Jim McKay, who was the founder and primary standard bearer for the event, was chairman up until the time of his death in June of this year. “He was a great ambassador for the state of Maryland and his contributions to the horse breeding and racing community are celebrated annually on Maryland Million Day,” said Delegate Rosenberg. “I believe that adding his name to the event is a fitting honor.”
McKay was responsible for the creation of the Maryland Million program, modeling it on the first Breeders’ Cup, run in 1984. In 1985 he championed the idea with the local industry groups whose support he would need to make it happen, including the breeders, owners and race tracks managers.
This was no small feat because he also worked hard to attract sponsorship dollars from both Maryland and national companies, to produce the advertised “Maryland Million” needed to make the event a reality. His herculean efforts resulted in the first running on October 18, 1986 at Laurel Park.
“That first experience put to rest much of the trepidation about starting this novel event. It was great racing, showcasing Maryland stallions, and a beautiful fall day with more than 20, 000 fans on hand,” remembered long-time publicity director and McKay friend, Joe Kelly, “the day really had the feel of a celebration, just as Jim had envisioned.”
McKay remained an ardent supporter of the Maryland Million Day, never missing a Maryland Million race day, and often reminiscing about his turn in the winner’s circle in 1987. He won the Business Express Maryland Million Nursery, with long-shot Sean’s Ferrari. He said that the memory of watching his own horse, named for his son (CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus), cross the finish line first at the Maryland Million was one of his favorites. And he was the first to point out that Maryland Million Day has been full of great stories just like that.
“So today we want announce with pride the intention to make Maryland Million Day a time to remember that this event, second only to the Preakness in popularity, was the result of Jim McKay’s vision and persistence.”, said Cricket Goodall, executive director.