The Maryland State Fair will offer trainer bonuses worth $20,000 for the seven-day Timonium meet that begins Aug. 26.
The bonuses, designed to encourage more entries, had totaled $10,000 for previous meets, but the fair added another $10,000, according to a release from the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
"The state fair board asked me what they could do to entice more horses to make the racing go better," said trainer Ferris Allen, who is a member of the boards of the Maryland State Fair and the Maryland THA. "They made the decision and left the particulars up to me. I sat down with (Maryland Jockey Club racing secretary) Georganne Hale, and we came up with a plan that would benefit as many trainers as we could."
The MJC oversees the racing program at the fair meet.
Under the plan, $15,000 will be paid to trainers via a points system—10 points for a first-place finish, five for a second-place finish, three for a third-place finish, and one point per starter. A trainer whose horses accumulate the most points during the meet will get $5,000, second is worth $4,000, and third through fifth are each worth $2,000.
The remaining $5,000, contributed by the Maryland THA, will go to the trainer whose horses accumulate the most earnings for the meet. If a trainer with the highest earnings is among the top five in points, he or she will only receive the $5,000 earnings bonus and will be replaced on the list by the next eligible trainer.
Timonium, which will race Aug. 26-28 and Sept. 2-5, has a five-eighths-mile racing surface. Most races are run at four furlongs and 6 1/2 furlongs.
"We're hoping the additional money here will tempt trainers to stay (in Maryland) and that guys with regional horses will throw Timonium into the mix for their horses," Allen said. "Even if the race fields go up (by) just one horse, it will make a difference."
Timonium, which can field 10 horses, last year averaged 6.87 horses per race for 61 races over seven days, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Purses averaged $163,253 per program.
Maiden special weight races will go for $32,000 this year, while the purse for an open allowance race is $45,000. The minimum purse is $10,000 for $4,000 claimers or $5,000 maiden claimers. All races will offer up to 30% in Maryland-bred bonus money.
"This additional bonus money may get more trainers to support the meet," Hale said. "Even if it is just one more horse (per race), it helps the handle and that is a very good thing."
The Laurel Park summer meet concludes Aug. 21. The next Laurel meet, which spans late summer, fall, and early winter, runs from Sept. 9-Dec. 31 on a Friday-through-Sunday schedule for the most part.