Maryland commission to examine growth in racing, breeding

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: May 26, 2017

Though growth in the Maryland racing and breeding industry has been well-documented, the Maryland Racing Commission wants to ensure the forward movement continues.

The MRC May 25 announced formation of an ad hoc committee that will examine the state of racing and breeding in the state and report back to the full commission.

MRC member Dr. Thomas Bowman, an esteemed reproductive veterinarian and Thoroughbred breeder, said the 10-year agreement among industry organizations and a Maryland-bred bonus program have been instrumental in the rebound in the state. He suggested, however, that various programs should be regularly assessed—and improved if necessary—to ensure further growth and stability.

“We have to recognize that breeding programs change, and racing incentives change,” Bowman said at the meeting. “It is incumbent upon the racing commission to institute changes—not radical changes—to continue the path upward. We need to prove to doubters that (the Maryland program) is a good thing.

“Are we doing our part to support horsemen? We’re trying to be proactive, and trying to be ahead of the naysayers.”

Thoroughbred and Standardbred breeding in Maryland has picked up numbers-wise over the past three or four years based on statistics. The overall industry receives 6% of video lottery terminal revenue at five casinos and 2.5% from a sixth for purses and incentives, while 1% goes toward racetrack capital improvements.

In a related matter, MRC chairman Michael Algeo said Maryland stakeholders met with Breeders’ Cup officials the morning of May 20 at Pimlico Race Course to further discuss a future bid to host the two-day event at Laurel Park. It has been suggested the Cup could come to Maryland in 2020 or 2021.

“We’re all in,” Algeo said.

In other business at the May 25 meeting, the MRC ratified the parameters of a Preakness bonus for the connections of Maryland-bred or -sired horses that finish first, second or third in the second leg of the Triple Crown. The bonus was created via legislation last year.

The bonus wasn’t up for grabs this year given the lack of a Maryland-bred or Maryland-sired runner in the Preakness.

The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Maryland Horse Breeders Association and Maryland Jockey Club agreed to the bonus scheme, which is as follows:

For a Maryland-bred and -sired winner of the Preakness, the owner would get $225,000, the breeder $225,000, and the stallion owner $50,000; a Maryland-bred but not Maryland-sired winner would produce $225,000 for the owner and $225,000 for the breeder; and a victory by a Maryland-sired but not Maryland-bred winner would be worth $225,000 for the owner and $50,000 for the stallion owner. For a second- or third-place finish in each category, the returns would be 20% and 10%, respectively, of the aforementioned amounts.

Should Maryland-bred or -sired horses run first, second and third an additional $150,000 would be paid in the same percentages by the MTHA and MHBA.

(Pimlico Race Course photo by Tom LaMarra)