The board of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association voted last night to restore its financial support of the Maryland Million.
But, at the same time, the horsemen's group asked the Maryland Million Committee, which is scheduled to convene today at 10:30 a.m. in Timonium, to consider four changes to its proposed Oct. 9 race card.
According to Richard Hoffberger, MTHA president, the horsemen want the two 2-year-old races and the Distaff for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, to stay at six furlongs instead of being lengthened to seven furlongs.
And they would like the claim price of a new starter handicap to be $6,500 instead of $8,500.
"These are the distances the majority of the horsemen expect these races to be run at," Hoffberger said. "If the Maryland Million Committee agrees, it would be a great thing."
The MTHA board had voted at its regular meeting earlier this month to suspend its financial support -- amounting to about $200,000 from its share of the betting proceeds on Maryland Million Day -- because they did not have sufficient input in the proposed changes in race conditions.
"It was not so much the distances, but the timing," said MTHA board member Jerry Robb. "For example, some people had gone out and bought horses thinking the Maryland Million 2-year-old race would be at six furlongs like it has been for the last four years. Or they turned out a horse for the Distaff, thinking they'd have sufficient time to bring it back on Oct. 9 for a six-furlong instead of seven-furlong race."
The Maryland Million is less than three months away and a condition book, listing the revisions, has yet to be distributed.
Other board members feel that the changes give the perception that they were made by "a close-knit" group of horsemen on the Maryland Million Committee who wanted to improve their own chances in the races.
"There is a lot of sentiment in that regard, and I think there will be a large outcry from horsemen if the changes we are asking them to consider are not made," Hoffberger said.
J.W.Y. Martin Jr., who serves on both the MTHA board and the Maryland Million Committee, said he felt the horsemen's group took a "positive" step last night in restoring their financial participation. He added that he did not know if the Maryland Million Committee would agree to the changes at its meeting this morning. "Next year our condition book will be out in May so that everybody will know in plenty of time what to expect," he said.