- Published: Wednesday, 14 September 2016 12:00
Since the beginning of 2016, horsemen whose runners finished first or second in a race in Maryland have been forced to wait on average 12.5 days for their purse money to clear because of holds imposed because of state-mandated laboratory testing. Sometimes that wait has been three to close to four weeks because of holidays and other unforeseen circumstances.
Horsemen will be relieved to know that earlier this year, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen Association Board of Directors approved the implementation of the Expedited Purse Release Program, a program designed to speed payment of purses to owners and finishing first or second in an overnight after a 72 hour hold.
In the past, the funds were not allowed to be released until a clean laboratory test was returned from the accredited lab located in California. Horsemen learned to be patient.
“Horse racing is a tough game,” trainer Tim Salzman Jr. said. “We all try to do what we can to make a little money. When we win, we need that money as quick as possible – to pay the help, pay the feed bills. But you call the bookkeepers office and the money hasn’t cleared because they’re still waiting for the test results. People in other situations, it’s OK, they may not need the money, but most of us do.”
So the MTHA board took action.
“In most cases, money earned by horsemen is being immediately reinvested back into the business. When owners have to wait as long as three weeks for their money, it has a trickle-down effect. The trainer waits to get paid; the feed guy waits, etc.” said David Richardson, the MTHA’s Executive Director. “This new program will help a lot of people.”
By joining forces, the MTHA and the Maryland Jockey Club has implemented a program that allows the immediate release of purse monies after the required 72-hour waiting period for a race to be declared official by the stewards – provided the owner signs a notarized agreement affirming they will return purse money received in the event of a positive drug test.
The owner will be subject to license suspension and denial of entries if they fail to repay the purse money within 14 days.
Keeping the 72-hour waiting period for payout means the new operating procedure will not require any regulation change by the Maryland Racing Commission which will speed up the program’s adoption. There is a Maryland state regulation that restricts distribution of purse money within 72 hours of a race.
Prior to February 2014, all Maryland post-race testing was conducted within the state of Maryland. Those tests were usually finalized quickly, with results mostly returned within the 72-hour period. But that changed with the adoption of the Mid Atlantic Uniform Medication and Drug Testing program, which requires all labs used for testing to be fully accredited by RMTC.
Once the testing shifted to Truesdail Laboratories in Irvin, CA, samples taken for testing after Friday, Saturday and Sunday races were required to be overnight shipped via FedEx on Monday or Tuesday and received the next day which starts the clock on the contractual seven-business-day return requirement.
Richardson said over the past year the MTHA has worked with MRC to do everything it could to speed up the release of purse money.
“As soon as the results are available everyone is notified,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to improve all the bottlenecks in the process however I think we needed to go farther.”
So now comes the new procedure which affords owners the option to sign an agreement to ensure the money is available immediately after the 72-hour window.
“This seems to me to be a low-risk, high-reward program,” Richardson said. “Only a few times in the last year has MRC had to order a redistribution of purse money. But if one person fails to reimburse after a drug test changes the results of a race, we reserve the right to pull the plan.”
“I’m happy [the MTHA and MJC] are doing this,” Salzman Jr. said. “I’m for anything that improves the situation. The poor guy – and I am a poor guy – needs his money quickly. I am glad they’re doing something about it.”
There are limitations to the program: the plan will be valid for overnight races only and exclude all stakes; only owners currently licensed and in good standing with the MTPA, MJC and MTHA are eligible; owners must sign the agreement saying they will return purse money within 14 days after receiving notice of a purse redistribution, have the agreement notarized and file an original copy in the MTHA racetrack office; and the agreement is valid for one year and must be resubmitted each calendar year.
As Richardson stated, the penalties will be stiff for not acceding to the rules of the new plan. The MJC will refuse entries at all Stronach Group tracks and order removal of their horses from the grounds for an owner who does not reimburse MTPA within 14 days after a positive test; the MRC will, following notice and a hearing, suspend the license of an owner who does not reimburse purse funds within the allotted time.
The agreements are available at the MTHA racetrack office or online at mdhorsemen.com. The signed agreements will need to be notarized and the original be placed on file with MTHA in order to enroll in the program.