Since 2003, Cricket Goodall has served as the executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, representing the state’s breeding operations through feast and famine. We spoke to her all about the fortunes of racing and breeding here since the advent of casino gambling in 2010 (7 percent of casino revenues goes to tracks and breeders), 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and how the sport can remain relevant in the digital age.
> Just a few years ago, the once-fabled Maryland horse breeding industry seemed at death’s door, with people relocating their horses to nearby states. How did that situation develop? “At death’s door” is an overly dramatic description, but the horse industry was certainly at a competitive disadvantage. Because Maryland took a measured approach to implementing slot machines, the slots money generated in the contiguous states [Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania] enticed people to move much of their horse business there. It wasn’t the stallions or the farms that moved; most landowners were worried but committed to see how and when slots would come to Maryland. Some hedged their bets, though, by moving some of their horses, primarily mares, to states offering incentives to people who foaled and raised their horses there, and, for a while, it worked. But now Maryland is able to offer competitive options and incentives, and the business is returning.
> Tell us about the turnaround. The number of mares bred and foals born in Maryland has increased by nearly 30 percent since 2012. The revenue from slots has been an important incentive for people to bring their business back, but, just as importantly, to invest in the future. Producing horses is a long-term investment, taking three to four years from conception to first race.
> Last year, of course, American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. How has his vast achievement changed the public’s perception of Thoroughbred racing? Winning the Triple Crown is a historic, lightning-in-a-bottle experience. There had been speculation that it might never happen again, but American Pharoah proved it just took a great horse. He captured the attention of the general public because he embodied the fragile beauty of the Thoroughbred along with the toughness and determination of a champion.
> Getting young people interested in racing has been problematic (except for the popular infield party on Preakness Day). Is there a solution? In today’s world, competition for attention is tough, no matter what demographic. It is important to make horse racing easily accessible using every technological opportunity, while also focusing on a great experience at the racetrack. The Stronach Group [majority owner of Pimlico and Laurel Park] is focused on using all the tools available to make horse racing in
Maryland appealing and successful. They understand the importance of special events and upgraded facilities … while also offering convenient ways to wager.
This article appears in the May/June 2016 issue of STYLE.