11/30/2012 3:18PM

Maryland horsemen, tracks nearing long-term agreement over racing dates


Maryland’s horsemen and the operator of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course are in the final stages of negotiations over a long-term deal regarding live racing dates at the two tracks, according to an official involved in the talks.

Alan Foreman, general counsel of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said Friday that the two sides still needed to iron out some minor details in the agreement, but he expects a deal to be finalized next week.

“We’re very close,” Foreman said. “There’s a couple of small parts that remain outstanding.”

Foreman declined to provide details about the deal, other than to say it would be long-term. The deal is expected to last for 10 years.

The Maryland Horse Racing Commission had set an informal deadline for Nov. 30 for the two sides to agree on live racing dates for 2013. The commission granted an extension to the deadline Friday after talking to the two sides.

Racing dates in Maryland have been the subject of intense negotiations over the past several years. Horsemen have pushed Laurel and Pimlico to run upward of 140 live racing dates a year, but the tracks, which have struggled financially, have countered with plans that could have reduced dates to as low as 40 programs a year.

For both the 2011 and 2012 racing calendars, the state racing commission has supported horsemen over the tracks. In both years, deals were brokered allowing for 146 live racing dates.

Tracks and horsemen in Maryland are expected to receive as much as $40 million in subsidies in 2013 from state casinos for Thoroughbred purses and track operating costs. The subsidies have emboldened horsemen to push for more racing dates in an attempt to provide a nearly year-round home for Maryland trainers and owners.

Laurel and Pimlico are owned by the Stronach Group, a private company founded by owner-breeder Frank Stronach. Tom Chuckas, the president of the tracks, had not returned a phone call by early afternoon Friday.