11/11/2014 3:34PM

Summer meet part of 149-day schedule in Maryland next year


The Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday approved a dates agreement between the Maryland Jockey Club and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association that will bring 149 days of racing to the state in 2015.

The centerpiece of the agreement is a new 11-day meeting at Laurel in August, which the horsemen have pursued for some time. The August session will allow for increased use of the Laurel turf course, which was rebuilt and widened in 2005. It will also guarantee summer racing in the region regardless of what the future holds for Colonial Downs in Virginia, which did not conduct a meet in 2014.

“For horsemen who race and train here year round it’s been really difficult not to have a summer meet,” said trainer Tim Keefe, who in September was elected as the new president of the horsemen’s association. “It means you have to ship all around from Belmont Stakes Day to September. The tradeoff was we had to cut back to three days a week in January and February.”

In 2015, Laurel will hold a 43-day meet from Jan. 1 to March 28. Pimlico will then hold 37 days of racing from April 2 to Belmont Stakes Day, June 6. The Laurel summer meet will be held from Aug. 1 through Aug. 23, and then be followed by the Timonium fair. Laurel will close out the year with a 58-day meet from Sept. 10 to Dec. 31.

Under the 10-year agreement inked by the Maryland Jockey Club and the horsemen’s association in late 2012, the MJC guarantees 100 days of racing per year. The horsemen must cover expenses associated with any added dates, and must buy the additional dates in monthly blocks. A total of 146 racing dates were scheduled in both 2013 and 2014.

In 2014, the horsemen paid for racing in the months of January, February, and March at Laurel. Extreme weather affectedbusiness at the meet and the turf course was unable to be used.

Due to a compromise agreement between the Maryland Jockey Club and the horsemen for 2015, the horsemen will pay for the January and February dates and split expenses for August and December with the MJC, according to Keefe.

“Next year the horsemen will be racing four months, including August, but we were able to negotiate with the Maryland Jockey Club that we would only pay for three months,” Keefe said.

Keefe complimented Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, for working with the horsemen to reach the new agreement.

“It behooves us all to have the best racing we can. We’re all in this together,” Keefe said.

Mike Gathagan, vice president of communications for the MJC, agreed.

“I think there is a willingness on both sides to adapt,” he said. “I think the relationship between the horsemen and the MJC is on the improve. I don’t think an arrangement like this would have happened prior to us reaching the 10-year agreement.”

The Laurel winter stakes schedule was also approved by the commission on Tuesday.

Sixteen stakes worth $1.95 million will be held between Jan. 3 and March 21. The two graded stakes are the Grade 2, $300,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap, for fillies and mares at seven furlongs, on Feb. 14, and the Grade 3, $250,000 General George Handicap, for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs, on Feb. 16.

The other 14 stakes will be worth $100,000 each.


Date Stakes Conditions Distance Purse
Jan. 3 Fire Plug 4 & UP 6 furlongs 100,000
Jan. 3 Native Dancer 3 & UP 1 1/16 mile 100,000
Jan. 3 Nellie Morse F& M 4 & UP 1 1/16 mile 100,000
Jan. 3 What A Summer F& M 4 & UP 6 furlongs 100,000
Jan. 24 Marshua 3 YO Fillies 6 furlongs 100,000
Jan. 24 Frank Whiteley 3 YO 7 furlongs 100,000
Feb. 14 Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap F& M 3 & UP 7 furlongs 300,000
Feb. 14 John Campbell 3 & UP 1 1/8 mile 100,000
Feb. 14 Maryland Racing Media F& M 3 & UP 1 1/8 mile 100,000
Feb. 16 Grade 3 General George Handicap 3 & UP 7 furlongs 250,000
Feb. 16 Miracle Wood 3 YO 1 mile 100,000
Feb. 16 Wide Country 3 YO Fillies 7 furlongs 100,000
March 14 Ceasar's Wish 3 YO Fillies 1 mile 100,000
March 14 Private Terms 3 YO 1 1/8 mile 100,000
March 21 Harrison Johnson 3 & UP 1 1/8 mile 100,000
March 21 Conniver F& M 3 & UP (MD-breds) 7 furlongs 100,000