Purses Reduced, Stakes Cut in Maryland Due to Shortfall

Purses have been slashed and the stakes schedule reduced at Maryland tracks due to a purse shortfall.

(Edited Maryland Jockey Club report)

Maryland Jockey Club and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association have agreed to reduce purses and slash the stakes schedule for the balance of the 2007 racing campaign as the industry faces a $3 million shortfall in the purse account by the end of the calendar year.

A total of 78 live days remain on the Maryland Jockey Club racing schedule. The annual eight-week break from live racing in the state began this week as racing moved to Colonial Downs in Virginia. Racing returns to the major Maryland tracks on Aug. 10 for the 10-day Laurel Park summer meet. After the Timonium State Fair stand concludes on Labor day, the 17-week fall meeting will be conducted at Laurel beginning Sept. 5 on a four-day a week schedule (Wednesday through Saturday, with Columbus holiday exception).

The specific changes are as followed:
--Reducing the purses at every level by $2,000. Races that have come off the turf and shifted to the main track will only receive the dirt bonus if eight betting interests remain in the race.
--Number of races will be reduced during the fall meeting (exact details to be determined)
--Stakes schedule will be reduced by approximately $1 million (announcement will be made after the July 17th Maryland Racing Commission meeting).

“We have been saying for a number of months that we were going to run into a problem with purses and we had to react to the situation at hand,” said Lou Raffetto, president and chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. “What was once a surplus has been depleted. There were four ways to handle it and we dealt with three of them. The fourth and final move that we avoided was to cut dates but that is something we will no doubt have to do come the first of the year unless the legislature holds a special session to deal with slots and a purse subsidy.”

“The negotiating committee came up with the idea to reduce the purses,” MTHA president Richard Hoffberger said. “Lou came up with the idea to reduce the stakes schedule. The combination of those two things allowed us to continue a year-round racing schedule without cutting days. Lou, on behalf of the MJC, was really accommodating.”

Meanwhile, the MJC concluded its spring meeting last weekend, posting total wagering figures which were 7% lower than 2006. All-sources handle totaled $236.9 million for 2007 compared to $254.2 million for the same eight-week period a year ago.

The May 19 Preakness Stakes highlighted the meet, with a record crowd of 121,263, the largest crowd to witness a sporting event in the state.