ANNAPOLIS, DEC. 15 -- A legislative committee today was instructed to establish a work group to examine proposed regulations for the racing of Arabian horses at Maryland's thoroughbred tracks.
Del. Larry Young (D-Baltimore), co-chairman of the Administrative, Executive, Legislative, and Review Committee, appointed a five-member staff to study and clarify the Maryland Racing Commission's proposed regulations before Jan. 12. Young also postponed a scheduled hearing on intertrack wagering between Laurel and Pimlico.
Because the proposal on the Arabians is not classified as an emergency, the AELR panel does not have the authority to veto it. But committee attorney Stuart Gordon said it is in the interests of the racing industry to comply with committee recommendations.
"If the commission defies AELR," Gordon said, "it then would face the clear probability that if it needed to have any bills passed in the future -- after ignoring the wishes of the General Assembly -- it would have to face the consequences."
But Young does not expect the regulations to become entangled. "Most of the issues seem to be relatively minor," he said.
In October, the Maryland Racing Commission cleared the way for "Arabian and other nonthoroughbred horses" to race at the state's thoroughbred tracks. The regulation thereby became subject to the legislative review process and public hearings.
Laurel and Pimlico president Frank De Francis has said he would race Arabians at Laurel -- not at Pimlico -- beginning in June or October 1988.
Today, Pimlico and Laurel general counsel Martin Jacobs told the AELR panel, "We see a unique opportunity to build our fan base through the racing of Arabians."
Jacobs also restated that Arabians would race in Maryland on an experimental basis, would make up the first race on the card Friday through Sunday (and holidays), would have betting pools separate from thoroughbreds and would not be allowed to stable at Laurel, Pimlico or Bowie.
"If Arabian racing is not successful," Jacobs said, "we will stop it." Some AELR committee members expressed concern that "successful" might not be easily defined.
Arabian racing has been opposed by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which fears that betting on Arabians ultimately will dilute the funds used to wager on thoroughbreds. The Maryland Horse Breeders' Association expressed more tepid opposition.