 20 at Penn National. There also are 17 who last ran at Parx. Of that group, only five show a workout since racing between 61 and 180 days ago.

According to Elliott, the state rule that requires a horse who has been laid off that long to show a work before racing has been temporarily waived to allow Parx horses to compete.

Live racing was originally scheduled to resume Feb. 20 and was pushed back a week. Elliott said consideration was given to delaying the return of racing another week.

“But there were a number of trainers who had either been running their horses out of town or training them on farms to keep them fit,” he said. “I didn’t want to penalize those trainers by not racing this weekend.”

Elliott said he expects to finalize Parx’s stakes schedule soon. He plans to consult the stakes schedules at other Mid-Atlantic tracks, such as Delaware Park, Laurel, and Monmouth Park, to avoid scheduling similar stakes at Parx the same weekends. The initial stakes for Pennsyvlania-breds, originally planned for April, will be pushed back to May, he said.

First foal for Lisa’s Booby Trap

Lisa’s Booby Trap, who despite foot problems and being blind in one eye won four straight races at Finger Lakes and the Loudonville Stakes at Saratoga, has given birth to her first foal. The colt, a son of Big Brown, was born on Valentine’s Day at Larry and Karen Doyle’s KatieRich Farm in Midway, Ky.

Lisa’s Booby Trap was a $4,500 purchase by trainer Tim Snyder in 2010.