LaMarra To Handle MTHA Backstretch Services

Tom LaMarra, who joined the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association in September 2016 to handle communications and special projects, will add backstretch services to his duties given the June 30 retirement of longtime Benefits Director Bobby Lillis.

LaMarra, a resident of Laurel, will spend most mornings in the MTHA offices in the Laurel Park Recreation Hall and in the frontside MTHA office in the Laurel grandstand on race days, as well as make trips to Pimlico Race Course. He will work closely with MTHA Racetrack Administrator Diana Pinones and Benevolence and Counseling Director Jessica Hammond as well as the Maryland Jockey Club Security and Facilities departments.

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Bobby Lillis Off To New Chapter

Bobby Lillis, a longtime fixture in Maryland horse racing known as the “Mayor of the Backstretch,” is retiring after a career in the industry that has spanned six decades.

For the past 21 years, Lillis, 66, has served as Benefits and Benevolence Director for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. His focus has been on those who ensure that racehorses receive proper care seven days a week, year-round. “I have always held backstretch and farm workers near and dear to my heart as I know firsthand the sacrifices that come with their jobs and environment,” Lillis said.

Lillis was 15 when he started working as a hot walker for trainer Bob Holthus and lived in a tack room at old Detroit Race Course in Livonia, Mich., in 1969. In 1972 he went to Sugar Hill Farm in Ocala, Fla., under the guidance of retired jockey Sherman Armstrong to learn how to break yearlings and become a jockey, which he did not long after.

Lillis worked at many East Coast racetracks and met his wife, Ruthanne, in 1975 at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. They moved to Maryland in 1976 because the state had four tracks and year-round racing at Bowie Race Course, Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course and the Maryland State Fair at Timonium, and currently reside in Westminster in Carroll County.

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July 2020 Newsletter Available

newsletter2020 7The July 2020 edition of the Horsemen's Newsletter is now online and available for download. To view this edition click herearrow

The Horsemen's Newsletter is published monthly by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and is mailed to licensed owners and trainers in the state of Maryland.


Maryland Thoroughbred Industry Scholarship Deadline Now Sept. 1

At least $20,000 or more will be distributed this year through the Maryland Thoroughbred Industry Scholarship Fund, including the Eddie McMullen and Lucy Acton Memorial scholarships.

The scholarship program is a joint venture between the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Maryland Racing Media Association, Maryland Jockey Club and various other individual donors. The program is designed to provide meaningful financial assistance to currently enrolled students who are active members of the Maryland Thoroughbred racing industry.

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Our Doctors Are In, By Appointment

Because of COVID-19 restrictions geared toward the health and safety of the backstretch community, the Horsemen’s Health System is not allowing walk-in patients in the MTHA office in the Laurel Park grandstand at this time.

Our team of MedStar Health doctors have offered to see patients on an appointment-only basis on live racing days, which currently are Fridays and Saturdays through August. Those who make appointments are asked to go to the main grandstand entrance with their Maryland Racing Commission badge so a security guard can escort them to the MTHA office.

Please call 410-902-6844 to make an appointment.

Maryland Racing Commission approves new riding crop policy

The Maryland Racing Commission June 25 unanimously approved a new riding crop policy widely accepted by other jurisdictions in the Mid-Atlantic region after months of discussion.

The policy, developed through compromise and input from various stakeholders, allows for six strikes of the whip—no more than two consecutive strikes—from the quarter pole to the finish. Jockeys will be able to use the crop in underhand fashion from the start of a race to the quarter pole.

MRC Executive Director Mike Hopkins said the MRC will direct the stewards to implement the policy Aug. 1 at Laurel Park. The current Maryland policy, devised by the stewards and implemented in January 2020, allows for 10 strikes, no more than three in a row.

“We have consensus from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia to adopt the new policy going forward,” Hopkins said. “The intention is not to eliminate use of the whip but bring it under control.”

A penalty system endorsed by Mid-Atlantic stakeholders will be brought before the MRC in the future.

Purse Release