2017 ELECTION LETTER: Stephen D. O'Neill

Dear Fellow Horsemen, 

I wanted to reach out to you and introduce myself prior to all of you receiving ballots for the upcoming election. This is my first time running for the board but I would consider myself far from being a rookie or newbie to the horse racing industry. I am a member of a family that has been part of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horse Racing Industry since 1957. I currently live in Woodbine (Howard County) with my wife and kids on Clover Hill Farm named after my Great Grandfather’s Farm “Clover Hill” which is on the Howard County Historical Properties and became what is known today as Rockburn Park in Elkridge. In addition to racing, breeding to sell and breeding to race I am the owner of Delmarva Healthcare Solutions, Inc. and a Partner in Total Anesthesia Solutions, LLC, healthcare companies providing development and management services for physicians/hospitals in the ambulatory surgery center business as well as owning and managing anesthesia practices nationally. Like many of you who have been involved in the industry for a long time we have enjoyed the heyday of Maryland Racing and the very challenging times. All of us are starting to see and feel the resurgence of racing in Maryland but we still have ways to go. 

Some of you received an e-mail letter titled “An Open Letter to Maryland Horsemen” sent out by Timothy Keefe, current MTHA president this week. Tim trained for myself, my family and partners for many years and I consider Tim to be more than a trainer to me but a friend! 

During the last three years Tim and the other members of the MTHA board have done very good things for the Backstretch Workers which are the backbone of our racetracks and those around the country. Some of the many things they accomplished are the improved and expanded recreation program, expanded and improved the Backstretch pension program, revamped the counseling program and instituted a shuttle van service for the backstretch workers. 

However, I must disagree with other items listed within his letter/e-mail: 

  • The addition of 14 racing days to the calendar – Yes, the Racing Commission awarded 14 additional days of racing but those days are paid for by the Horsemen in addition to the Eight Million Dollars ($8,000,000) we the Horsemen pay the racetracks for the pleasure of running OUR HORSES!

  • All-time high purses – Yes, the purses are at an all-time high but only because of the Slot Revenue that was awarded to the Racetrack and the Breeders. In addition, trimming racing to 3 Days a Week has contributed to this all-time high exponentially!

  • Financially Strong Purse Account – Yes, we do have a financially strong purse account due to the influx of slot money and reduced number of racing days per week!

  • The restoration of Sunday Racing – This is wash because the track decided to give up Thursdays and instead race on Sundays! This has NOT contributed anything to the financial health and wellbeing of any owners or trainers.

  • A New Summer Meet – We are only racing during the summer because of the closure of Colonial Downs. When Colonial Downs opened we allowed them to take all our summer racing dates with the exception of the few racing days at Timonium. Without their unfortunate closure, we would still not be racing in the Summer.

  • The creation of the Horsemen’s Health System – Although the concept is great for everyone on the track, the fact of the matter is once exposed to the process many find this system worse than the VA or Obama Care System!

  • Beyond the Wire Aftercare Program – A great concept but has proven very difficult for owners and trainers to get horses placed since its establishment.

  • Maryland Pride Day – Another great concept, initiated by the Maryland Horse Breeders which contributes substantially to the purses on the day!

  • Fantasy Owners Day – Another great concept but unlike Tim I have not heard or seen of any new owners who came directly from the Fantasy Owners Day.

  • Strong and Effective presence for Horsemen in Annapolis – Yes, I would agree that the last couple of years the race track, MTHA and the Breeders have shown a unified force in Annapolis. However, the amount of money leaving the state of Maryland to out of town trainers and owners is astronomical! This will catch up to all of us once Annapolis understands what is really going at Maryland Race Tracks.

Please do yourselves and fellow Horsemen a favor and research the current board members, do your due diligence prior to voting them in again. On the surface, you may think everything is going well for Maryland Horsemen and Trainers but that is not the case. Many longtime owners and trainers have left the sport and others are contemplating doing the same. Racing three (3) days a week, far too many grass races and low level claiming opportunities and the amount of purse money leaving the state daily is devastating to all.

Please consider your choices carefully and Please Vote!

Thank you

Steve O’Neill

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