Georganne Hale, the widely respected racing secretary for the Maryland Jockey Club since 2000, will move to a new role working to grow thoroughbred racing in Maryland, the company announced Monday.
She’ll be replaced as racing secretary by West Coast transplant Chris Merz, who has served as stakes coordinator at Santa Anita and Del Mar and assistant racing secretary at Los Alamitos.
Hale began working for the Jockey Club as assistant racing secretary in 1984 and became racing secretary at Timonium in 1986 before assuming the broader role in 2000.
She was the first woman to serve as racing secretary — the official directly responsible for filling and managing daily races — at a major North American track. She rapidly earned the trust of Maryland horsemen, even as the industry suffered through some of its rockiest years.
In her new role, she’ll oversee projects such as the revival of the DC International Stakes at Laurel Park and the revamped Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship Series, which returned to the region in 2018 after a 16-year absence.
“I’m very excited about this new position with the Maryland Jockey Club,” Hale said in a statement. “I look forward to the great opportunities it presents to continue to build the Thoroughbred racing program and help with philanthropic programs.”
The change will create some trepidation for Maryland horsemen, who are used to dealing with Hale on a daily basis. Merz is expected to modernize the racing office at Laurel Park, where the Stronach Group — which owns and operates the Jockey Club — has spent tens of millions of dollars updating the facility.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Merz said in a statement. “They’re doing such great things in Maryland. I’m really looking forward to working at Laurel and Pimlico [Race Course].”