Maryland Horsemen and Breeders Long-Term Agreement Will Make Racing Stronger in Free State; Selections for Saturday at Laurel Park

November 30, 2012 | Gary Quill

UPDATED Dec. 1st 10:22am: Please note that the Longshot Play of the Day was SCRATCHED. Since no other top pick qualifies (5-1 or more) to be a Longshot Pick, unfortunately there will be none documented today.

On Wednesday the boards of directors of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA) and Maryland Horse Breeders Association (MHBA) approved the framework of a deal to govern racing in Maryland for the coming decade, according to numerous sources. The framework reportedly is largely identical to a term sheet supported by the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC), which owns Pimlico and Laurel Park. Lawyers for all sides are crafting the final legal document, and some details remain to be worked out.

If and when it is finalized, the long-term agreement will stand in stark contrast to the year-end battles that had characterized track-horsemen negotiations in recent years. Its 10 year term, perhaps the first such deal in the country, is expected to provide stability to an industry gradually regaining its footing after a long period of uncertainty.

Under the deal, racing would continue in 2013 under the same provisions that govern it this year. That means a 146-day racing schedule, with horsemen, breeders, and the state providing subsidies of more than $10 million to eliminate the MJC’s losses.

In subsequent years, the MJC would guarantee a minimum of 100 live racing days; the horsemen and breeders could buy additional days at their discretion at a “true-up” amount designed to hold the racetrack financially harmless. For those additional days, the horsemen and breeders would bear any losses beyond the true-up amount and retain any profits generated. With slots subsidies, Maryland racing could thus maintain a 146-day schedule while providing record-high purses.

The deal also calls for the closure of the Bowie training center, with Pimlico to reopen for training. Pimlico and Laurel would be open for training and stabling year-round at no charge to horsemen. The framework calls for the MJC to maintain a minimum of 1,600 stalls, including 300 new stalls at Pimlico, some of which would replace dilapidated structures slated to be torn down.

The MJC also commits in the framework to making capital improvements to Laurel and Pimlico. Additionally, the horsemen would retain full control over simulcast signals, as provided in federal law.

Tom Bowman, president of the MHBA stated, “As far as I’m concerned, the fact that we can hang our hat that live racing will continue for at least a decade is essential,” he said. “This would give Maryland stability it hasn’t had in a long time.”

If you plan on playing the ponies Saturday, my opinions on Laurel Park’s card is on the next page.