Maryland lawmakers introduced legislation Monday that would authorize up to $375 million in debt to rebuild the state’s two largest racetracks and keep the storied Preakness Stakes horse race in Baltimore.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Guy Guzzone, chairman of the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee, would provide at least $180 million for work at or near the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and $155 million at Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County.
The legislation is expected to be one of the most high-profile bills of the General Assembly’s 90-day session. A House of Delegates version of the bill, sponsored by Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, is likely to be introduced later this week.
“The goal here is to save the Preakness,” said Guzzone, a Howard County Democrat. “It’s to help surrounding neighborhoods. It’s to make Laurel a viable racing venue for the long term. It’s to do so in a fiscally responsible way where we use no funds that would have ever been programmed for education.”
The legislation has been in the works for months, ever since the city of Baltimore and The Stronach Group, which controls racing in Maryland, reached a deal last fall to end a fractious dispute that had the company threatening to move the race to Laurel and the city suing to seize Pimlico and take control of the Preakness.
The Stronach Group is deadly to horses wherever it operates, not just Santa Anita. Here is a tragic example from last year’s Preakness, the death of the three year old filly, Congrats Gal.
Joe Drape, reporting for the The New York Times in an article published on May 17, 2019, entitled “Horse Deaths at Santa Anita and Pimlico: Same Day, Same Track Owner“, writes:
Two horses died at racetracks owned by the Stronach Group on Friday, keeping the issue of animal safety in horse racing in the public eye on the eve of one of the biggest days in horse racing.
At Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Friday, the day before the track would host the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes, the second race of the Triple Crown series, a 3-year-old filly named Congrats Gal died soon after pulling up and finishing last in the nine-horse field in the Miss Preakness Stakes.
It was a hot day, with temperatures in the low 80s, and the rider for Congrats Gal, Trevor McCarthy, told officials that the filly was hot. When she seemed to lose steam in the stretch, McCarthy eased up on her and coasted to the finish line. She collapsed about 100 yards later.
“Congrats Gal suffered sudden death after the eighth race today,” the Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico, said in a statement, without giving a cause of death. “The incident occurred after the wire. Commission veterinarians attended to the horse immediately. Our thoughts go out to all of the owners, trainers and connections of Congrats Gal.”
At Santa Anita Park in Southern California, a 3-year-old gelding named Commander Coil became the 24th fatality at the racetrack since Dec. 26, a turn of events that already had suspended racing at the track twice and threatened to close down the sport in the state forever.
Commander Coil was euthanized after breaking down during training hours with a shoulder injury. In a statement, the Stronach Group said: “Equine shoulder injuries are rare, especially for a horse that is galloping as opposed to breezing or racing. A comprehensive evaluation will be completed to understand what might have caused this uncommon injury.”
Ritvo acknowledged how high the stakes had become. He said California legislators as well as the public wanted to see change, and had the means to do so: In California, 600,000 signatures could prompt a ballot initiative supporting a ban of the sport.
“We were really devastated and close to seeing racing go away,” he said.
Also in the News
PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR PROPOSES $200M CUT FROM HORSE RACING DEVELOPMENT FUND
Wolf, a Democrat serving his second term as governor, made the proposal to take $200 million annually from horse racing purses and breeders awards in the Race Horse Development Trust Fund – derived from a percentage of slot machine revenue – and create a scholarship fund so Pennsylvania students can attend state universities. The proposal was made in his budget address to a joint session of the House and Senate in the state capitol in Harrisburg. Both chambers are controlled by the Republican Party.
“I’m proposing a historic $200-million investment in scholarships for the young Pennsylvanians attending our state system universities,” Wolf said. “And we’ll do that by repurposing existing tax dollars that are right now flowing into the Horse Racing Development Fund. Let’s bet on our kids instead of bankrolling race horse owners and ensure the viability of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.”
Paulick Report (Feb 5, 2020) — Thoroughbred Idea Foundation: Pennsylvania racing must take control of its own future as Woodbine has »
Paulick Report (Feb 4, 2020) — (1) Pennsylvania Governor proposes $200M cut from horse racing development fund; and (2) Absolutely devastating: Industry participants react to Pennsylvania Governor’s proposed raid on horse racing »
Horse Racing Nation — (Feb 4, 2020) Proposed Pennsylvania budget would decimate racetrack purses »
PennLive.com (Feb 4, 2020) — Horse racing industry says Whoa Nelly to Wolfe’s plan to raid its trust fund to pay for college scholarships »
FEATURED IMAGE: Old Grandstand seats at Pimlico racecourse, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: Baltimore Sun.