At the monthly meeting of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association in Laurel last night, director Donald Barr, a trainer, called for a study of track conditions at Laurel, Pimlico and Bowie racetracks.
Barr said that he felt the rail at Laurel was too fast on Saturday for the Maryland Million. "I look at a horse [Root Boy] breaking two sesamoids and I'm wondering 'Is this track really safe?' "
Barr also said there is a lot of sentiment that trainers don't want to run their horses at Pimlico, especially when it rains and the track is sloppy. A total of nine horses broke down on the track and were destroyed at the recently concluded 36-day Pimlico meet. A 10th horse also died but from a freak accident when it ran into the starting gate.
Barr also said there are problems with the Bowie strip being too fast. Owner Linda Gaudet said on a recent morning there were three breakdowns, including "two catastrophic ones and a filly we [she and husband trainer Eddie Gaudet] had had to be destroyed."
Barr said the safety of the racing surfaces is "crucial and it needs to be addressed big time, especially now that the costs of horses is escalating and owners have a larger investment."
Katy Voss, trainer of Wood So, who finished second on Saturday in the Maryland Million Distaff Handicap, refuted Barr's assessment of the Laurel strip. "I gallop and work horses over the track every morning," Voss said, "and I think it's in fantastic shape. It wasn't too fast on Saturday."
John Mooney Jr., Laurel/Pimlico senior vice president and general manager, said he personally will look into the Bowie situation "before the end of this week. We'll get sieve tests done and study the composition [of the track]," he said.
At the meeting, horsemen also questioned the viability of track operator Joe De Francis' proposed new facility in Virginia.
"Horsemen's support of the project is going to fizzle out," Voss said. "And they're going to be going back to the legislature to get year-round racing returned here."
Voss said that it is too far for Maryland horsemen to ship on a daily basis any farther than Northern Virginia for a proposed 17-week meet (from mid-June to mid-October) and that there isn't enough stabling proposed for the new track. She feels a site in Loudoun County in Northern Virginia would be a better location.
De Francis said "if we get the Virginia license, our horsemen will have two years to plan what they are going to do and we will do everything we can to make it a workable circuit."