Laurel Park to resume live racing May 30

The Maryland Racing Commission May 28 approved the parameters of the Laurel Park summer meet, effectively allowing the track to reopen for live racing May 30 with only essential personnel permitted on the grounds.

Laurel will offer three racing programs its first week back—Saturday, Sunday and Monday (May 30-June 1)—and follow with three days of racing the following weekend. It's expected racing will be held twice a week thereafter on Fridays and Saturdays until further notice. Entries for the first threee days have already been drawn.

The Maryland Jockey Club submitted a request for 28 racing days for the Laurel summer meet. It was noted the facility will be closed to the public pending changes in state limits on the number of people allowed to attend events because of COVID-19.

The MJC, in conjunction with the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, The Stronach Group and MedStar Health, prepared a lengthy document outlining protocols and procedures necessary for COVID-19 mitigation when live racing commences at Laurel and presented it to state officials. Before racing was suspended in mid-March, Laurel raced three days with no patrons permitted under the governor’s executive order.

Many of the protocols and best practices are already in place for training in the stable areas at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course. The MJC said it contemplates “live racing only at Laurel Park for the duration of COVID-19 restrictions in order to limit the travel of personnel, horsemen and horses.”

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MJC to seek approval to begin racing at Laurel May 30

The Maryland Jockey Club will seek approval from the Maryland Racing Commission to commence live racing Saturday, May 30, for the first day of the Laurel Park condition book. Entries already have been drawn.

The industry fully expects official approval from the MRC to be granted during its meeting May 28. The second day of the condition book, for which entries have been drawn, is expected to be Sunday, May 31. The MTHA will provide an update after the meeting.

The MRC adopted several regulations before live racing was suspended in mid-March, and the MTHA and the MJC approved other changes designed to assist horsemen in advance of the resumption of live racing. The notices and reminders are available here.


Clarity On MJC Text Regarding 150 Layoff Form

This is to clarify the text some horsemen received from Maryland Jockey Club about the need to file a form with the Equine Medical Director for horses that have been laid off for more than 150 days.

The following MRC policy was implemented and has been in place since January 1, 2020.

“A horse that has been off for more than 150 days shall be required to work 3 times, one within 30 days of entry and one work of at least one half mile. In addition, the horse shall not be allowed to enter or start until the attending practicing veterinarian signs off that the horse is sound for racing and approval is obtained from the Equine Medical Director.”

The only change from that policy has been that a regional Form, to be used by the Equine Medical Director, has been developed and is now being used with the resumption of live racing.

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Reminder to horsemen on recently adopted procedures

As live racing resumes, horsemen are reminded of the following: an automatic 10% purse deduction for trainers; the reporting of a horse's medical record after it is claimed or sold; a temporary rule that allows for the one-time waiver of a claiming price under certain conditions; a 150-day layoff report, which was implemented before the shutdown; and a 48-hour cut-off for administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone (Bute) and a 14-day stand-down on intra-articular injections, both of which were in place earlier this year.

Details are available at the following links:

MTHA launches trainer commission deduction program

Medical records required for horses claimed, sold or transferred

One-time waiver on claiming price adopted for resumption of live racing

Clarity regarding 150-day layoff form

Existing regulations on NSAIDs and intra-articular injections

Reminder: Virtual sign-ups for Pension Plan now available

Virtual sign-ups for the Maryland Backstretch Pension Plan are necessary this year because of ongoing physical distancing issued by state  government officials because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual signups began a few weeks ago, and please remember to sign up as soon as possible to ensure you are eligible this year. The deadline is July 1.

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Statement from MTHA President Tim Keefe on resumption of live racing

Dear Horsemen:

I appreciate everyone's patience and understanding during this incredibly difficult period. In these challenging times, Maryland horsemen's fortitude and resilience have been remarkable, and never have I been more proud to be a Maryland horseman than now.

The MTHA, the Maryland Jockey Club and The Stronach Group, in conjunction with each group's army of lobbyists, lawyers and friends, have urged the Hogan Administration to recognize the importance of reopening Maryland live racing, the ongoing threat to our financial survival, that we fit the standards for Phase 1 of his recovery plan and that our industry is at a tipping point as our surrounding states reopen to live racing.

The Maryland Racing Commission has been incredibly supportive and has advocated for the resumption of live racing.

We have made clear to the Administration, time and again, the significant and successful steps our entire community has implemented during these last two months, as 1,300 horses have trained at Laurel Park. These steps, with a few additional measures, should allow us to join other racing jurisdictions across the United States to ensure a safe return to live racing in Maryland and to allow our industry to start to get back on its feet again.

We have also stressed the current limitations of our purse account if we cannot reopen soon. Without the ability to replenish itself and generate additional revenue from live racing, it may be unrealistic for the Purse Account to fund the Preakness and its expensive supporting race card that benefits out-of-state horsemen to the exclusion of a struggling Maryland racing community.

Unfortunately, there is still a lack of clarity from the Administration and no definitive authorization for the resumption of live racing. Because of the time and preparation needed for us to reopen, the likelihood of the resumption of live racing Memorial Day weekend is now deemed implausible.

We are tireless in our efforts to get reopened and are now focused on the possibility of racing beginning on May 29 at the earliest. Horsemen are advised to make the necessary preparations for this possibility. We cannot assure you, however, that this will be the case since we cannot reopen until permitted to do so. This is beyond our collective control.

We will keep the Maryland Thoroughbred racing community updated as the situation evolves.

Purse Release