Maryland Horsemen Question Wisdom of Preakness Purse Payment

By Bill Finley TDN 05/20/2020

Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Tim Keefe said it may be “unrealistic” for the local purse account to pay for the $1.5-million Preakness and the several stakes that are held in support of the Preakness.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Keefe said he has become increasingly concerned about the amount of purse money that is available for racing at Pimlico and Laurel. There has been no racing in Maryland since Mar. 15, but the bigger problem is that the state’s casinos also shut down on that date. According to Keefe, nearly 70% of Maryland’s purse money comes from casino revenues.

The horsemen have said they have been hoping that a resumption of racing would mean that the purse account would get a boost from betting handle, but, so far, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has not given the go-ahead for the tracks to reopen. Hogan appeared on national television Saturday to announce that the GI Preakness S. would be run Oct. 3, but made no mention of when racing would resume.

The horsemen do have a cushion, a $3.2-million surplus in the purse account, that can be dipped into once racing resumes, but Keefe said he feared that the money will not last as it will be needed to keep purses near the levels they were at prior to Laurel shutting down.

In 2019, the Preakness purse was $1.5 million and eight other stakes on the card were worth $1.1 million. On the Friday before the Preakness, there were seven stakes worth a total of $1.15 million The majority of the purses from those stakes is normally won by non-Maryland trainers.

“Without the ability to replenish itself and generate additional revenue from live racing, it may be unrealistic for the Purse Account to fund the Preakness and its expensive supporting race card that benefits out-of-state horsemen to the exclusion of a struggling Maryland racing community,” Keefe said in the statement.

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