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Minutes of Public Meeting - February 7, 2023

Commission Members Present:

Michael Algeo

Ernie Grecco

David Hayden

Thomas Bowman

Robert Lillis

Tammy Lafferty

Tom Winebrener

Members Absent:

Konrad Wayson

Emmet Davitt

Staff Present Representing the Maryland Racing Commission:

J. Michael Hopkins

Executive Director

Eric B. London

Assistant Attorney General

In accordance with §3-302, General Provisions Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, the Maryland Racing Commission (“Commission”) met in person and by conference call in open session at 12:30 p.m. at Laurel Park on February 7, 2023. Prior to the meeting, Chairman Michael Algeo informed the public that their phones or computers 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 confirmed that Commissioner Konrad Wayson and Emmet Davitt were absent, but all other Commissioner members were either present at Laurel or participating by phone or computer.

Chairman Algeo asked for a moment of silence for the passing of Joe Poag, the long serving Investigator for the Commission. 

Minutes –January 3, 2023.

The Commission waived a reading of the minutes of its meeting on January 3, 2023 and voted unanimously to approve them.

HISA Update.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins advised that the 5th Circuit rejected motions by HISA to vacate its decision that HISA is unconstitutional based on the language inserted in the Omnibus Spending Bill passed by Congress in December.  Mr. Hopkins also advised that the 6th Circuit had yet to rule on the issue. Mr. Hopkins reported that HISA was planning on implementing its medication program on March 27, 2023, but that situation was fluid.

Maryland Jockey Club Requests.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins informed the Commission that he had received a letter from the Maryland Jockey Club requesting approval for its spring race meeting for Laurel and Pimlico.  Hearing no objection, the Commission unanimously approved the request.

Maryland Jockey Club Update.

Mike Rogers, representing the Maryland Jockey Club (“MJC”), reported that the MJC has been having conversations with the stakeholders regarding a long-term agreement. Mr. Rogers also reported that Laurel Park had installed a pump station that would provide sufficient water for the turf course and reminded the Commission that Laurel Park would be hosting 6 stake races and 2 Grade 3 stake races on February 18, 2023. Lastly, Mr. Rogers informed the Commission that handle at Rosecroft has been trending upward since it changed their racing days to Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Chairman Mike Algeo addressed the industry, commenting that the biggest question he had been asked while in Annapolis is when the stakeholders would enter into a long-term agreement, since the current agreement expires on June 30, 2023. Chairman Algeo expressed his concern that the expiration date would arrive very quickly and that he would be scheduling a meeting with the stakeholders in the next few weeks to discuss the status of negotiations.

Racing Facility Renewal Account.

Executive Director J. Michael Hopkins informed the Commission that the request from Ocean Downs for reimbursement of capital expenditures from the Racing Facility Renewal Account (“RFRA”) had been reviewed by the Commission’s accountant. As a result of that review, the Commission’s accountant found the RFRA requests complied with the law and Commission could approve the request as submitted. Hearing no objection, the Commission unanimously approved the request.

Ocean Downs Update.

Bobbi Sample, representing Ocean Downs, reported that Ocean Downs was continuing to negotiate with the standardbred horsemen.  Ms. Sample also advised that Ocean Downs was also working with the breeders and horsemen to create an exhibit for the Junior Achievement Center on March 8, 2023.  Ms. Sample explained the exhibit will give all 8th graders on the Lower Eastern Shore hands-on career opportunities, including in the horse racing industry.

Maryland Standardbred Breeders Association.

Jackie McCloud, representing the standardbred breeders, presented the Commission with information regarding the standardbred breeding program and its efforts to market their industry.

Safety and Welfare.

Dr. Thomas Bowman, as Chairman of the Safety and Welfare Committee, reported that the track superintendent, Chris Bosley was doing a much better job with the track surface.  Dr. Bowman advised that Glen Kozak, who had previously worked in Maryland as a superintendent and now serves in that same capacity in New York, commented that the Laurel track was in good condition. Dr. Bowman also advised that another key item that was changed for the safety of horses was the adjustment of training hours to daylight only.

Dr. Bowman also commented on the lack of cooperation from the practicing veterinarians and trainers of not reporting injuries, as previously discussed during two meetings in 2022. In addition, Dr. Bowman expressed his concern over monitoring of horses coming and leaving the stable gate. Dr. Bowman further suggested that the job description of the Commission investigator be reviewed and expanded to include the review of previous races to potentially identify “at risk” horses.  Finally, Dr. Bowman suggested that state veterinarians be present during training hours to examine horses.

Public Comments.

Cricket Goodall of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association advised that there would be a reception in Annapolis on February 14, 2023, to meet the legislators and promote the horse industry from 5 P.M. to 7 P.M.

Next Commission Meeting.

March 7, 2023, at Laurel Park Race starting at 12:30 P.M.

/s/ Michael Algeo