Reporting Alex DeMetrick
DARLINGTON, Md. (WJZ) — A bonus for being born in Maryland. That’s what’s coming for thoroughbred horses.
As Alex DeMetrick reports, it’s a bet to keep an industry alive.
For every Preakness, there are hundreds of other horse races run at Pimlico and Laurel Park. They draw nowhere near the crowds or money, but they’re getting something else.
“I think it’s going to be a salvation for Maryland breeding,” said Bill Boniface, Bonita Farm.
Boniface has put his life into breeding race horses. But even as a farm as successful as his has faced competition that has drawn most breeding out of Maryland.
“We just lost the market. There was a big exodus of mares up to Pennsylvania, particularly Pennsylvania, and to New York and West Virginia,” Boniface said.
This is why. Those states used gambling profits to sweeten the pay-day for horses bred in their states. Now Maryland’s gambling dollars will do the same.
Right now, a local breeder gets a bonus of 17 percent of what a horse wins. Next year it jumps to 30 percent. In 2015, owners will also get a 30 percent bonus. A bred and owned winner gets a 60 percent bonus, correcting a critical imbalance:
“We just had too much competition with money in other states,” said Boniface.
By leveling the playing field, Maryland now stands a good chance of out-competing surrounding states.
From the auction house to the farm, the incentive is designed to keep the business in Maryland.
“I think you’re going to see new stallions coming in. I think you’re going to see racing calibers improve. And it’s a great thing for the thoroughbred industry,” said Boniface.
The bonus incentive comes amid a decade of decline. In Maryland, there’s been an 80 percent drop in horses born in the state.