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Dear Santa: Maryland racing’s wishlist for 2018

by | Dec 23, 2017 | Breaking, Business, Maryland, MD Business, Top Stories | 4 comments

Snow hits Laurel. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

by Teresa Genaro

As 2017 draws to a close, the face of Maryland racing continues to change. New stallions have arrived to stand in the state; the flagship is no longer historic Pimlico, but a rejuvenated Laurel Park; Thoroughbred retirement has become an official program supported by an industry-wide partnership.

By nearly every indicator, Maryland racing is heading into the right direction as the calendar gets ready to turn to 2018. But as the people who make the racing happen get ready for Christmas, finishing up their shopping, travelling to family, wrapping presents, we asked what they would like Santa to leave under their racing tree this holiday season.

Tom Bowman, veterinarian, breeder, and member of the Maryland Racing Commission

The whole atmosphere in Maryland racing right now is so positive, and there are a number of things that can be continually improved. The number of broodmares in the state isn’t enough to have a significant impact on racing, so that’s one thing that I think has to be improved. The ratio of broodmares to stallions is out of whack.

“The breeding program is functioning quite smoothly and catching everybody’s eye; the number of broodmares dropped a little bit last year, but the trend over the last five to seven years is upward, which is very positive. The number of new stallions is escalating more rapidly than is optimal for the number of mares, but that will even itself out; the business will dictate that.

If this region is going to continue to strengthen racing and have more racing days, something has to be done to encourage production of more foals in this local region

“If this region is going to continue to strengthen racing and have more racing days, something has to be done to encourage production of more foals in this local region. Because the statistics say that the majority of races horses race in the geographic region in which they’re born, the more you can encourage foals to be born in Maryland, the more likely they are to spend a considerable portion of their competitive starts in the state itself.

“The national production of horses is down 40% or more in the last 10 years, and 50% since 1991. Considering that huge drop, the competition for those horses will continue to escalate, unless we can find ways to capture that group of horses for this geographical region so that we can ensure that racing here continues to flourish and field size continues to grow. I wish that we could come up with programs that will further provide incentives for mares to produce foals in Maryland.”

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Sal Sinatra, Maryland Jockey Club president

“How about a Maryland-bred Preakness winner?

“We had a successful year, and I’d like for that trend to continue. We’ve been on the upswing for the last few years, and I hope that momentum carries through. Success and of course safety come first.

“Our OTB network is growing, with a new OTB opening in January, and hopefully more over the course of the year. Our fan support is getting younger, and I hope that continues, so that it makes racing a little cooler and we get exposure to people outside our circle.

How about a Maryland-bred Preakness winner?

“I’ve got my fingers crossed for a Breeders’ Cup in Maryland. The governor has thrown his support behind that and some of his aides were out at Del Mar, so I hope all of that gets aligned right. We’ll continue to modernize to make this the kind of facility that can host a Breeders’’ Cup.”

Kimberly Godwin Clark, founder and executive director, Thoroughbred Placement Resources

“Maryland has made so much progress on the retirement and aftercare of retiring racehorses. The blossoming Beyond The Wire program is doing amazing work; Maryland has some of the best horsemen in this country and my hope is they will have the best aftercare and retirement support for their retiring racehorses in 2018 and beyond.

“I feel like overall things have changed so much in the last 10 years; it’s not even recognizable. Dealing with people at the track has completely changed, and all for the better.

I’d like for Thoroughbreds to be more prominent in other disciplines. They’re still really rare in the upper levels of the show world; we need to focus on increasing their popularity.

“As someone who retrains horses for second careers, I’d like for Thoroughbreds to be more prominent in other disciplines. They’re still really rare in the upper levels of the show world; we need to focus on increasing their popularity.

“We find them homes, but we need more educated people to train them and make them shine so that they gain some value. Right now, retraining horses results in negative cash flow. When we sell one, we get about half of what we’d get if he were a Warmblood. They’re great athletes and it’s worth retraining them.”

Dave Rodman, “the voice of Maryland racing,” announcer at Pimlico and Laurel Park

“With Ben’s Cat gone, I’d love to see the emergence of another local hero. It was so nice to see him capture the public’s imagination over a period of time.

“We’ve got nice new stallions in Maryland—Dortmund, Divining Rod, Madefromlucky—so I’m wishing the best for them. Our breeding program has really picked up after going into a valley for several years. Better horses means better racing, which we all want.

King Leatherbury is at 6,492 wins, and it would be cool if his 11-year-old Classic Wildcat would win him number 6,500 next year.

“It would be great for Maryland to produce another Eclipse apprentice jockey; Wes Hamilton, the son of Steve ‘Cowboy’ Hamilton, is off to a solid start.

“King Leatherbury is at 6,492 wins, and it would be cool if his 11-year-old Classic Wildcat would win him number 6,500 next year. Edgar Prado is on the verge of 7,000 wins; I know that he’s in Florida now, but it would be cool to see him get that win in Maryland, where he was the kingpin for so long.”

Lacey Gaudet, trainer

O Tannenbaum.

“I’d like another year like 2016! We had a great year and unfortunately 2017 didn’t quite live up to that, but that’s the way this game goes.

“We did get a chance to work with some nice babies this year, which was on my wish list last year. I hope to be able to continue with a full barn; my mother and I work so well together, and we have incredible clients. We recently won a race with Super Buddy, and it was the first win for a partnership, Flat Bet Racing, and the first win since 1998 for the managing partner. They’re super-involved, out at the barn all the time, feeding the horses carrots—most of our clients are like that, and that’s what makes this enjoyable.

“I’m sitting at Laurel having lunch, and it’s packed. What they’re doing here is working. The big weekends get big crowds, and I’d like to see them happen more frequently. You get the Preakness, then months later Maryland Million and the Brew/Bourbon Fest. Events like that attract people, and I hope that that continues.”

Sabrina Moore, Greenmount Farm and member, board of directors of Maryland Horse Breeders Association

“If Santa could bring the Maryland Thoroughbred industry anything, would it be too much to ask for not just one broodmare, but maybe 100?

“This year Maryland farms are Introducing seven new freshman sires to the state, and there’s nothing more that would make me happier than to watch these new stallions take after their successful Maryland-based ancestors such as Native Dancer, Two Punch, Not For Love, etc. Maryland has a very enticing incentive program, which also pays off for many breeders and owners.

If Santa could bring the Maryland Thoroughbred industry anything, would it be too much to ask for not just one broodmare, but maybe 100?

“With more mares, we can breed to more stallions, we can have more foals that turn into more racehorses, which fill races and keeps everyone employed and happy–the gift that just keeps giving!”

What is your wish for the Maryland Thoroughbred industry in 2018? Let us know in the comments, and check back next week for similar wishlists for other mid-Atlantic racing states. From all of us at The Racing Biz, best wishes for this holiday season and a Happy New Year to all!

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