02/09/2016 3:45PM

Reopening of Parx track pushed back; Friday training possible


Parx Racing had been scheduled to reopen for training on Thursday but that will not be possible after the area received 2 to 3 inches of snow early Wednesday. The snow melted quickly and the surface became too wet for track superintendent Gerard Weipert to make necessary repairs to the base of the track along the inner rail, according to Sam Elliott, the director of racing at Parx.

Thursday’s forecast is for dry weather and Elliott is hopeful the track can open for “limited training” on Friday. Training will be conducted around cones, and horses will only be allowed to jog on the outer two-thirds of the track. Training will be held from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. After several days, the track will be open for full training.

Parx concluded its 2015 meet on Dec. 22 and was scheduled to begin a new season Feb. 13. That date was pushed back a week on Feb. 1. The four lost racing days will be made up in April.

Parx has not been open for training since Jan. 2. The track was then closed for what was supposed to be a three-week break to install a new safety rail. The installation took longer than planned, however, and so has getting the track back in shape, partly due to weather and partly to level the base of the track along the inside.

“Things haven’t gone the way we wanted or planned,” Elliott said. “Believe me, nobody wants the track reopened more than me, except maybe Gerard.”

According to Elliott, the boards along the inside of the track, which keep the cushion of the surface from sliding into the infield, were removed to install the new rail. Once the rail was installed, new boards were put in place and leveled. It then became evident that the base of the track was uneven in certain areas.

“The thing is, with a project like this, you really don’t know what you have until you open the track up and get started,” Elliott said. “When the boards went back in, they were even with the base in some places and four inches below them in others. This has most likely been a longstanding problem.”

Once the problem was indentified, new material had to be brought it in to make the repairs.

“The extra delay has been because we want to get it right,” Elliott said. “My guess is that the base along the inside will be more level than it has been in a long time.”

The extended break has been a hardship for many trainers because their horses have lost fitness and have not been able to run elsewhere. The only way trainers have been able to exercise their horses is to jog them inside the shed row.

Trainer Kevin Sleeter had planned to race Love Came to Town in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Park on Saturday, but he didn’t nominate her when it became clear she would not be ready. Love Came to Town won the Nellie Morse Stakes at Laurel on Jan 2.

“She’s doing great but she hasn’t been training since she won,” Sleeter said. “It will take me a month to get her ready.”

Sleeter explained that other horses will likely be ready to race within a few weeks. He added that some of the cheaper horses on the grounds might actually have benefited from the extended break.

Trainer Ned Allard was unsure Tuesday whether he would enter Always Sunshine for the Grade 3 General George, to be run at Laurel on Monday. Always Sunshine won the Dave’s Friend Stakes at Laurel on Dec. 26.

“He is doing really nicely,” Allard said. “His last two races were monsters, and the General George would be the next step for him. It’s possible if I jog him Thursday and Friday and can breeze a half Saturday, and everything goes perfectly, that we could run. I just don’t know.”

Entries for the Feb. 20 opening-day card at Parx will be taken Monday.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Elliott said. “I’m going to write extra races at five furlongs to try and get everyone started back.”

Allard thought Parx would be able to fill its races but was concerned that horsemen shipping in from other tracks would have a big advantage over the locally based horses.

“Horsemen at Laurel, at Penn National, and at Aqueduct are licking their chops waiting for us to open,” Allard said. “They know if we only have a week to train they are going to have a big fitness edge on us.”

Allard estimated it would take several weeks for some horses to be fit enough to race.

“You have to gallop four or five days, and then breeze a time or two,” he said. “Horses that have run recently won’t need as much time, but those who haven’t run in a while will need more time.”