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Ground-breaking legislations of 1962 helped boost Thoroughbred industry in Maryland, nation

The press clippings from The Baltimore Sun and Thoroughbred trade publications in 1962 recognize the historic significance. They mention the cooperation, the forward steps, the impact, the future, the progress, the sheer economics of it all.
They also showed a young trio of Orioles–John “not yet Boog” Powell, Brooks Robinson and Jim Gentile?–?smiling through a jogging session at spring training. But that’s another story.
Fifty years ago, House Bill 106 created the Maryland Bred Fund, rewarding the state’s Thoroughbred breeders and owners by increasing the pari-mutuel wagering takeout 1 percent and earmarking the additional revenue to purses and bonuses for horses born in the state. The move created the first state-bred bonus program in the United States and immediately upgraded Maryland’s Thoroughbred industry. Ahead of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, California, New Jersey, everyone, came Mary­­land in creating a program that is by now standard operating procedure for any state with racing.
Written by Dale Austin, William Boni­face, Snowden Carter, and others, the articles tell a tale of ultimatums, warnings, agreements, arguments, alliances, spirited debates, impassioned pleas, nearly epic failure, landslide vote totals and–eventually–
a signature by Gov. J. Millard Tawes.
The impact was immediate and felt by all in the Thoroughbred industry. Top to bottom, smallest racetrack to largest breeding farm benefited.
Within 10 years the foal crop tripled. Stallions commanding fees of $2,500 or more increased from two in 1961 to 11 in 1966. Thoroughbred farms, acreage, mares and stallion numbers grew. Shorter term, Liz Tippett sent mares and stallions from her Llangollen Farm in Virginia. Noted New Jersey breeders H.O.H. Freling­huysen and Anderson Fowler followed suit. Maryland-bred Kauai King, foaled in 1964, won the Kentucky Derby. Even the banks got involved with special financing for broodmare purchases. A 1963 open house at several farms attracted 12,000 people.
And on and on.
The legislative move lifted an industry, launched a renaissance, changed the landscape of Thoroughbred racing forever. To celebrate, Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred went to the archives, studied up, found the key points and tried to summarize. There’s plenty. Austin, now retired from the Sun, writes of his early days on the job–taking him from the relatively calm press box at Bowie to the roiling legislative halls of Annapolis. Josh Pons, a third-generation Maryland horseman, writes about the bill’s influence on his industry, his family, the past, the future. Rich Wilcke, once an executive with the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and now an equine business professor at the University of Louisville, writes about the racing law’s bigger picture and its impact on the national level (see his editorial on page 18).
Of course, it’s all different now. Mary­land no longer operates from the higher ground of a state with an exclusive on breeding incentive programs. Bred funds pump revenue into state Thoroughbred indus­tries all over the country, rewarding stallion owners, breeders, owners in ever-more-creative ways. Expanded gambling saved racing in Delaware 18 years ago and is helping fuel purses in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and now Maryland too?–?changing the region’s Thoroughbred landscape the way the Maryland Bred Fund did all those years ago. Yet it all seems different now, more tenuous, more worrisome.
H.B. 106 creators Hal C.B. Clagett, Dele­­gate C. Philip Nichols and the others could not have foreseen such developments.
Or maybe they could. It’s in the papers.
/Joe Clancy

Read perspectives from Josh Pons, Dale Austin and a reprinted Snowden Carter editorial in our April issue.

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