Increased access to H2-B visas part of 2020 spending bill

Trainers who utilize the H-2B guest worker visa program to fill various backstretch positions are expected to have increased access to H-2B visas as a result of language included in the 2020 spending bill passed by Congress the week of Dec. 16 and signed into law by President Trump.

The bill gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretion to release additional visas above the statutory cap and also includes related labor provisions that have been in place for several years.

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Equine health and safety directives, regulations approved by MRC

The Maryland Racing Commission Dec. 19 approved a host of directives and regulatory changes tied to the safety and welfare of the racehorse that will take effect in early 2020.

These changes have been under review and discussion in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region since July, and include revisions to the National Uniform Medication Program that were formally adopted by the Association of Racing Commissioners International on Dec. 12, 2019.

"The Mid-Atlantic region had been looking at safety and welfare issues well before the issues that came up at Santa Anita during the winter and spring (of 2019)," MRC Executive Mike Hopkins said. "The MRC elected to allow horsemen to be heard and to talk through these changes. Discussions have been held."

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MJC Alters Training Schedule For Safety Concerns

The Maryland Jockey Club said it has altered the track maintenance schedule during training hours at Laurel Park in an attempt to keep the surface more uniform and safer for horses.

The MJC, effective Dec. 9, announced that renovation breaks during training would be 7-7:30 a.m. and 9-9:30 a.m. Training at Laurel is available from 5:30-10 a.m. on race days and 5:30-10:30 a.m. on non-racing days; the first half-hour break had start at 7:30 a.m., two hours after training began.

“We’re trying to make each session the same amount of time so the surface has the same consistency,” Sinatra said. “The track was getting cut up (before the first break), so we shifted the break a half-hour earlier. Most of the horses train earlier in the morning, so we want to keep (the surface) as uniform as possible but not take training time away from horsemen.”

Sinatra noted training on Mondays and Tuesdays is much lighter than Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, which are live racing days in January and February. More than 1,000 horses are stabled at Laurel versus a couple of hundred at Pimlico, where training is offered each day from 6-10 a.m. with one break from 7:30-8 a.m.


December 2019 Newsletter Available

newsletter2019 12The December 2019 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.


177 racing days approved for Laurel Park, Pimlico in 2020

The Maryland Racing Commission Nov. 21 approved 177 live racing days at the Maryland Jockey Club tracks for 2020.

Laurel Park was approved for 165 days and Pimlico Race Course for 12 days. A seven-day meet for the Maryland State Fair at Timonium was approved at the MRC’s October meeting.

The Laurel winter meet will run from Jan. 1-March 29 with racing four days a week (Thursday through Sunday and two holiday Mondays) in January and February and three days a week (Friday through Sunday) in March.

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MRC will schedule stakeholder meeting to discuss house rules

The Maryland Racing Commission will continue to move forward with equine health and safety measures but has suspended action on various “house rules” pending a meeting with horsemen, veterinarians and other stakeholders.

MRC Chairman Mike Algeo made the announcement at the commission’s Nov. 21 meeting at Laurel Park. He noted that “significant discussion” on the house rules as well as proposed state regulations by the MRC Safety Committee and subsequently the racing commission at its October meeting.

“It’s obviously paramount in this environment that the primary concern has to be the safety and well-being of horses,” Algeo said. “We are trying to advance the industry but folks have some questions about the house rules. So we will suspend implementation and have a meeting with all stakeholders sometime in the next several weeks. We’ll try to find a date that’s convenient for everyone.”

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Purse Release