Approximately 200 horses currently stabled at Pimlico Race Course for training could be moved to Laurel by the end of the year.
At a meeting of the Maryland Racing Commission on Aug. 1, Maryland Jockey Club acting President Mike Rogers confirmed that the MJC and members of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association are working on a plan to consolidate training at Laurel Park.
“Having two training centers is very costly, we’re just trying to cut the cost down as best we can,” Rogers said.
Even though Laurel Park currently has enough space to accommodate all of the horses, the practical solution is to delay the transition to ensure that larger operations can house their horses in a single building.
Two of Laurel Park’s tent barns require sprinkler system upgrades, and a third tent barn still under construction has not yet received an occupancy permit.
“(T)he last piece was getting electricity, which is done, and we just got our plumbing permit, so we’re going through all of the approval processes right now,” Rogers said.
“Realistically I hate to give a time because we’ve had so many (delays), but we could see Barn 3 being ready by the end of August.”
He added that moving training to Laurel would not affect Pimlico’s racing schedule or its track, which could be sealed during inactive periods and reopened for racing when needed.
“That’s a common practice for North America, we’re not concerned about that,” he said. “We haven’t had discussions for (next year’s spring and fall meets), but personally, I don’t see any change in that schedule for 2024.”
Rogers said the Maryland Jockey Club was “very confident” that the Laurel track could handle the additional horses, but acknowledged that the additional volume has not yet been discussed with John Passero, a racing track consultant and former Maryland Jockey Club superintendent.
An agreement between the MJC and the MTHA allowed Passero access to examine the track surface after a number of horses died on Laurel Park’s track earlier this summer. That agreement expired on June 30, “but we’re basically operating as if it was still in place,” Rogers said. “Mr. Passero was down on the ground recently and the Maryland Jockey Club has no issues with that.”
Lori Testerman, a Pimlico-based trainer, said the majority of people who live and work at Pimlico were not aware of plans to terminate training at Pimlico and also disagreed with the idea that 200 additional horses using the Laurel track for training wouldn’t make a difference.
She questioned the impact the decision would have on owners who move approximately 50 horses to Pimlico every winter when Monmouth Park in New Jersey and Delaware Park in Delaware close for the season.
Additional horses from New York also utilize the stables, Testerman said.
“This is going to put an additional financial burden on horse owners in northern Maryland who stable 20 to 25 horses per week at Pimlico for racing in Maryland,” she said. “Grooms, hot walkers and other workers live in the vicinity, so owners who move horses to Laurel will lose about 50% to 60% of their workforce. I don’t think any of this has been taken into consideration.”
According to Rogers, approximately 15 Pimlico-based trainers would have to be accommodated at Laurel Park.
“We’ll still have security and facilities managers at Pimlico, that won’t change,” he said. “We believe there are roughly 38 or 40 folks housed at Pimlico right now and we’re working with the MTHA to provide them housing at Laurel.”
He acknowledged that five to 10 Pimlico employees might be affected by the closure, and said the MJC would do what it could to facilitate their employment at Laurel Park.