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Minutes of Public Meeting - June 25, 2020

Commission Members Present:

Michael Algeo
Emmet Davitt
David Hayden
Thomas Bowman
Ernie Grecco
Clarissa Coughlin
Konrad Wayson
Tammy Lafferty
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 June 25, 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 – May 28, 2020

The Commission waived a reading of the minutes of its May 28, 2020 meeting and voted unanimously to approve the minutes.  

Safety and Welfare Committee.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins informed the Commission that he had appointed the following individuals as members of the new Safety and Welfare Committee mandated by Senate Bill 987:

Dr. Thomas Bowman as Chairman; Commissioner David Hayden; Commissioner Tom Winebrener; Dr. Dionne Benson, Laurel Racing Association Inc.; Steve Koch, Maryland Jockey Club of Baltimore City; Jennifer Perkins, Prince Georges Racing Ventures, Inc.; William Marlow, Maryland State Fair; Peter Szymanski, Ocean Downs Raceway; Tim Keefe, Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association; Dr. Michael Harrison, Maryland Horse Breeders Association; Kenny Schlotzhauer (Gina Maybe alternate), Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners’ Association; Jackie McCloud, Maryland Standardbred Breeders; Dr. Elizabeth Daniel, Equine Medical Director; Dr. John Sivick, Practicing Veterinarian; and Dr. James Stewart as the Equine and Racing member. Chairman Algeo thanked Mr. Hopkins for the information concerning the makeup of the Committee and commented that he and the Commission were looking forward to working with the Committee.

Ratify a poll approving the Maryland Standardbred Race Fund Race Dates.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins requested the Commission to ratify an e-mail poll of the Commission approving the summer race dates for the Fund. The Commission unanimously ratified the poll.

Ratify a poll suspending Breeder and Stallion Bonuses.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins requested the Commission to ratify an e-mail poll suspending breeder and stallion bonuses due to the cessation of racing and the loss of VLT revenue caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Mr. Hopkins advised the pubic that a letter had been sent out by the Chairman of the Maryland Bred Race Fund on April 10, 2020, notifying both breeders and stallion owners that the Fund would not be paying bonuses due to the uncertainty of the revenue stream caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Mr. Hopkins explained that the Fund would reassess the bonuses to be paid at a future date. The Commission unanimously ratified the poll.

Maryland Bred Race Fund Semi-Annual Review.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins explained to the Commission that the Maryland Bred Fund Advisory Committee normally would recommend to the Commission the percentage to be paid for breeder and stallion bonuses on a semi-annual basis. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the suspension of breeder and stallion awards, Mr. Hopkins advised that the Advisory Committee would not be making any recommendation, but hoped to do so in July, when the Committee had an opportunity to review income and revenue projections for the balance of 2020. Chairman Algeo thanked Mr. Hopkins for the information.

Mid-Atlantic Riding Crop Recommendation.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins reported that the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, acting as a facilitator of regional meetings in the Mid-Atlantic area, began having discussions in October of 2019 to develop a regional uniform riding crop rule. Mr. Hopkins advised that the meetings included owners, trainers, jockeys, stewards, track managers and others. In January of 2020, the Stewards in Maryland initiated a policy in regard to the use of the crop, which was approved by the Commission. The policy change in January of 2020, allowed for ten strikes during the race and no more than three consecutive strikes. Mr. Hopkins reported that the January policy has been successful, with few repeat offenders and with jockeys quickly becoming acclimated to the new policy.  

At that time of the January 2020 policy change, the Stewards and Jockeys were made aware that the policy may be modified at a future date. Mr. Hopkins advised that as a result of numerous meetings with stakeholders since October of 2019, the Mid–Atlantic region has developed a consensus on a uniform crop rule that is reported to be implemented in Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. That policy would consist of no more than six strikes, no more than two strikes in succession without giving the horse a chance to respond and allowing the use of the crop in an underhanded manner until the ¼ pole. Executive Director Hopkins requested the Commission to direct the Stewards to modify their current policy to model the Mid-Atlantic proposal and to make the effective date of the new policy August 1, 2020. Further Mr. Hopkins noted that at a future date, he would be providing the Commission proposed regulations that would detail other uses of the crop and a detailed penalty structure for their consideration. The Commission unanimously approved the request.

Maryland Jockey Club Update.

Sal Sinatra representing the Maryland Jockey Club noted that preparations were underway for the October Preakness and that the resumption of live racing was proceeding as planned. Chairman Algeo thanked Mr. Sinatra for his report.

Race Day Medication.

In order to provide a clear record, a transcript that recorded the comments made during this agenda item have been attached to the minutes. Also, attached as addendum to the minutes, are letters of support referenced by the Maryland Jockey Club during their presentation to the Commission.

Public Comments.

Commissioner Winebrener commented that the standardbred industry through its representatives need to discuss the issues affecting them and make recommendations to the Commission. Commissioner Winebrener noted that the Standardbred industry should not be looking to the Commission to develop talking points for their industry. He also noted the Commission is available to review their initiatives and support changes that they recommend for the betterment of their industry. Tom Cooke, a standardbred owner, supported Mr. Winebrener’s comments.

Steve Koch representing the Stronach Group disagreed with the Mid-Atlantic crop policy adopted by the Commission and voiced his support for the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition version of the Crop Rule, which he noted would promote more uniformity.

Mindy Coleman representing the Jockey’s Guild stated that the Guild applauded all the efforts put into the crop rule, but could not support it as presented. She commented that the rule was too restrictive and would have a detrimental impact on the industry. Ms. Coleman did acknowledge that the ultimate goal is to reach mutual agreement and create a standard of uniformity.

Bobby Lillis of the Horsemen’s Assistance Fund noted that he agreed with the Jockey Guild’s position.  He also informed the Commission that he was retiring at the end of June. Chairman Algeo congratulated Mr. Lillis and thanked him for his service.

Next Commission Meeting

The next Commission Meeting will be held on July 23, 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