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Minutes of Public Meeting - July 16, 2020

Commission Members Present:

Michael Algeo
Emmet Davitt
David Hayden
Thomas Bowman
Clarissa Coughlin
Konrad Wayson
Tammy Lafferty
Ernie Grecco
Tom Winebrener

Members Absent:

Staff Present Representing the Maryland Racing Commission:

J. Michael Hopkins

Executive Director
Eric B. London
Assistant Attorney General
Milena Trust
Principal Counsel

In accordance with §3-302, General Provisions Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, the Maryland Racing Commission (“Commission”) met by conference call in open session on July 16, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. Prior to the meeting, Chairman Mike Algeo informed the public that their phones should be muted, but he would give the public the opportunity to address the Commission during Public Comments. At the start of the meeting, Chairman Algeo took a roll call of the Commission members and verified that all members were present.

Minutes – June 25, 2020

The Commission waived a reading of the minutes of its June 25, 2020 meeting and voted unanimously to approve the minutes.  

Minutes – July 2, 2020

The Commission waived a reading of the minutes of its July 2, 2020 meeting and voted unanimously to approve the minutes.  

Minutes - Executive Session – July 2, 2020

The Commission waived a reading of the Executive Session minutes of its July 2, 2020 meeting and voted unanimously to approve the minutes.  

Ocean Downs Update.

Bobbi Sample representing Ocean Downs reported to the Commission that Ocean Downs was able to open the Clubhouse to limited patrons on Belmont Stakes Day.  She noted that live racing began on July 6, 2020, with no spectators. Due to the limited number of people at the track, Ms. Sample advised that handle was lower than typical.  Ms. Sample also advised that Ocean Downs has put safety protocols in place, including temperature checks.  Ms. Sample noted that a transformer had failed, but was being repaired, with hopes that the repair would be completed by Monday, July 20, when live racing returns. Chairman Algeo thanked Ms. Sample for the update.

Maryland Jockey Club Update.

Sal Sinatra representing the Maryland Jockey Club (“MJC”) noted that the MJC continues to remain vigilant in following safety protocols. Further, he advised that all of the off track betting facilities are open. Mr. Sinatra further advised that the MJC has closed their Jockey room and put in place a 14 day quarantine for riders that leave to ride in other jurisdictions, before being allowed to come back to Laurel. Chairman Algeo thanked Mr. Sinatra for his report.

2-Year-Old Races.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins reported that on July 14, 2020, he received an executed Agreement between the Maryland Jockey Club and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association in regard to Lasix free 2-year-old races. Mr. Hopkins stated the following salient provisions of the Agreement:

A.        The agreement would prohibit administration of Lasix to 2-year-old thoroughbreds, beginning as soon as practicable in 2020 through 2023.

B.         The Agreement also provided for the development of the study that would examine data taken from post-race scoping of horses to make an appropriate recommendation to the Commission.

C.         The Agreement also provided that during 2021 through 2023, all graded stakes would be Lasix free.

D.        The Agreement also states that the MJC agreed to run races three days per week and to provide $250,000.00 each year for 4 years to the Maryland Beyond the Wire program for retired race horses.

E.         Finally, which provides for the Commission’s approval, also requires the parties to meet annually on or before November 15 of each year to review data and race performance.

Mr. Hopkins further commented that based on advice of counsel, the Commission could not approve the agreement as presented, because any such approval would be contrary to existing regulations, which allow, under certain circumstances, for the administration of Lasix. Mr. Hopkins also stated that based on the advice of counsel, the Commission could approve the Agreement pending promulgation of an emergency regulation amending the language to COMAR to specifically exempt the 2-year-olds from the present regulatory allowance for Lasix. In particular, Mr. Hopkins offered such an amendment to state that “No two-year-old thoroughbred horse shall be administered Lasix within 48 hours of the post time it is scheduled to run.”

Mr. Hopkins also commented that he would request that the amendment to become effective as soon as possible, should the amendment be approved by the Commission.

Chairman Algeo thanked Mr. Hopkins for his report and asked Commission members for any comments.

Commissioner Konrad Wayson commented that the only reason this issue is being considered on an emergency basis is due to the MJC not taking any action from April of 2019, until a week before the June of 2020 meeting.  Commissioner Wayson expressed his concern that the methods used by the MJC to attempt to bypass other stakeholders and the Commission were improper. Furthermore, Commissioner Wayson was concerned that the MJC may attempt to do something like this again and did not want the Commission to be placed in the same position.

