Industry Profile: Trainer King Leatherbury, The King of Maryland

Editor’s Note:  I had the good fortune of working for trainer King Leatherbury one summer at both Pimlico and Laurel.  Although I worked on the backstretch for him, I was also doing a college internship in which I analyzed his accounting ledgers dating back a couple of decades to determine whether or  not his owners made owners.  Incredibly, they actually did.  An article was written, and with the help of editor Mark Simon, it was published in the now-defunct Thoroughbred Times (April 24, 1994).  ~ Rich Nilsen

King Leatherbury knows how he wants his training career to be defined. He knows how he would like to be remembered.

“If I wanted something on my tombstone,” he said, “it would just be, ‘He won races.’ ”

Leatherbury, 87, has won races all right. He ranked fourth all-time with 6,455 victories when he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2015, the ultimate exclamation point to a career that has spanned parts of seven decades. He currently ranks fifth on the all-time list of leading trainers by wins with more than 6,500.

The Maryland native stayed close to his roots in winning at least 100 races per season for 26 consecutive years from 1972 to 1997. He won at least 200 races every year from 1974 to 1984. He won more often than any other Thoroughbred trainer in the nation in 1976 and 1977.

Business boomed even as he competed against the likes of [trainers] Bud Delp, Dick Dutrow, and John Tammaro, a group so formidable they became known as the “Big Four.”   Continue reading about legendary horseman King Leatherbury.

Maryland Racing Industry at Crossroads

Total wagering on the rescheduled, closed-door Preakness Stakes program at Pimlico last Saturday was down nearly 50% from its 2019 renewal, a pandemic-impacted decline similar to that experienced at the Kentucky Derby, which was moved from May to September.

Even in pre-pandemic times, a majority of wagering on horse racing is conducted online, through legal betting platforms like BetPTC.com, TwinSpires, TVG and Xpressbet. Since March, almost all wagering comes via these channels. Betting in person has grown increasingly rare in the internet era, and even more so in 2020. For perspective, of the $369 million bet on races at Laurel Park in 2019, the Maryland Racing Commission’s annual report records that $350.2 million, nearly 95%, came from bettors outside of Maryland…