Horse Racing

In Protest, MJC Cancels Races

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Maryland Jockey Club announced Thursday live racing and simulcast wagering would be canceled Nov. 2 to highlight the plight of the state racing industry and allow horsemen, track employees and fans to rally that morning in Annapolis.

Facing unrelenting competitive pressure from neighboring racing states that subsidize their programs with slot machine revenue, racing in Maryland has suffered greatly in recent years, forcing the tracks to cut race days, purses and the stakes program.

Buses will leave at 8:30 a.m. from Laurel Park, Pimlico and the Bowie Training Center to a rally in Annapolis as the state legislature prepares to begin a special session that likely will include debate over the legalization of slot machines at the racetracks.

"This is about the horsemen, management and employees sacrificing on this day to support our industry to make sure we can save Maryland racing and keep the Preakness in Maryland," said Maryland Jockey Club President Lou Raffetto.

The MJC helped stage a similar rally two years ago in Annapolis during one of many failed attempts to help push through slots legislation.

"Everyone's disappointed because no one's paying attention to us," said Mike Pons, business manager at Country Life Farm in Bel Air. "We really have to scream fire. All they have to do is flip the switch [for slots], and we go from black and white to Technicolor. We haven't gotten cooperation from any of the governors. Everyone talks a good game, but we don't see any action."

-- John Scheinman

© 2007 The Washington Post Company