April 13, 2016
Blood-Horse Staff

A bill that would help resurrect the Washington, D.C. International and provide $500,000 in bonus money to Maryland-bred or Maryland-sired horses who run in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) has sailed through the Maryland House of Representatives 137-0 after passing the Senate 46-0 last month.

The bill, which only needs the signature of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to become law, would give $500,000 for three years to the Maryland International, a turf race to be contested at Laurel Park. It also provides the Maryland Racing Commission $500,000 to create a bonus program “for Maryland-bred or Maryland-sired horses running in the Preakness Stakes.”

“We’re extremely excited about the opportunity to revive the Washington, D.C. International at Laurel Park,” Maryland Jockey Club president Sal Sinatra said. “The International was one of the world’s premier turf races, and we want to bring it back bigger and better than ever. We’re extremely grateful for all the support from the State of Maryland, horsemen, breeders, and fans.

“We also want to thank Delegate Jay Walker, who introduced the bill, and Delegates Kevin Hornberger and Ric Metzgar for co-sponsoring the bill. We continue building Maryland racing, but running the International again and making it a major turf race on the world’s racing calendar is one of our major priorities.

“We hope to use the International as a major prep for the Breeders’ Cup, an event we hope to host in the near future.”

John McDaniel, chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission, said: “It’s a great thing. It’s something we’ve been musing about for years. It’s emblematic of the turnaround we’ve seen with The Stronach Group. It also reconnects us with D.C. in a real way. I think it sends a strong message not only to the racing community in Maryland but in the surrounding areas that Maryland is the place to be.”

Maryland racing commissioner Bruce Quade called the bill “great news.”

“I remember the old International and the excitement and the week of activities surrounding the event,” Quade said. “It was neat seeing the horses and jockeys here from all over the world. I’m sure The Stronach Group and Maryland Jockey Club will do everything they can to restore the International to its past glory.”

Inaugurated in 1952, the Washington, D.C. International was one of the most significant turf races in the world. It attracted horses from the Soviet Union, France, England, Poland, Ireland, Australia, and countries in South America. Some of the sport’s biggest stars competing in the International included Kelso, All Along, Bald Eagle, Fort Marcy, Paradise Creek, Mac Diarmida, Dahlia, Sunshine Forever, and Vanlandingham. The race was last run in 1994.