Legislature, track owners kill storied racing industry

December 03, 2010

The Sun's headline "Last ditch effort" (Nov. 30) concerning Maryland racing really sums it up. Hard to believe that an industry that much of the state revolved around could virtually disappear in 10 years thanks in large part to our legislature and track owners. If the legislature had acted responsibly early on, Maryland racing and all those industries tied to racing would be in a much better position to withstand the current economy. The state would also be more fiscally viable since much of the money generated would have stayed in the state.

In an article in the York Daily Record on November 17, Tarry Bratton, owner of Ghost Ridge Farm, which just recently acquired Smarty Jones as a stud horse notes, "The money and future earnings at Pennsylvania racetracks is good for agriculture across the board, from feed mills to grain farms to hay and straw producing farms." General manager Carl J. McEntee goes on to say, "There are thousands of people working in the industry that support their families, from the local farm to the local electrician and plumber."

I wish those controlling the tracks and the slots issue could have had this foresight instead of just thinking about how they could either benefit, or as was the case with many legislators, stonewall the process just to show that they could. Most of the big breeding operations have now left the state or have moved most of their horses to states which have an active slots program and purses to support racing. Meanwhile, Maryland currently has no racing days scheduled, and the Preakness might as well move to Pennsylvania or West Virginia where most of the horses are currently. And saving racing just to maintain the Preakness is about as short sighted a thought process as holding up the slots issue simply because the governor was a Republican.

I'm sure there was much more to it, but from the outside looking in, we have lost a vast portion of Maryland history and appeal by allowing thoroughbred racing to fade into the past, and those in power have waited far too long to take action. Track ownership has done nothing to promote racing and make it a show and an event, choosing instead to bleed the industry dry. It's time for everyone to come to the table and display foresight and commitment to the horse industry, just as the owners at Ghost Ridge Farm have shown.

Brenda Holloway, Darlington

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