01/16/2006 12:00AM

Penn National to reopen


Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa., plans to reopen on Wednesday night for its first live racing card in more than a week, officials of the track and the local horsemen's group said on Monday.

Penn National canceled four racing days last week because of concerns from horsemen and riders about the consistency of the track's dirt racing surface. Before that, the track had lost at least parts of seven live racing days over the past two months because of wet weather and complaints by horsemen and riders.

According to Fred Lipkin, a spokesman for Penn National, workers at the track spent last week "peeling back" the track's cushion to find inconsistencies and have also been adding dirt to the surface's cushion. The track's staff was assisted by Jay Fortney, a former track superintendent at Penn National who is now a consultant for the company, Lipkin said.

"It was determined that the base had settled uniformly a couple of inches over the course of the past several years," Lipkin said. "We didn't find any holes or anything like that, so we went about adding track down by the rail and getting it all smoothed out."

Penn National's main track will remain closed for training until Tuesday, Lipkin said. Rain was forecast for both Monday night and Tuesday.

John Wames, the president of the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said that he had walked the course with track officials on Monday morning.

"As of right now, it looks like it's ready to go," Wames said. "It's hard to say for sure, since we won't get on it until Tuesday, but it looks fine right now."

Penn National's racing office took entries on Monday morning for the Wednesday night card. Counting also-eligibles, 107 horses were entered for the nine-race card.

Penn National's jockeys refused to ride on Jan. 6 because of concerns about the track. The next day, the jockeys refused to ride after two races on the card.

Lipkin said that track officials met with jockeys and horsemen on Friday to discuss the renovations to the track.

"We think we have addressed the complaints, and everyone is being supportive," Lipkin said. "They want to get back to work."