By Sophie Oriani
After events at Laurel Park were suspended following several horse fatalities, scheduled competition has resumed at the racetrack.
On April 20, two horses were euthanized after back-to-back races. One was euthanized on the track; the second was vanned off and later euthanized.
The following day, a Friday, the Maryland Jockey Club announced that it was canceling racing at the track that weekend “to understand and address any issues of concern raised relating to recent injuries” and discuss plans for implementing updated safety protocols.
On April 22, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association sent an email to the chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission. “The death of five horses so far this month as well as other numerous serious injuries this year has called into question the safety of racetrack conditions at Laurel Park,” the email stated.
The organizations called for John Passero, who had previously been a track superintendent in Maryland, to evaluate the track at Laurel Park. The same day the letter was sent, the Maryland Jockey Club announced the results of a track inspection conducted jointly by Dennis Moore and other experts, stating, “it is clear from the above [results] that our track is not the issue.” Just three days later, however, the organizations reached an agreement to have Passero inspect the track, with the Horsemen’s Association covering costs.
The condition of Laurel Park’s track has been the subject of concern for years. A Sept. 30, 2022 report from the Maryland Stadium Authority states that “a complete track replacement would be necessary to ensure the safety of the athletes utilizing the facilities” at Laurel Park, and indicates that the Maryland Jockey Club agreed to this assessment.
According to Horseracing Wrongs, an advocacy group working to end horse racing, 13 horses have died this year at Laurel Park.
Although Laurel Park accepted entries for a race scheduled for April 27, the race was canceled due to insufficient response. After a stretch of bad weather, racing resumed on Saturday, April 29, apparently without injuries.