Sports Outside the Beltway

Michigan horse racing tracks may shut down in November

Funding issues and a recent veto by Michigan’s governor could cause the lights to go out on November 5th. From

The immediate future of racing in Michigan is in jeopardy for the second time this year as the racetracks prepare to cease operations as of Nov. 5 due to the lack of funding from the state, a situation made even more dire by Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s recent line item vetoing of virtually all of the monies directed toward horse racing.

The first time this year that funding issues came into play was in late July when state money ran out to operate the Office of Racing Commissioner, which resulted in the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association taking $75,000 out of its purse pool to provide funding so that Hazel Park could continue its live race meet.

This time, it appears that avenue is not likely, so unless some sort of legislative relief comes in the next week a total shutdown of the tracks could be imminent. Live racing is currently being held at Northville Downs, but with a state auditor necessary at all the tracks because of simulcasting, all sites would have to close because there would be no money to pay that person.

“This is political football being played with the budget,” said Hazel Park director of racing Ken Marshall, who said he is remaining optimistic that funding can be found to preclude any shutdown. “This is like being in the 15th round and if we’re going to down, at least we’re going to go down swinging. This battle is not over yet.”

Governor Granholm when announcing her vetoes, she said- “I believe that horse racing programs should be self-supporting.” I think horse racing should be self-supporting also. The sad news right now is that public interest in any form of horse racing is dying off. Some people in the industry think casinos or other forms of gambling at racing establishments can save the sport. The truth is, even racetracks with slot machines and poker tables aren’t doing well enough to sustain horse racing at the same establishment. If horse racing in Michigan can’t survive without public dollars, the industry should move on to somewhere they can be profitable.


Pompano Park to offer race programs for free

Anything it takes to make people come watch a horse race at the track approximately every twenty minutes. From

Starting with the Friday evening, Oct. 16, program at 7:05 p.m., the Isle Pompano Park is offering free programs for its own live cards to all on-track patrons and horsepeople.race program

“We’ve studied it and just finalized our plan late in the noon hour on Wednesday to move forward with this initiative as quickly as possible,” says the Isle Pompano Park’s director of racing operations, John Yinger. “There is a cost to doing it but we feel it can only drive on-track attendance and handle in the the right direction. Already the feedback is overwhelmingly positive from horsepeople and the fans here on Wednesday night that we informally mentioned it to.”

He adds the South Florida track is going into a hurry up offense to get the word out.

No mention of this in the local media but that isn’t surprising. Harness racing has never gotten the coverage the thoroughbreds do.

Pardon the pun, but I’m betting tip sheets won’t be free.


Harness driver-trainer Daryl Busse dead at age 67

At the time of his retirement in 2005, Busse was the 39th in career victories for a driver. RIP.

Daryl Busse, 67, for many years a leading driver-trainer both nationally and in Illinois, died Thursday evening, Oct. 8, at home, following a lengthy illness. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Mr. Busse, a native of Wisconsin, entered the sport by working for his father, Don, and the pair are noted to have been the only father and son who have won North American dash titles as drivers, Daryl in 1975 and his father in 1963. The elder Busse died in 1970.

In his driving career, which ended in 2005, Mr. Busse won 5,651 races and drove the winners of $30,331,095.


54 horses quarantined at Hoosier Park

Two horses at the racetrack have tested positive for Equine Strangles. From AP-

Fifty-four quarantined horses are being removed from the Hoosier Park racetrack in central Indiana after two others tested positive for a contagious infection.

Hoosier Park officials had placed the horses in quarantine Sept. 12 after one thoroughbred at the stable began exhibiting signs of equine strangles, a bacterial disease common in horses that can be life-threatening.

Racing manager Jeffrey Smith told The Herald Bulletin none of the quarantined horses are showing signs of the disease, but that test results would not be available until after the Anderson track’s thoroughbred season ends Oct. 24.

16 other barns, housing over 1,000 horses, were free of the disease.

Note- Hoosier Park is also a standardbred track.

Another news report says Hoosier Park is on the verge of bankruptcy.

An Indianapolis television station has reported that Hoosier Park Racing & Casino is in danger of bankruptcy.

Fox 59 reported early Thursday morning that large loans due in the next 90 days may force Hoosier Park owner Centaur to file for bankruptcy.

“They are in very deep trouble, financially, and they don’t have much equity in the business,” State Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) told Fox 59, noting that Centaur CEO Rod Ratcliff has approached him saying Hoosier Park will fold unless the state can provide tax abatements. “They have two large bonds which are in jeopardy of not being paid.”

Indiana Deputy Gaming Commissioner Jenny Reske said several Indiana casinos have undergone bankruptcy reorganization.

Pardon the pun, but I’d wager not all those casinos double as racetracks. This news is further proof that casinos aren’t a silver bullet for the financial woes of the North American Racing Industry.(It just isn’t tracks, but racing associations like here.) Few people, gamblers or non-gamblers, appear interested in the sport anymore. It’s sad, and I think horse racing in the United States will be close to extinction in as little as a decade or two.


