Maryland Revises Program to Bolster Breeding

The new program will begin Sept. 19 with the opening of the Laurel Park meet.

After about a year of study and negotiating, Maryland will have a revised Thoroughbred breeding program beginning with the Laurel Park meet that kicks off Sept. 19.

The parameters of the program were approved by the Maryland Racing Commission, which was charged with reinvigorating a program that had suffered declines in recent years because of competition from neighboring racing states. Officials said the new Maryland program incorporates aspects of those other breeding programs.

Though no Thoroughbred tracks in Maryland have alternative gaming, the industry receives a 7% cut of video lottery terminal revenue at casinos in the state. The money is used for purses and breeders' incentives.

"The goal of this program is to bring Maryland racing and breeding back to its preeminent position on the national stage, and to provide the incentives to breed, own, and race Maryland-bred horses," MRC chairman Bruce Quade said in a release. "This program provides the economic basis and stability for horsemen in Maryland as well as attracting national investment in the Maryland racing and breeding industry."

Beginning with the Laurel meet, which runs through Dec. 31, there will be a 30% breeder bonus payout for Maryland-bred horses that finish first, second, or third in all races, and a 10% stallion bonus. The owner bonus awards will continue with the current program of 17.5% to the winner through 2013.

In 2014 the program will continue to reward Maryland-bred runners that finish first, second, or third. But Maryland-owned horses also will receive a bonus for finishing in the top three.

The owners' award percentage will remain at 17.5% until 2015 for maiden, allowance, and claiming races of $10,000 and up. By 2015 the breeder and owner bonuses will be 30% for the top three finishers in all races, officials said.

Maryland Horse Breeders Association past president Dr. Tom Bowman said the last year has produced "the evolution of two initiatives that will propel Thoroughbred racing and breeding in Maryland back into a position of national prominence." He said the first was the 10-year racing agreement among horsemen and the Maryland Jockey Club, and the second is the changes in the breed development program.

"This incentive program will result in more Maryland-bred runners to help fill our races, and it validates the faith that Annapolis legislators have placed in us to grow the business of racing and breeding horses in Maryland," MJC president Tom Chuckas said.

There were conflicting opinions on how the Thoroughbred breeding program should be restructured, but the release indicates there is broad agreement on the final plan.

"I am pleased that the horsemen and breeders have resolved their differences for the best interests of Maryland racing," Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association president Richard Meyer said. "This accord, together with the long-term agreement we jointly signed with the Maryland Jockey Club last fall, allows us to focus our collective energy on moving Maryland racing forward, while giving us the flexibility to meet the challenges of an evolving industry."

The first condition book at Laurel shows maiden special weight events with purses of $40,000 and entry-level allowance races at $42,000. The minimum purse of $14,000 is for $5,000 claimers that haven't won two races lifetime.