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Moore appoints members to authority for sustaining thoroughbred horse racing

Jack Hogan//June 9, 2023

Irad Ortiz Jr. atop Armagnac leads the pack during the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 21, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Moore appoints members to authority for sustaining thoroughbred horse racing

By Jack Hogan

//June 9, 2023

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Friday appointed members to a new Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority, which lawmakers established during an uncertain time for the industry with hopes of maintaining it in the state.

By Dec. 1, the authority will recommend ways to make horse racing in Maryland sustainable and determine whether the state should have alternative thoroughbred training facilities. Its members will also update lawmakers on redevelopment progress at Pimlico Race Course — which hosted the annual Preakness Stakes in May — and Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the various economic hurdles it created threw a wrench in a $375 million plan that lawmakers approved in 2020 for improving the tracks.

“My administration is committed to working with all stakeholders to not only move us forward but to ensure a solid, successful, and sustainable future for Maryland racing,” Moore, a Democrat, said in a statement. “The Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority will help us reach that goal.”

Greg Cross, a Venable LLP attorney and an expert commercial real estate and structured finance litigator, will chair the Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority.

Cross began representing horse breeding farms in the 1990s and he represented the state during the 2009 bankruptcy of Magna Entertainment, which at the time owned the Preakness Stakes, and he later negotiated an agreement ensuring the event could not be moved out of Maryland, according to the governor’s office.

“I care deeply about the future of Maryland racing and I appreciate Governor Moore’s confidence in me to lead this new authority,” Cross said in a statement. “In partnership with my fellow appointees, we will get to work quickly to explore and define possibilities for the future of Maryland’s horse racing industry.”

Moore said that Cross has played a key role in developing and implementing racing legislation in recent years and called him “the leader we need in this critical position.”

Lawmakers voted to create the Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority as a part of a stopgap measure in case the entities operating the state’s thoroughbred racing sites were unable to reach an agreement by July 1, when their contract was set to expire.

On Tuesday, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and the Maryland Jockey Club reached a deal to extend their racing agreement through Dec. 31 — marking the third time this year that the organizations have agreed to extend their negotiations.

The new authority would have assumed operation of the state’s thoroughbred tracks if the three parties were unable to reach an agreement this summer.

Joining Cross on the 13-member Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority will be Mary Tydings, a recent retiree from an international executive search and leadership advisory firm and the niece of longtime Laurel Park racetrack owner John Schapiro, and Jeff Hargrave, founder and president of a commercial construction firm and philanthropist.

Alan Foreman, a leading racing law attorney and chair and CEO of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association who is credited with creating the nation’s first workers compensation program for jockeys, and Thomas Rooney, a former Florida congressman who is now the president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, will also be on the board.

Three ex-officio members will be on the board, too: Joe Franco representing Laurel Park, Nicole Earle for Pimlico and Gavin Stokes for the Bowie Race Course Training Center.

The authority will include a member appointed by state Senate President Bill Ferguson and another from House Speaker Adrienne Jones, as well as representatives from the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Maryland Economic Development Corp. and the Maryland Racing Commission, according to the governor’s office.

The Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority is set to terminate after four years.

Ferguson has said the timeline is an indication that lawmakers are uncertain about whether there will be a long-term solution for the industry.

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