Josh Pons: Yearling Sales and Maryland Million Day – Signs of Growth for Maryland’s Horse Industry

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By: Josh Pons 

The next month will provide ample proof that Maryland’s Colts are Back.  The rebirth of our state’s horse industry will be apparent in a visit to Monday’s Thoroughbred yearling sale at the Timonium Fairgrounds, or next month’s Jim McKay Maryland Million Day races at Laurel Park. 

At Sunday’s free New Ownership Seminar, and again at Monday’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearlings Sale, this is a great time to get involved as the market for Thoroughbred horses has never been stronger. We look forward to introducing our business to the next generation of Maryland horse owners. Having grown up in the business, I can tell you that the excitement never goes away. From the introduction at the farm or the auction to that first trip to the winner’s circle, watching Marylanders' enjoyment in all aspects of horse ownership is great. They are a part of the whole process whether they visit a farm or go to an auction or the race track. We are proud of our product -- Maryland-bred race horses mean quality.

The additional revenue generated from slots has offered significant incentives to produce and race Maryland-bred horses in Maryland. Marylander lawmakers made an important investment in land preservation; the agriculture community; the health of the Chesapeake Bay and one of Maryland’s signature industries with slots revenue that goes to the horse industry.

On Sunday morning, we are inviting those folks who might be interested in owning horses to come learn from the pros. They will have a chance to learn the how-to’s – from joining a group in a partnerships to what it takes to purchase a young horse and get it ready for training and racing. And they’ll have an opportunity to check out the prospects in the marketplace before the auction takes place on Monday staring at 10 a.m.

Monday’s fall sale features 450 yearlings – a 14.5 percent increase over 2013 – and Maryland-bred horses represent 28 percent of the total. This increase demonstrates the optimism about the Maryland breeding and racing program that is feeling the impact of increased incentives for Maryland-bred horses racing in our state.

The most recent incentive bonus, just approved by the Maryland Racing Commission, is an additional 10 percent bonus award for breeders for Maryland-breds by Maryland stallions. The Maryland-bred bonus awards are designed to encourage and reward the owners and breeders of registered Maryland-bred and Maryland-sired horses when they race in Maryland. Next year, we’re anticipating 30 percent owner bonuses for first, second and third place finishers, in addition to the 30 percent bonus already in place for the breeder of the horse. So if the owner also bred the horse, and the horse is by a Maryland stallion, he or she can win and additional 70 percent on top of the 57 percent winner’s share of the purse in the race.

Those dollars make a real difference to in a state that is home to 80,000 horses. That’s more horses per square mile than any other state in the United States. Taken together, Maryland’s horses are a $1 billion industry comprised of 40 breeds, 300 stallions, for 35 riding disciplines that range from barrel racing to Thoroughbred racing. These dollars are being reinvested in our state – helping to create jobs and preserve hundreds of thousands of acres in green space in farmland devoted.

For those wishing to see the results of this breeding success, Jim McKay Maryland Million Day at Laurel Park on Saturday, October 18th is the perfect chance. “Maryland's Day at the Races” features eleven races for Maryland bred and sired horses with purses and awards totaling over $1 million.

There’s no question that when it comes to Maryland horse breeding, the Colts are Back. And for anyone thinking about entering the world of horse ownership, we have this advice: It’s time to get in the Game!

Josh Pons, president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association is owner, with this brother Mike, of Country Life Farm in Harford County and Merryland Farm in Baltimore County For more information go to or check out Twitter@MarylandTB and

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