08/04/2005 11:00PM

Bonus money to be issued on faster basis

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The opening of the Pimlico summer meeting on Aug. 12 will be the beginning of a new era for the Maryland-bred Fund. Distribution of bonus checks has been speeded up. From now on, breeders, owners, and stallion owners will receive their checks within weeks of a race. And the owner bonus program has been expanded to include all maiden races.

The changes were based on suggestions from a Maryland Horse Breeders Association general membership meeting held last fall.

"Of course, we would all like to increase the size of the Maryland Fund," said Cricket Goodall, executive director of the breeders' association, which administers the program. "But without additional revenue sources, most likely in the form of expanded gaming, that can't happen. The question was, how do we make the best use of the money that is available?"

Said the breeders' association's president, William K. Boniface: "We all have bills to pay. Most of us need the money now, not 45 days after the meet has ended."

This is not the first time the Maryland Fund has been tweaked to help make it competitive with slots-enriched programs in nearby states. A special $5,000 bonus was instituted in 2003 for owners of Maryland-breds who win a maiden special weight race or a two-other-than allowance race at Pimlico, Laurel, or Timonium.

The bonus structure set in place for the remainder of the year will pay 15 percent of the purse share for breeder and owner awards, and 7.5 percent for stallion awards. Percentages will be reviewed on a semiannual basis, to keep them in line with available funds. Breeder and stallion awards are paid for all victories, and first through fourth place in stakes. Owner awards are earned by horses who win allowance and maiden races, and claiming races for a price of $20,000 and up.

More information is available from the Maryland Horse Breeders Association at (410)252-2100.

Scholarship fund has matching grant

At least $25,000 - and likely much more - will be distributed this fall in scholarships to Maryland's backstretch and farm workers, through a program conducted by the Maryland Racing Media Association. To be eligible, an individual must be enrolled in college.

The scholarship program receives major funding from three local organizations: the media association, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, and the Maryland Horsemen's Assistance Fund, as well as from owner-breeder Milton P. Higgins III.

In addition to a $5,000 donation, Higgins has bolstered the program with a challenge grant. Higgins will match individual contributions up to $10,000.

"We need to get the word out about Milton's challenge," said David Richardson, president of the media association "Remember that a $25 contribution is worth $50 to the program. Support from individuals at every level will really make a difference."

Information about applying to the program is available from Vinnie Perrone at (301)890-8776.

Fundraiser crab dinner set for Oct. 14

Each year, the Maryland Racing Media Association conducts an auction of racing-related items to raise funds for the scholarship program. The auction takes place at the media association's crab feast.

This year's crab feast will be held Oct. 14 in the Carriage Room at Laurel Park, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The media association will present its annual awards at the dinner. Honorees are Chick Lang, who will receive the Humphrey S. Finney Award for lifetime contributions to Maryland racing; Afleet Alex's trainer and jockey, Tim Ritchey and Jeremy Rose; and Don Litz, founder of the Maryland Stallion Station. Tickets - $50 apiece, $450 for a table of 10 - are available from David Richardson at (410)239-7022.