Laurel Park will soon raise purses roughly 10% across the board to a figure that will top the 2011 daily averages at two nearby racetrack casinos with which it competes for horses.
The Maryland Jockey Club made the announcement Jan. 11 in conjunction with release of the Laurel winter/spring meet stakes schedule. With the elimination of four stakes, purses for all but one stakes have been increased, officials said.
Laurel purses averaged $185,813 over 115 days of racing in 2011, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. MJC racing secretary Georganne Hale said the average will increase to $205,000 in the second condition book for the meet Feb. 1.
The last purse increase in Maryland came about a year ago.
Laurel and sister track Pimlico Race Course don’t have video lottery terminals, but they derive purse revenue from two VLT parlors in Maryland: Hollywood Casino at Perryville and Ocean Downs Casino, a harness track on the Eastern Shore. By law VLT parlors contribute 7% of revenue to purses for racing in the state.
“We will have a purse increase across the board,” Hale said. “Some are 10%, others 11%. It will make our purses competitive with Charles Town, Penn National, and Parx Racing. Horsemen will not have to go out of town to run because the purse is so much bigger.
“We are holding our own and this will boost morale, especially on the heels of the fact we will be running the same schedule as a year ago.”
Laurel and Pimlico will race 146 days in 2012 under a deal between the MJC and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
According to TJCIS, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia paid an average of $166,978 in purses over 232 racing days in 2011. Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Pennsylvania paid an average of $181,020 over 199 days of racing.
Parx Racing in Pennsylvania led the way at $321,331 per day over 202 days, according to TJCIS. But clearly the Laurel purses have become competitive in the region.
Maryland THA general counsel Alan Foreman couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Jan. 11, but he earlier said he didn’t expect a “substantial” purse hike until after the large VLT parlor at Arundel Mills Mall opens later this year.
The Laurel stakes schedule will be headlined by two grade II events: the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes for fillies and mares Feb. 18 and the $200,000 General George Stakes for males Feb. 20. The first stakes of the meet will be the $100,000 Dancing Count for 3-year-olds Jan. 28.
The stakes schedule still requires approval from the Maryland Racing Commission.