Updated on 11/26/2014 1:38PM

Chuckas resigns as president of Maryland Jockey Club


The Stronach Group on Wednesday announced two major personnel changes at the Maryland Jockey Club and in broad terms discussed a number of initiatives it plans to implement at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park.

Tom Chuckas, president and chief executive of the Maryland Jockey Club since 2008, has resigned his position, effective this coming Sunday. Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of the Stronach Group’s racing division, said, “We are negotiating with Tom to do some political work for us.”

Sal Sinatra, currently the director of racing at Parx, will leave that position to become vice president and general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. He will begin his new role Dec. 1.

“Sal will be in charge of the Maryland Jockey Club,” Ritvo said.

Sinatra was widely praised in September for luring Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome to the Pennsylvania Derby and 3-year-old filly division leader Untapable to the Cotillion, the two biggest races of the year at Parx.

Neither Chuckas nor Sinatra participated in Wednesday’s press conference.

Among the goals Ritvo laid out for Maryland racing were the development of a cooperative circuit with other Mid-Atlantic tracks; the possibility of changing takeout rates to encourage players to wager on Maryland races; and a long-term plan to maximize the potential of the Preakness Stakes.

“We look at the progress we have made in Florida and at Santa Anita and view Maryland as our next big project,” Ritvo said. “We want to get more eyeballs on our product and grow the business. Within six months, we would like to come up with a long-term plan of what racing in Maryland should look like.”

Ritvo said the Stronach Group has already had preliminary discussions with officials at Delaware Park and in Virginia about working together to lessen competition between the tracks.

“We have been saying, ‘Are you willing to work with us at a cooperative level to consolidate racing teams and racing dates?’ ” Ritvo said. “I would say those talks are at a preliminary level. We would like to make a cohesive schedule that is better for everybody.”

Ritvo used the Nov. 15 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash card as an example of how Maryland racing needs to attract new players. Despite large, competitive fields that day, Ritvo said the program only handled $3.2 million. He indicated that lowering takeout may be a way to attract new customers.

“We will look at takeout,” he said. “We realize the player is the economic driver. We want to talk to the horsemen’s groups before we consider making any adjustments on takeout. Takeout affects all of us.”

Regarding the Preakness, Ritvo acknowledged that capital improvements are needed at the Maryland tracks.

“The Preakness is a very valuable part of racing history and our business, but there is obviously only so much we can do with the current facility,” Ritvo said. “Hopefully, in the long term we can address these issues. We know the plans have been on the drawing board way too long.”