Maryland-Bred Owner Bonus Program Reinvigorated

The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Maryland Jockey Club have announced changes to the Maryland-Bred Owner Bonus Program to accommodate a new Developer Bonus Program, beginning in phases with the Jan. 22 racing program at Laurel Park.

A 15% bonus will be paid to the developer—the owner or owners of a horse when it makes its first career start—for any Maryland-bred that finishes first, second or third in an open overnight race at a Maryland track. The Developer Bonus only applies to a horse still owned continuously by the original owner of the horse as of Jan. 22, 2021, or the owner of a horse that makes its first career start after January 22, 2021.

The Developer Bonus is not part of the purse and will not be included in a horse's earnings. The bonuses will be paid monthly once the testing of samples is completed and the races are released by the stewards. It will be the responsibility of the developer to provide the Horsemen's Bookkeeper with a W-9 if they do not already have a horsemen's account.

The Maryland-Bred Owner Bonus will continue to be paid to all Maryland-bred horses that finish first, second or third in an open overnight race in Maryland and will continue to be part of the purse. However, in order to provide a grace period for owners who currently own Maryland-breds but are not the developer, and for those who have recently claimed a Maryland-bred with expectation of receiving the full 30% bonus, all horses will continue to earn the 30% Owner Bonus through May 31, 2021—unless the horse is claimed or sold.

If a horse is claimed prior to May 31, the Owner Bonus for the new owner will drop to 15% for the horse’s next start. If that horse was owned by a developer at the time of the claim, the 15% Developer Bonus will begin for the horse’s next start.

The Developer Bonus concept, offered by MJC President Sal Sinatra, has been discussed by the MTHA Board of Directors and MJC racing officials over at least the last six months. It is designed to provide additional incentives for owners to support the Maryland racing program through the development of weanlings, yearlings and 2-year-olds, thus increasing the number of horses available to fill races.

The national Thoroughbred foal crop is about half that of the early 1990s, while the Maryland foal crop began to grow in 2013 and in recent years has held steady for the most part. It costs far more now to develop a horse—either bred or purchased at auction—and get it to the races. On top of that, a Maryland-bred that can’t compete at higher levels when it begins its racing career could very well be claimed, leaving the owner with no further return on investment on that particular horse. The idea is to shift the balance to try to compensate individuals who invest heavily to get a horse to the races.

In approving the Developer Bonus Program, the MTHA Board agreed to analyze the program after one year to assess whether the objectives have been met and assess whether changes to the program are necessary.

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