MDlogo scaledIn a generally sleepy July meeting at the Timonium Race Course yesterday, the Maryland Racing Commission discussed the ongoing Virginia racing situation and issued several approvals.

With Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association locked in stalemate, it is now almost certain that there will be no Thoroughbred race meet in the Old Dominion in 2014.  Moreover, while the state’s Racing Commission has directed Colonial and the horsemen to run a 24-day meet in 2015, the track has indicated that it will fight that order in court rather than comply.

That, plus long-simmering dissatisfaction among Maryland horsemen with the nearly three month break between the closing of Pimlico and the reopening of Laurel, prompted commissioner John McDaniel to wonder if the time was drawing nigh for Maryland to reconsider the composition of its racing calendar.

“We’re taking a real hard look at all options that are available,” Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas told the Commission regarding future dates.

Given Maryland’s agreement with Colonial Downs to cede the summer dates, which expires in 2015, no change is likely until 2016.

Moreover, since the 10-year agreement between the Maryland Jockey Club and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association calls for the MJC to run 100 days at its own expense and permits the horsemen to purchase additional days at their expense, any changes may come at the expense of days elsewhere on the calendar.

In the meantime, the Commission did approve both the Maryland Jockey Club’s request for 65 days of live racing in Laurel in the fall (here) and the Maryland State Fair’s request for seven days of live racing at Timonium bridging August and September.  The seven days that Timonium will run this year are in line with most recent years but down from the 10 the track hosted last year, when the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association agreed to provide the track funds to support operations.


  • The Commission approved a couple of items regarding bonuses paid to the owners and breeders of Maryland-breds.  Those mean that:
    • by the beginning of 2015, the owners of Maryland-breds that finish in the money in any overnight race in Maryland will receive a 30 percent bonus.  That’s an increase from the current level of 17.5 percent and encompasses many races currently excluded — specifically, starter allowances and races in which a horse is entered for less than a $10,000 claiming tag.
    • the bonus paid to breeders of Maryland-breds finishing in the money in Maryland Million races will rise to 15 percent and that paid to stallion owners will jump to 10 percent.  Those are substantial increases from historical levels of about 2.8 percent and 1.4 percent.
  • The Maryland Horse Forum, a once-per-five-years event, will take place August 7 at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, the Commission learned.  Admission is free and open to all members of the Maryland equine community.
  • Harness track Ocean Downs’s experiment with racing under saddle — in which standardbred horses trot under saddle, rather than while pulling a sulky — was a smashing success, according to several who attended.