Maryland: Breeder bonuses to be paid (eventually)

by | Jun 5, 2020 | Breaking, Business, Maryland, MD Business, Top Stories

Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Cricket Goodall has a message for Maryland’s horse breeders: bonuses will be coming.

When, or how much: these remain open questions. But breeders who’ve earned bonuses will receive bonuses once the bred fund is replenished. And that includes races already run at Laurel Park since the track resumed racing May 30.

“The point is, breeder bonuses will be going out for all the races that are eligible now,” Goodall, executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, said. “What we don’t know is when, or how much.”

Goodall said that the break — Maryland did not race for more than two months, from mid-March to late May — caused both confusion among breeders and damage to the state’s bred fund. The fund is generated by moneys from wagering on horse racing; it also receives a share of slot machine revenue, as does the purse account.

With both horse racing and casinos closed down, the fund found itself without a revenue stream. That left it unable to pay bonuses earned in the three days since Maryland racing returned to action and may leave it unable to do so until casinos reopen and slots resume feeding the fund.

Under the program as it existed prior to the break, breeders of Maryland-breds received 30% of a horse’s share of the purse for a top three finish in any overnight race in Maryland. Stallion owners received a 10% bonus. (There are certain exceptions).

That program was adopted by the state Racing Commission several years back to help the state’s then-beleaguered breeding industry compete with other nearby states. It also marked a change from the prior state-bred program in Maryland, in which bonuses were calculated based on the size of the bred fund every six months.

The change worked. Both the state-bred foal crop and the number of mares bred to Maryland stallions have grown significantly in recent years. But it also strained the Maryland-bred fund; the new commitment to breeders and stallion owners is essentially open-ended — the more Maryland-breds that race locally, the greater the demands on the program — while its funding remains limited to the percentages it receives from slots and the mutuel.

That’s been a concern — and at times a cause of controversy — in recent years. And now, with the added strain of the coronavirus, it seems a return to the old approach may be in the offing.

A statement from the Maryland Racing Commission emailed to industry participants Thursday morning makes no commitment as to percentages — or for that matter, the timing — of payments.

The “Breeder and Stallion bonuses will be evaluated and paid once Maryland Bred Race Fund’s revenue streams are studied,” the statement reads.

The Commission will then develop a disbursement plan.

“The approved plan will require that the percentages and timing be based on the funds available,” it added.

Whatever the new system looks like, it will apply beginning with races contested May 30.

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About The Author

Frank Vespe

Frank Vespe, the founder and publisher of The Racing Biz, has owned, bought, sold, claimed, written, and talked about horses, in varying combinations, for a decade. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @TheRacingBiz.

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