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Maryland Horse Racing Commmunity Wants A Solution To Current ‘Crisis’

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Left at the starting gate, people who depend on Maryland horse racing want to know when the crisis will end at the state’s tracks.

Suzanne Collins explains there are just a few weeks until a new season and no racing dates are scheduled.

Mike and Josh Pons watched horses Thursday at their Baltimore County training facility. The 70-year family business will be greatly affected if the current crisis in Maryland racing isn’t solved. Right now there are no racing days scheduled for the 2011 season.

“It’s been a pretty challenging week,” said Josh Pons. “But the horse business itself is pretty challenging. You get used to getting knocked down. Losing a race. You just have to get up and rededicate yourself.”

“I’m getting calls from clients all around the country going ‘Hey, is Oz still there?’” said Mike Pons. “We’re here, and were going to be here. We’ve survived all kinds of track ownership.”

The solution won’t be easy. Track owner MI Developments, in bankruptcy, sold partial ownership to Penn National in June. Hopes of getting a slots license failed.  Now the joint venture wants to cut racing days from 140 to just 40. On Monday, the state racing commission refused to accept that plan.

Mike Pons thinks a deal can be worked out to save racing.

“There are currently two slots parlors not spoken for—Baltimore City being one of them, which could be very lucrative,” Mike Pons said. “Penn National gaming would very much like to have that. We could help them. There are things we can do for one another.”

If talks aren’t fruitful, horse owners, breeders, trainers, and even laborers working at the track will be hurting.

The Pons family says they’ve always rolled with the punches. When Pennsylvania got slots and a lot of breeding operations moved north, that’s when they expanded into training.

The brothers say they’ll survive somehow, but a meeting to negotiate a solution hasn’t even been scheduled between the governor, the company’s owners and legislative leaders.

The racing commission will hold another meeting Dec. 21 to consider any possible solution.

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