The Maryland Racing Commission voted today by a margin of 3-2 to continue Sunday racing. Unless the Maryland General Assembly overturns that ruling, the first Sunday card at Bowie will be on Jan. 27.
The Maryland House Ways and Means Committee meets at 1 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the issue and several Prince George's County legislators and religious leaders are expected to testify against Sunday racing. If the legislature takes no action, the commission vote will stand.
The commission also formally adopted new medication rules today. As of March 15, no drugs except Lasix may be administered to horses. Lasix may only be given if the state veterinarian approves it, and if the doctor has observed the animal bleed from the nostrils in a race. The drug ban includes Butazolidin.
Horsemen in attendence wanted to protest the medication ban, but Chairman Robert Banning overruled them. Fendall Clagett, representing the horsemen, said he wanted the record "to reflect our total opposition to the rulings as written since it is likely we will seek relief on appeal. The rulings are arbitrary, unreasonable and unenforceable."
The commission heard arguments on Nov. 15 regarding the drug ban on Lasix and Bute, then voted to ban them in their Dec. 13 meeting.
Commissioner Robert Furtick said at that meeting that he thought trainers should be given lifetime banishment from the sport after three offenses. The severity of the penalty led to a threat by the horsemen to boycott entries at Bowie when it opened Jan. 1.
Later, the commission amended its rulings, leaving the penalty up to the racing stewards. At that meeting, Furlick clarified his remarks, saying the penalties he spoke of were suggested for abuse of stimulants and depressants, rather than the two therapeutic drugs.
The request to race on Sunday was first made to the commission representatives of Timonium, Maryland's only remaining half-mile track, in 1978. The request was turned down after vigorous opposition by civic and religious groups.