Some representatives of the horse racing industry have tossed out these figures when boasting of the industry's significance in Maryland: $1 billion economic impact and 20,000 jobs.
Others have believed the figures were inflated.
Now comes a new study by the University of Maryland that apparently verifies that belief. Released last week in Annapolis, the study estimates that the economic impact of horse racing and breeding in Maryland is $700 million. It estimates that the industry accounts for the equivalent of 10,000 full-time jobs, or about 15,000 actual jobs.
But even this study, based on surveys and interviews, will probably not be the final word on the subject.
"Looking at the same information using different models," said Wayne Rhodes, the horse racing studies coordinator, "you may very well come up with different figures."
Rhodes works at the University of Maryland Center for Applied Policy Studies. The governor and General Assembly hired the university to conduct studies of the racing industry as a complement to the state study commission on horse racing.
Headed by Stuart S. Janney III, the commission is finalizing its report to the legislature of recommendations for assisting the thoroughbred and Standardbred industries as they compete with tracks in Delaware that offer slot machines. Rhodes presented the economic-impact study at last week's commission meeting.
It estimates the economic impact of the state's racetracks at $202 million and racehorse breeding and training at $369 million -- for a total of $571 million.
But the study did not calculate the impact of out-of-state participants in Maryland racing (because so few out-of-state participants returned questionnaires) or the impact of tourism spending related to the sport (because visitors to events such as the Preakness were not surveyed). So Rhodes estimated the out-of-state participation and tourism impact at $100 million to $125 million.
For the grand total, Rhodes said, he's comfortable with $700 million as the economic impact of horse racing in Maryland.
Tim Capps, executive vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, said he believes the figure is reliable. He said that before university workers launched the study he estimated they would come up with projections of $800 million and 16,000 jobs.
The $1 billion figure came from a 1985 study by the Maryland Department of Employment and Economic Development that estimated the impact of the breeding and racing components at $500 million each. That study said the impact of racing in Maryland exceeded that of all professional sports combined.
"And I would say that's still the case," Capps said.
In 1996, the American Horse Council Foundation issued an economic study that included all aspects of the horse industry, including show and pleasure horses, which it said make up 60 percent of the state's horse population. The report concluded that the industry in Maryland generated 20,000 jobs and an economic impact of $1.5 billion.
"Depending on the data and the model you use, you could come up with anything from $400,000 to $1.6 billion," Capps said. "No matter how you look at it, it's still a major industry in the state."
Surveying the field
The university's Center for Applied Policy Studies also conducted a telephone survey regarding horse racing in the state. In August and September callers interviewed 1,020 randomly selected residents of Maryland and Washington and found that:
24 percent said their favorite sport was football, 21 percent said baseball, 1 percent said horse racing (although 4 percent said horse racing was one of their four favorite sports);
13 percent said they had been to a horse track within the past year (compared with 37 percent to a major-league baseball game, 20 percent to an NFL game, 18 percent to a minor-league baseball game, 16 percent to a men's college basketball game, 14 percent to an NBA game and 14 percent to a college football game);
43 percent said they were somewhat to extremely interested in thoroughbred racing, 24 percent said they were somewhat to extremely interested in harness racing;
13 percent said simpler ways of betting would increase their interest in horse racing;
21 percent said nicer facilities and a friendlier atmosphere would increase their interest in horse racing;
58 percent said they had played the lottery within the past year;
26 percent said they had played a slot machine within the past year.
Scratch three trainers
Three Maryland trainers have abandoned the profession that carried them into the winner's circle but, in the end, left them wanting, worn out and, in two cases, without good horses to train.
Scott Posey, 36, begins a new job tomorrow as "right-hand man" to Steven Madeoy, who works in real estate in Washington. Posey trained Madeoy's horses since 1987.
Asked why he accepted the job, Posey said: "Better money, days off, vacation, retirement plan, insurance benefits. At the end of a year training horses, you look back and see you had three, maybe four days off. And even then you were on the phone all day."
The highlight of Posey's 12-year training career was Frugal Doc, the 9-year-old gelding, winning the 1996 Maryland Million Classic at odds of 35-1. His long hair flowing onto his shoulders, Posey bounced into winner's circle wearing a sport coat he'd bought in a thrift shop for 50 cents.
His 20 horses sent to other trainers, Posey figures he'll return someday to the profession that, up to this moment, "is all I really know. I still have a Kentucky Derby to win."
John W. Hicks III, 48, quit training in December when dying owners left him with no horses. A trainer since 1980, Hicks conditioned 50 horses in the mid-1980s, won numerous stakes (13 with Duo Disco, a filly he claimed for $20,000), and his stable earned more than $1 million a year.
"It's gotten to be a tough business," Hicks said. "It's like with boxing. You've got the champion making all the money, and the rest of the guys are getting their brains beat out."
Hicks' new career? "I'm trying to learn how to sell home improvements," he said.
Pappy Manuel, 36, gave up his dwindling stable Jan. 1 to become agent for the apprentice jockey Cynthia "C.J." McMahon. A trainer for 11 years, Manuel said it got so coming to the barn in the mornings wasn't any fun anymore.
"This has put a lot of spring in my step," he said. "My goal is to really do well with Cynthia so that one of the journeyman, veteran riders will ask me to take his book."
Manuel and McMahon call themselves "the Cajun connection." They're both from Louisiana. McMahon, 26, began riding last year at Delaware Park after breezing horses for some of the nation's top trainers. She's ridden in Maryland since October. After winning another race yesterday, she's recorded 15 in her short career.
"This is a tough business when you're a girl," McMahon said. "You have to be twice as good as everybody else. You can't make a mistake or else they say, 'Oh, she's a girl.' "
McMahon's goal? "To have a successful year as an apprentice and become a household name like Julie Krone and Donna Barton."
Rosecroft turns 50
Rosecroft Raceway kicked off its 50th year Friday as harness racing resumed after a holiday break. The track in Prince George's County had a successful 1998. Attendance increased 8 percent over the previous year, and on-track handle rose 5 percent.
Rosecroft races live beginning at 7: 20 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Included among its many promotions is a three-day birthday celebration June 3-5.
Pub Date: 1/17/99