No Dates in Maryland, But Talks Continue

Horsemen and the Maryland Jockey Club are still at odds over 2012 schedule.

Maryland racing interests still hope to avoid repeating a situation a year ago that left Laurel Park without 2011 racing dates just a week before the meet was scheduled to begin.

The Maryland Racing Commission met Nov. 21 but didn’t award dates for Laurel and Pimlico Race Course, two tracks operated by the Maryland Jockey Club. As was the case in late 2010, horsemen, breeders, and the MJC have been unable to reach an agreement on the number of live race days and stabling provisions.

The administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley has again urged the parties to strike a deal—soon.

“We are in discussions with the MJC and the racing commission, but we are not able to comment on the substance of the discussions,” Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association counsel Alan Foreman said Nov. 22.

A deal hammered out last December called for 146 live racing days in Maryland through 2013. It was tied to legislation that permits track operators to use some video lottery terminal proceeds to fund operations instead of capital improvements.

In October the MJC, owned by The Stronach Group, said it wouldn’t accept the VLT funding for operations and had no plan to race the customary 100-plus dates at Laurel in 2012. Horsemen and breeders balked, as did the state.

The MRC commission next meets in December, though officials have said they hope to have a racing schedule in place before that meeting. Laurel traditionally opens in early January each year.