Request for Laurel Dates Cut Not Unexpected

Maryland Jockey Club officials have applied for a 60-day winter meet--15 fewer days than usual--at Laurel Park beginning Jan. 1, 2008.

The MJC submitted the request to the Maryland Racing Commission Oct. 23. Under the plan, racing would be held Wednesday through Saturdays during a 15-week meet that would end April 12. Sunday racing has been cut from the schedule, officials said.

The reduction doesn’t come as a surprise. In June, the MJC and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association agreed to cut purses and stakes for the latter half of 2007 given a projected $3-million shortfall in the purse account.

The MJC and horsemen are hoping for legislative relief as soon as possible, perhaps during a special legislative session this fall.

“We have been saying all year that if nothing was done to help the industry, we would have to reduce dates beginning in January,” MJC president and chief operating officer Lou Raffetto. “We continue to hold out hope that the legislature will assist during the special session, but at what point does Maryland racing not become a full-time business? We are quickly approaching that status.”

A July study reported the horse racing and breeding industries in Maryland account for more than 9,000 jobs with an economic impact of $600 million.

 

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