There was some thought among those at the Maryland Racing Commission meeting today that the meeting would be brief.

Not so fast.

After dealing with a revised void-claim rule, hearing (yet again) from the Standardbred industry on medication rules, discussing the racing industry marketing plan, and getting the latest construction update from the Maryland Jockey Club, well, it was no short meeting.

When the dust had settled, the Commission…

  • Approved a new void-claim rule similar to that endorsed last week by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (here).  The new rule will void claims if the claimed horse starts the race and either a) dies on the track or b) receives an injury severe enough that the State Veterinarian on the scene determines that the horse must be euthanized.  Though the rule has engendered some mild opposition — some horsemen oppose the rule, believing that that risk is inherent in the claiming game, while others believe the rule does not go far enough — Commission chairman Bruce Quade said that he believed it to be “really important that … a catastrophic breakdown rule be adopted today.”  It was, by a unanimous vote, and Commissioners directed executive director Mike Hopkins to ensure that it is implemented “as soon as possible.”
  • Declined to act on a request from the Standardbred industry that Standardbreds be excluded from the uniform medication rules the Commission had previously adopted, as have those of several other Eastern racing states.  Representatives of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association requested that the Commission take one of three steps: 1) reverse its prior adoption of the medication rules; 2) amend those rules to permit Amicar and other adjunct bleeding medications; or 3) remove Standardbreds from the rules altogether.  Tom Cooke of the CSOA pleaded for what he termed “breed customization” — modifying the rules to allow for the different style of racing and training that Standardbreds experience; he noted that on September 27 the sport’s umbrella body, the United States Trotting Association, had withdrawn its support for the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), which had developed the rules.   Among the USTA’s concerns are the prohibitions on the use of corticosteroids and the bronchodilator clenbuterol.  Noting that the RMTC is investigating whether the science supports such a distinction — and hearing from a veterinarian present that, physiologically at least, the breeds are not sufficiently different to warrant the requested change — the Commission tabled the matter.
  • Heard from Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas about progress the company is making towards building additional stalls at Laurel and other capital improvements.  Chuckas reported that the MJC expects to begin wetlands mitigation work on the site of the new stalls — across Brock Bridge Road — starting about November 1.  He hopes to have 150 stalls open by the end of the first quarter but, he noted, “It’s a slow process.”  Among the uncertainties: the County permitting process, which, he said, just takes time, and the weather.
  • Received a joint marketing plan from the state’s two Standardbred and one Thoroughbred track operators.  The plan, delivered by Bill Fasy, for Ocean Downs; Chris McErlean, representing Penn National, which owns Rosecroft; and Tom Chuckas for the Maryland Jockey Club had been mandated by law, though it was the tracks’ choice to collaborate on it.  Chairman Quade referred to the plan as “a good product,” and Commissioner Mary Louise Preis described it as “so much more advanced than what we’ve seen before.”  The one specific request from the plan made public, by McErlean, was that the tracks would prefer if Racetrack Facilities Renewal Account (RFRA) funds — generated by slots revenue and directed to capital projects at tracks — were available for marketing, as well.
  • Learned from Maryland Horse Breeders Association president Josh Pons and executive director Cricket Goodall that the first group of breeder bonuses under the state’s new program — 67 checks for the first couple of racing weeks — had been mailed.  “There’s lots of excited people,” Pons said, noting that the program’s greatest beneficiaries are the “most steadfast breeders,” those who stuck with Maryland when economics might have suggested taking a different route.  “There’s hope again in Maryland,” he added.