04/13/2016 3:59PM

Md. bill passes paving way for D.C. International return


A Maryland bill that would direct $500,000 a year to the purse of a new grass race at Laurel and Pimlico and establish a $500,000 bonus program for Maryland-bred horses running in the Preakness was passed unanimously in the state’s House on Wednesday and will be sent to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature.

Using money from uncashed lottery tickets, the bill directs the money to the two efforts for the next three years, according to officials of the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns the state’s two Thoroughbred tracks, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course. The new race is expected to be called the D.C. International, resurrecting a Maryland race with a long history that was last run in 1994.

The bill had earlier passed in the State Senate by a vote of 46-0. It passed in the House Wednesday by a vote of 137-0.

Sal Sinatra, the president and general manager of the MJC, said on Thursday after the bill passed that the new race will be run for the first time in 2017. Sinatra also said that the MJC may move an existing graded stakes race at one of the tracks that are owned by the MJC’s parent company, The Stronach Group, so that the D.C. International will be run as a graded race for the 2017 revival. The committee that assigns grades to races typically requires that a race be run three consecutive times before it will assign a grade.

The revived D.C. International will be run long on the grass for older horses, “four to six weeks” prior to the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Sinatra said. It once had a unique place on the racing landscape because racing officials invited horses from around the world to compete in it, when shipping internationally was uncommon. In that manner, it was similar to the Arlington Million, a race that remains popular as a prep for major Breeders' Cup grass races.

According to the bill, the state racing commission will be responsible for devising the parameters for the $500,000 bonus program for Maryland-bred or Maryland-sired horses that compete in the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown that is held at Pimlico each year. The last Maryland-bred horse to win the Preakness was Deputed Testamony, and the last to finish in the money was Magic Wiesner, second in 2002.