Ellen Charles has a long history in Maryland racing. Her mother bred and raced horses here, and her father was a steward at Maryland tracks for many years.
She’s been racing horses of her own in Maryland since 2004. She has 21 horses with Rodney Jenkins running under Hillwood Stable LLC.
Charles has been president of the board of The Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens since 1989. During that time Hillwood became accredited and reaccredited by the Alliance of American Museums, underwent a three-year renovation, increased attendance and membership and initiated a successful fundraising program. She will be stepping down at the end of the year. She has also served on several other boards through the years.
“I love racing in Maryland, not only because of my childhood memories but also for coming out in the early morning and watching the horses on the track, feeding them carrots and for the friendships one makes,” she said.
She said the biggest challenges for racing are “the perception that racing is unkind to the horse and the increasing lack of interest in day-to-day racing. Meeting these challenges is to work with other jurisdictions in a nationwide publicity campaign to demonstrate that racing is a humane sport. The publicity on the retired Thoroughbred programs and horse shows has been very helpful.
“To increase interest and attendance in racing in Maryland, I think we should consider spring, summer and early-fall twilight racing, coupled with events that appeal to families. There is so much competition for one’s free time that we should work at being a first choice.
“Finally, the facilities at both tracks are in great need of attention. Attractive venues will drive attendance. The backside is also in dire need of attention, and I understand there are plans pending to address this need.”