Algeo to remain on Maryland Racing Commission; Davitt new chair

Maryland Racing Commission Chairman Michael Algeo announced at a Sept. 24 meeting that it would be his last in the role of chairman, but that he will remain a member of the commission.

Algeo said Emmet Davitt, appointed to the MRC by Gov. Larry Hogan in February of this year, would take over as chairman. Davitt is a former state prosecutor who stepped down in late 2019 after almost 10 years on the job.

Algeo, a former associate judge for Montgomery County Circuit Court, was appointed in December 2016 along with businessman and racehorse owner Konrad Wayson, who also was reappointed to a four-year term on the MRC.

“I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to Gov. Hogan for allowing me to serve as chairman,” Algeo said. “I’m incredibly proud to have worked with (commission members and industry stakeholders).”

Algeo, who has emphasized a need for cooperation and communication within the horseracing industry in the state, credited the MRC with a heightened focus on equine health, safety and welfare over the past four years, as well as safety of racing surfaces and a closer look at the health and safety of jockeys. He credited Dr. Kelly Ryan, a MedStar Health physician who is part of the Maryland Horsemen’s Health System, with introducing concussion protocol in Maryland and advocating for it nationally.

Of the Racing and Community Development Act, which easily passed the legislature earlier this year and was allowed to become law by Hogan, Algeo said: “There is much work to be done, but I think we have worked a miracle.” The act calls for the reconstruction of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course and created the Maryland Equine Health, Safety and Welfare Advisory Committee, which falls under the MRC.

Davitt said he accepted the chairmanship “with some trepidation” because of the learning curve and told Algeo he appreciated the fact he will remain a member of the commission.

“I’m very honored to be asked to step into this role and appreciate Gov. Hogan’s confidence in me,” Davitt said. “I appreciate the genuine concern and love for the horse industry in Maryland and look forward to working with everyone involved in Maryland racing.”

In other business at the MRC meeting, Algeo, in response to a question from commissioner Ernie Greco on when racetracks will be opened to the betting public, said it depends upon state government. Live racing resumed at Laurel May 30 after an almost two-month shutdown, and off-track betting facilities reopened when the state’s casinos did in late June.

“We worked miracles to get us where we are right now,” Algeo said. “The bottom line is until we have a directive from the governor’s office or the Health Department, it will remain status quo. I did try, and we'll keep trying. I wanted you to know the effort was made."

Though Pimlico reopened for full-card simulcasts June 25, it has suspended wagering during its two-week Preakness Stakes meet. Rosecroft Raceway, a major simulcast outlet, has been shuttered since mid-March and began its live fall meet Sept. 23 with no patrons or wagering.

Looking ahead to 2021, MRC Executive Director Mike Hopkins asked all tracks to submit their requests for racing dates at the Oct. 22 meeting rather than in November. He also said the Cecil County Breeders Fair and Fair Hill Foundation have requested eight racing dates—its full complement permitted by law—for 2021.

Fair Hill, which earlier indicated a desire to offer some flat racing along with steeplechase racing on its redesigned turf course, applied for racing on May 29, May 31, Sept 4 and Sept. 6, with four more days to be identified in the future.

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