Maryland Racing Commission to discuss suspension policies

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Oct. 1, 2017

The Maryland Racing Commission is planning to discuss a rule governing the suspension of individuals who hold multiple licenses and a new regulation in Pennsylvania that bans horses from racing in the event of positive tests.

The MRC discussed both issues at its meeting Sept. 28 but took no action.

“It makes a lot of sense to defer on this so we have input from commissioners and have stakeholders have input,” MRC Chairman Michael Algeo said.

Currently in Maryland, if a licensed trainer who also has an owner’s license is suspended, stewards and judges have the discretion to suspend the trainer but allow him or her to remain in good standing as an owner. MRC Executive Director Mike Hopkins noted it is “strictly a policy, not a regulation,” and asked commissioners if it is appropriate or should be revised.

Algeo said his initial reaction is that a suspension should be universal, but he said the issue requires more discussion. Commissioner Tammy Lafferty suggested a dual suspension should depend on the seriousness of the offense.

Tom Cooke, President of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association, brought up a regulation adopted by the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission that calls for horses to be suspended and advocated for the MRC to consider it.

Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds with a Class 1 or Class 2 positive are now banned from racing for 90 days from the date of confirmation of the finding via split-sample testing. For a Class 3 or TCO2 positive, horses are suspended for 30 days. Horses found positive for substances in other jurisdictions are subject to suspension in Pennsylvania if their connections attempt to race them in the state.

Meadowlands has asked the New Jersey Racing Commission to consider a similar rule for Standardbred racing, and the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission has added the Pennsylvania rule to its Oct. 11 meeting agenda for discussion purposes.

“All too often we’ll see a horse test positive and the trainer is suspended, but the horse is back in to race under another name,” Cooke told the MRC. “Pennsylvania took a gusty move. This is a conversation with impact. We understand owners would be upset but for the good of the industry it would be a step in the right direction.”

Cooke also called for more investigatory staff in Maryland to provide on-site monitoring of activities and to keep track of contracts, sale records and other documents related to ownership transfers and trainer changes, for example.

In a medication matter, the MRC approved a change in the testing threshold levels for detomidine, a sedative with analgesic effects. The substance is on the Controlled Therapeutic Medication Schedule that is part of the National Uniform Medication Program.

The current thresholds are one nanogram per milliliter in urine and the level of detection—any finding is a positive—in plasma or serum. The updated thresholds, which will take about 90 days to become official, are two nanograms per milliliter in urine and one nanogram per milliliter in plasma or serum. The change will bring the testing levels in line with the CTMS.

The MRC at the Sept. 28 meeting also ratified changes in the Laurel Park fall meet racing schedule—Monday racing will replace Thursday racing Oct. 9 when the track moves to four-day race weeks—and scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. on the Maryland Jockey Club’s application to open an off-track betting facility adjacent the Greenmount Station restaurant in Hampstead in Carroll County.

Such public hearings are held in the communities in which OTB parlors are planned. A location hasn’t been announced.

Meanwhile, Laurel Sept. 28 launched a pilot program by which horseplayers have the option of contributing a portion of their winnings to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance when they cash tickets at self-service terminals. The program will be expanded throughout The Stronach Group network via its AmTote arm.

“It’s a convenient way for horseplayers to get involved in the horseracing charities we all support,” MJC President Sal Sinatra said.