March 29, 2016

MHC's Letter to Sen. Middleton Re: SB 1116, Horse Racing - Fair Hill - Arabian Breed Racing Authorization.

March 17, 2016

Senate Finance Committee Senator Thomas Middleton, Chair 3 East
Miller Senate Building
11 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

Re: SB 1116, Horse Racing - Fair Hill - Arabian Breed Racing Authorization

Dear Senator Middleton,

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes the various associations that represent the 35 different breeds and over 40 disciplines currently found in Maryland, as well as horse farms and stables; horse-related businesses, charities and foundations; and individual horse owners - representing all facets of the Maryland equestrian community, from the owners of race horses to the owners of trail horses or just beloved retired companion horses. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders.

Maryland has a long history of horse racing, dating back to the first recorded formal race in Colonial Maryland, near the South River in May of 1743. No doubt, informal races were occurring even before that. Although many people think first of Thoroughbreds when they think of horse racing, Maryland’s modern racing scene is more diverse, including Standardbreds (Trotters and Pacers), and on a more limited basis Arabian racing - at Laurel Park in the 1980s and as recently as four years ago as part of the Preakness card, in a Grade 1 Arabian race sponsored by UAE racing interests. The most important trade magazine for U.S. Arabian horse racing, Arabian Finish Line Magazine, is published in Frederick, MD and its editor/publisher Stephanie Corum lives in Mt. Airy.

The Arabian breed itself has a long and strong history in Maryland. Some of the major national and international Arabian breeding farms have been located here such as the Al Marah Farm (Bazy Tankersley) in Montgomery County and the Imperial Egyptian Stud (Barbara Griffith) in Baltimore County. One of the major Arabian Racing stables, owned by Sheik Taknoon of Abu Dhabi, is headquartered at Rigbie Farm in Darlington, MD (Harford Co.) and managed by Marylander Sharon Clark. They have bred their U.S. Arabian runners in Harford county for 20 years and have produced six U.S. Arabian Horses of the Year and numerous other divisional champions. (The Sheik's father, Sheik Zayed, donated $250 million to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for the Sheik Zayed Tower (cardiac center)--the largest gift ever received by the hospital.)

Kathy Smoke, President of the U.S. Arabian Jockey Club, and Mats Genberg, secretary of the International Federation of Arabian Racing Authorities have visited Maryland and both think Maryland, with it's long racing tradition, is ideal to host Arabian races and accompanying festivities. Passage of SB 1116 will be the catalyst that will cement Arabian racing’s place as part of the Maryland horse racing scene. By allowing Arabian horses to race at Fair Hill, added sponsor dollars and prestige will come to Maryland and Cecil County, and will be the start of building a relationship with both national and international Arabian racing interests. Sheik Mansoor's International Arabian Racing Festival, which takes place over a year in approximately 15 countries, has expressed interest in sponsoring a race devoted to Arabians at the Fair Hill track in Cecil County.

MHC believes that SB 1116 will enhance the Maryland horse racing scene as a whole, grow interest in horse racing in general throughout the state, and will bring tangible and intangible benefits to the State, to Cecil County, and to the other segments of the horse racing industry in Maryland. We urge the Finance Committee to favorably report SB 1116.

Respectfully submitted,

Jane Seigler President

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