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Summer racing schedule at Laurel Park moved up to July

Horse races will take place in July at Laurel Park this summer, earlier than their usual start in August.

Laurel Park will host live racing in July after the Maryland Racing Commission approved a plan Tuesday to shift dates from late in the year to the heart of summer.

The summer schedule at Laurel Park will begin July 3 instead of in early August, with the track staging racing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the month. The Maryland Jockey Club asked to shift the race dates from weekdays late in the year with an eye toward creating a new Friday twilight series featuring live music and food and other family-oriented days. The overall calendar will remain at 149 racing days.

“The idea of us coming in here and shaking things up is to grow revenue,” said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for the Stronach Group, the Jockey Club’s parent company. “It’s an effort to try to grow the sport, to try to get more families out there in the summertime.”

The Jockey Club had previous avoided scheduling July races as part of a 10-year cooperative agreement with Virginia racing officials. But with Colonial Downs closed, that restriction no longer applies.

In a broader update on the physical improvements at Laurel, Ritvo noted grading for a second set of new barns will start this week with the goal of having 300 stalls ready for use by Nov. 1. That project will cost $3-4 million.

Ritvo said the Stronach Group is also looking to revamp the simulcast room on the first floor at Laurel Park and to add new arcade rooms in hopes of attracting families and younger fans.

The focus on Laurel Park comes after a successful spring meet at Pimlico Race Course, where revenue was up 25 percent from 2014.

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