Keefe: Preakness purse issues arise with Maryland's racing halt

Keefe: Preakness purse issues arise with Maryland's racing halt
Photo: Tim Keefe

Timothy Keefe, president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, issued the following letter to his constituents this week, revealing that resuming business before Memorial Day appears to be off the table as racing officials await further word from Gov. Larry Hogan. Keefe also expressed concerns about the purse account as it relates to the Preakness and its supporting stakes Oct. 3 at Pimlico.

Dear Horsemen,

I appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding during this incredibly difficult period. In these challenging times, Maryland horsemen’s fortitude and resilience have been remarkable, and never have I been more proud to be a Maryland horseman than now.

The MTHA, the Maryland Jockey Club and the Stronach Group, in conjunction with each group’s army of lobbyists, lawyers and friends, have urged the Hogan administration to recognize the importance of reopening Maryland live racing, the ongoing threat to our financial survival, that we fit the standards for Phase 1 of his recovery plan and that our industry is at a tipping point as our surrounding States reopen to live racing. 

The Maryland Racing Commission has been incredibly supportive and has advocated for the resumption of live racing.

We have made clear to the Administration, time and again, the significant and successful steps our entire community has implemented during these last two months, as 1,300 horses have trained at Laurel Park. These steps, with a few additional measures, should allow us to join other racing jurisdictions across the United States to ensure a safe return to live racing in Maryland and to allow our industry to start to get back on its feet again. 

We have also stressed the current limitations of our purse account if we cannot reopen soon. 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.

Unfortunately, there is still a lack of clarity from the Administration and no definitive authorization for the resumption of live racing. Because of the time and preparation needed for us to reopen, the likelihood of the resumption of live racing Memorial Day weekend is now deemed implausible. 

We are tireless in our efforts to get reopened and are now focused on the possibility of racing beginning on May 29 at the earliest. Horsemen are advised to make the necessary preparations for this possibility. We cannot assure you, however, that this will be the case since we cannot reopen until permitted to do so. This is beyond our collective control.

We will keep the Maryland thoroughbred racing community updated as the situation evolves.

Best regards,

Timothy L. Keefe

President, MTHA

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