Horse racing represents a lifelong fascination and stimulation for Jack Mosner, who has been a spectator, thoroughbred owner and now holds the sport's highest position of authority in the state. He's the new chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission and by the nature of his perception, persistence and record of previous success will provide an impact.
His mere presence stands for integrity and competency. Mosner retired as president of the Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Co., but still serves as a consultant, along with being a member of the Maryland Transportation Commission and the Police Foundation.
Mosner's interest in horse racing was initiated as a child, when his father, president of the First National Bank of Cumberland, took him to the Allegany Fair Grounds and its half-mile track. After World War II and service in the Navy, Jack was affiliated with the National Bank Examiners and the Federal Reserve System, before spending 28 years with Mercantile.
"I went to LaSalle High School in Cumberland," he said, "and the Christian Brothers were exceptional teachers. I think of them often and how well they prepared us for life. I never dreamed back then I would someday be associated with banking and then horse racing."
For the last five years, Mosner has been on the racing commission and moves up to succeed Dr. Ernest Colvin, highly respected, who remains a part of the nine-member governing body. What problems does Mosner anticipate?
"The whole game must relate to the mutuel handle," he answered. "There has to be a way found to improve it. With so many tax reforms and escalating costs it means a great number of people are forced out of the game. Look what happened to the new track in Birmingham, Ala. It closed after a year. Suffolk shut down. Garden State has problems. So do others.
"Off-track betting would help, but there's a lot of competition in the gambling industry. I hope for effective regulation of racing but don't confuse that with over-regulation. I went to a meeting in Philadelphia where some type of regional agreement may be reached among horsemen. Why should a trainer, for instance, have to go to five different states for a license when he moves horses to other places."
Mosner was asked about making training workouts of horses public knowledge. Some states make it mandatory; Maryland doesn't. What's his reaction?
"There are some holes in workout times. A lot of people train horses off a farm. And on some occasions, the riders on horses might weigh 170 pounds. Workout times are helpful to a degree but not to the extent some observers are inclined to believe."
Mosner, during the 1970s, was a partner in a modest racing operation, Frejac Stable. He describes the success as "up and down" but, in the end, showed a profit. The experience made him realize how vital the element of pure, unadulterated luck can be in racing.
So he knows the game from being a race-goer, participant and involvement as a commissioner. It's his hope he can convince the media, print and electronic, that racing's importance to Maryland justifies more coverage. "I would just like to see additional front sports page exposure," he commented, but at the same time realizing that such a pronouncement isn't going to immediately assure his sport of more prominent play in the daily newspapers.
But it's obvious Mosner is deeply committed to his responsibilities as racing chairman. What about Timonium and its 10-day meet in conjunction with the Maryland State Fair? "I talked to the general manager, Max Mosner [no relation], and he insists all aspects of the fair and the racing are being carefully examined. He has met with the horsemen's association and racing is going to be given an all-out effort."
It's Mosner's hope Timonium will survive because he believes it's possible for it to be profitable, plus the rooting interest, since his Cumberland days, he has in the "half-milers." One other point he makes is for the public to have a dialogue in how racing is conducted.
Jack Mosner's reputation as a man and business leader epitomizes the ultimate in fairness and quality. His contributions to a game he respects and now supervises are urgently needed. Mosner won't be flamboyant or controversial but, in the long run, quietly effective.