Commissioner Tom Bowman commented that he agreed with Commissioner Wayson. Commissioner Bowman further commented that, in the future, all parties, including the breeders, must meet before an issue comes before the Commission, and if they cannot resolve their issues, the Commission should acts as a mediator. Secondly, the proposal to have a study needs to be further defined and designed to provide sufficient data to make informed decisions. Finally, Commissioner Bowman stated that any study should be designed by the Safety and Welfare Committee.

Chairman Algeo thanked both members for their comments, and hearing no additional comments from the Commission, the Chairman requested a motion to approve the agreement, contingent upon the promulgation on an emergency basis an amendment to COMAR, as previously stated by Mr. Hopkins in his initial report. David Hayden made the motion, which was seconded by Emmet Davitt. Chairman Algeo proceeded with a roll call of the members. Commissioner Ernie Grecco and Commissioner Tammy Lafferty voted in the affirmative.  Commissioners Konrad Wayson and Commissioner Clarissa Coughlin voted against the motion.  Commissioner Tom Bowman and Commissioner Tom Winebrener abstained.  With only 4 votes in the affirmative, Chairman Algeo cast the deciding vote to affirm the motion. The motion passed with 5 votes in the affirmative, 2 votes against and 2 abstentions.   

Prior to receiving public comments, Chairman Algeo recognized Bobby Lillis for his contributions to the racing industry and wished him well on his retirement. Commissioner Grecco asked for a proclamation from the Governor for Mr. Lillis. Chairman Algeo advised that he had already made a request.

Public Comments.

Andy Cashman from the State Fair reported that the 2-year-old in training sale went well.  He further noted that the OTB and Timonium were looking forward to having the annual Maryland Horse Breeders Yearling Show.  He advised that he is still hopeful that the State Fair will go forward.  

Craig Fravel of the Stronach Group thanked the Commission for working through the Lasix issue.  Further, Mr. Fravel thanked Tim Keefe of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.  Mr. Fravel noted that he looks forward to working with the breeders.  Mr. Fravel said that the MJC considers the horsemen and breeders not only their partners, but also their customers and was looking forward to working with them in the future.

Tim Keefe noted the last few weeks had been difficult, but was pleased that the horsemen and track were able to reach an agreement.

Dr. Michael Harrison of the Maryland Breeders Association commented that the Breeders were disappointed to not have been included in the agreement and read to the Commission a letter he had written on behalf of the Breeders expressing the need for better communication.

Tom Cooke, a Standardbred owner and breeder, thanked Rosecroft Raceway for reaching out to the horsemen and providing training days at Rosecroft. Mr. Cooke also asked the Commission what protocols were in place for Standardbred horses that have catastrophic breakdowns. Mr. Hopkins responded that the “best practices” developed over the past several months have been sent to Ocean Downs, and that a procedure to have a necropsy performed was in the planning stages.

Trainer Jerry Robb thanked Mr. Hopkins, Commissioner Bowman and Commissioner Wayson for their position on the 2-year-old racing issues.  Further, he expressed concerns about 2 year olds that had been put in training in February, which were later scoped and determined to be bleeders.

Trainer Phil Schoenthal asked if the Lasix ban would apply to Timonium and Fair Hill. Mr. Hopkins responded that it would.

Bruce Spizler, former counsel to the Commission, congratulated Mr. Lillis.

Marybeth Kallinich from Friends of Pimlico thought a study regarding Lasix was long overdue.  Ms. Kallinich wanted to know if anything was planned for the 150th anniversary of Pimlico this year and if spectators would be allowed at Laurel. Chairman Algeo replied that the Commission did not know at this time.  

Bobby Lillis thanked the Commission and the MTHA for all their support and well wishes in his retirement.

Trainer Katherine Voss suggested the new lasix rule be further reviewed.

Marybeth Kallinich asked for a copy of the Breeders letter and the agreement between the Horsemen and MJC, but did not provide an address on the call.

Tammy Lafferty thanked Lisa Watts of for all her work at Rosecroft.

Next Commission Meeting

The next Commission Meeting will be held on August 27, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. via a conference call or similar technology and that instructions for participation would be posted on the Racing Commission’s website.

J. Michael Hopkins
Executive Director