A Columbia lawyer and thoroughbred owner was named yesterday to head the commission that oversees Maryland's troubled racing industry.
Louis Jay Ulman - who manages a law firm, has a radio talk show on legal issues and owns stakes in more than two dozen horses - was appointed chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
Ulman's appointment, which was applauded by key players in the industry, occurs as Maryland racing faces criticism over its management and the loss of a $10 million state subsidy for its purses.
"Certainly, we need improvement," Ulman said. "Hopefully, I can be a consensus builder and move the industry in the right direction. It's going to take some work, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes."
Some in the business said Ulman was a good choice to stem the infighting that has hurt Maryland racing.
"Lou has no agendas whatsoever," said Alan M. Foreman, lawyer for the state's horsemen's association. "He's a good listener. I think he has the personality and ability to do just what we need to accomplish over the next few years to move this industry forward again."
Glendening also announced the reappointment of Vincent D. Palumbo to the nine-member commission. C. Frank Hopkins, a horse owner from Harford County, was not reappointed.
"I fully anticipated a reappointment based on my record," said Hopkins, a commission member since 1997.
Ulman, a Maryland native, said he was a boy when his father took him to Pimlico and introduced him to racing. In 1986, he bought an ownership share of a horse named Speak of Value. That horse never won much, he said, but he had more success with a gelding, Praise Heaven, which raced in the 1999 Maryland Million Classic.
He owns a share of 25 horses, some through the Fortunate Stable and See You Stable syndicates.
Ulman is managing partner in the Columbia law firm Hodes Ulman Pessin & Katz. He is vice chairman of the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission, and he is host of an AM radio call-in show on estate planning and other legal issues for the elderly.
State election records show that Ulman has made contributions to politicians of both parties, including $125 to Glendening in 1998. That same year, he contributed $100 to then-Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, who was seeking the GOP nomination for governor.
Since 1998, he has given $250 to Howard County Councilman Guy J. Guzzone and $510 to Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, both Democrats. He contributed another $560 to the Thoroughbred Breeders and Horseman's Political Action Committee.
The Maryland Racing Commission licenses jockeys and track owners, and it regulates purses, admission prices and other aspects of racing operations. In assuming the chairman's role, Ulman replaces John B. Franzone, who had the maximum permitted two consecutive years in the job.
Franzone, who will remain on the commission, summed up the industry's woes in a recent letter to legislators that described bickering within racing and criticized track operators for moving slowly in establishing telephone wagering, improving facilities and expanding off-track betting.