Multi-party agreement restores Maryland restricted stakes program

The Maryland Racing Commission June 28 signed off on an agreement whereby the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Horse Breeders Association will authorize financial adjustments to the Maryland Thoroughbred Purse Account and Maryland-Bred Race Fund to share the cost of about $1 million in Maryland-bred stakes annually to save the restricted stakes program.

The MHBA Board of Directors and the MRC’s Maryland Race Fund Advisory Board recently voted to eliminate the entire Maryland-bred stakes program to maintain funding for 30% breeder bonuses in place since 2015.

MRC Executive Director Mike Hopkins said there is a major structural deficit in the Maryland Bred Race Fund, which led the MTHA and MHBA to enter discussions on how to resolve it. The agreement was ratified by the MRC, under which the Maryland-Bred Race Fund falls.

The spending agreement spans July 1 of this year through the end of 2020. The groups agreed to meet at least biannually to assess calculation of the program and make any necessary adjustments, Hopkins said.

David Hayden, a member of the MRC and chair of the advisory committee, said the MHBA will reduce bonuses from 30% to 15% on all open and restricted stakes and stallion-owner bonuses from 10% to 5% on all open and restricted stakes. In addition, a 20% Maryland-sired maiden bonus will be eliminated.

The MTHA, which has contributed more than $11 million since 2014 from the Thoroughbred purse account to support Maryland-Bred enhancements in the form of owners’ bonuses and restricted allowance races, will divert funds from some of the restricted allowance races, each of which carries a purse of $35,000. The end result is each organization will contribute $500,000 to support the stakes schedule.

MTHA general counsel Alan Foreman noted that the Maryland-Bred Race Fund Advisory Committee has representation from all elements of the industry except the horsemen’s group. He suggested the committee be expanded to include a representative from the MTHA, a move that will require legislation. Until that is accomplished, he suggested that an MTHA representative be added to the committee in a non-voting capacity.

“Given the interrelationship now with all parties, it makes no sense not to have a representative of the MTHA on the Committee,” Foreman said.

MRC Chairman Michael Algeo said the commission “will certainly take that into consideration.” He agreed that an MTHA representative should participate in  committee meetings and that the stakeholders meet more often to encourage dialogue and monitor the financial situation. 

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