Thoroughbred racing industry misses racing-date deadline

The thoroughbred industry missed Thursday's deadline to submit a long-term business plan to sustain the sport to the Maryland General Assembly.

A state law enacted earlier this year to provide slot subsidies to the state's struggling racetracks called for the sport's stakeholders — including track operators, horse owners and breeders — to craft a plan that would maintain year-round racing without slots at a racetrack.

Joseph Bryce, Gov. Martin O'Malley's top legislative aide, who has been keeping track of the discussions, said a plan would be provided when talks on the industry's future and a deal for next year's racing dates are completed.

"I have informed the legislators who were involved and the presiding officers, and they understand that the discussions are ongoing and there will be some slippage from the Dec. 1 date, and they are OK with that," Bryce said.

The Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park and Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course, and the horsemen are at odds over the number of live racing days in 2012.

The law redirects up to $6 million in slots revenue to help the Jockey Club with day-to-day-operations in exchange for running a full live racing schedule of 146 days.

But the Stronach Group, parent company of the Jockey Club, does not want to take the money and has proposed running only 40 live racing days next year at Pimlico, home of the Preakness Stakes, while leasing Laurel Park and Bowie Training Center to the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

The horsemen's group opposes that plan. Bryce said he hoped a deal on racing dates would be reached by Dec. 20, when the Maryland Racing Commission holds its last meeting of the year. The racing commission must approve the Jockey Club's schedule.

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