Harness horse driver Peter Wrenn suspended for 30 days

The suspension was handed down in Indiana but Wrenn is presently driving in Kentucky. From

Peter Wrenn, a winner of more than 8,000 races and current leading driver at Indiana Downs, has been handed a 30-day suspension by the Indiana Horse Racing Commission. Wrenn was notified of the suspension, which took effect beginning Monday, Sept. 28, over the weekend.

Wrenn said Tuesday morning that he has appealed the ruling and asked for a stay, but since Indiana regulations stipulate that a stay would not go into effect for five days, he has filed an injunction in court. Wrenn is scheduled to drive at The Red Mile Tuesday afternoon and is awaiting word as of 9 a.m. from his lawyer on the status. However, Wrenn was taken off all his mounts at The Red Mile on Tuesday.

“As of right now I’m suspended until the end of October,” said a disheartened Wrenn. “I really don’t understand what’s going on. It’s a pretty sad deal.”

According to a notice posted in the Indiana Downs race office, Wrenn was suspended for driving the 12-1 outsider Magical Delight in an “unsatisfactory manner” in the eighth race Thursday, Aug. 6. Magical Delight finished fourth in the conditioned race, which carried a purse of $3,300. Wrenn’s suspension, which is for driving only, will conclude Oct. 27.

The suspension doesn’t happen at a good time for Wrenn. Lexington’s Grand circuit begins this week. I suspect racing officials knew that before handing down the suspension.


Well said wins The Little Brown Jug

It was on television too and I totally forgot about it. From

Well Said won the 64th Little Brown Jug Thursday afternoon at the Delaware, Ohio, fairgrounds, winning the $650,000 renewal in straight heats under rainy conditions. Driven by Ron Pierce, Well Said won his elimination in 1:51.1 and then wrapped up the race in straight heats by capturing the second in 1:51.4, over a racetrack rated as “good,” the first Jug ever contested on a track not listed “fast.”

Pierce worked Well Said into a second-over trip, following the cover of Mr. Wiggles. If I Can Dream, driven by Tim Tetrick, had the lead at the :56.3 half and still had control at the 1:23.2 three quarters, but at that point Well Said was in hot pursuit. The two elim winners battled side by side through the final turn and through the stretch, with Well Said winning out by one length. Straight Shooting and Dave Palone took show honors.Little Brown Jug Horse Racing


Owned by Jeff Snyder and Susan Grange’s Lothlorien, Well Said was bred by Fair Winds Farm and Steve Jones. A son of Western Hanover, he is trained by Steve Elliott, who won his first-ever Jug. With 10 wins in 12 starts, Well Said now has seasonal earnings of $1,929,014.

The Jug is one of the premier events in horse racing but it will barely cause a blip in the sports pages tomorrow. How sad. Why doesn’t harness racing get the coverage the thoroughbreds do from the media?


Linda Rice is Saratoga’s leading trainer for 2009

Her father, Clyde Rice, is a thoroughbred trainer also. From the Daily Racing Form-

Linda Rice held off Todd Pletcher by one winner, 20-19, at Saratoga to become the first female in the modern era to win a trainer’s title at a major U.S. racing circuit.

“It means the world to me,” said Rice, the 44-year-old daughter of trainer Clyde Rice. “It’s been a lot of work, a long time coming, and it’s a real honor to compete at the greatest racetrack in the world and to come out with the training title.”

Rice started 75 horses, 60 less than Pletcher. Pletcher, a six-time leading trainer at Saratoga, finished with 19 wins but 28 seconds from 135 starters.

“When you run second 28 times, it’s only fitting that you finish second in the meet,” Pletcher said. “It’s a little bit frustrating. Linda had a great meet. It’s quite an accomplishment. She should be proud.”

Neither Rice nor Pletcher won a race over the last two days of the meet, but the two were quite active on Sunday and Monday. The two were never more than two wins apart since Aug. 12.

I find it interesting that Rice’s feat was a first in thoroughbred racing history. As I’ve related in the past, I grew up around the world of standardbred(harness horse racing). Female drivers aren’t uncommon at all. In the early 80′s, one of Pompano Park’s top drivers was Bea Farber. Bea didn’t train the horses she drove, her husband Charles did. There are top female trainers in the sport today. Brooke Nickells, the daughter of my late father’s business partner trainer/driver Bruce Nickells, is one example.

With the end of racing in Saratoga, the thoroughbreds return to the New York City area. Businesses in Saratoga can start charging regular prices again. I visited Saratoga with my father in August 1972(we had a horse racing in the New York Sire Stakes at Saratoga’s harness track) and while we were there all Dad did was complain about the prices for food and lodging.


Gulfstream Park fined $800,000 by the State of Florida

If your employees cheat and snort cocaine at your establishment, you can expect to take a double whammy for it in the Sunshine State. From the Miami Herald-

The state has fined Gulfstream Park $800,000 for security failures that allowed employees to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from slot machines by using free-play cards.

In an order filed Friday, the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation said the Hallandale Beach casino was lax in overseeing the use of the cards allowing employees to load the cards with much more money than authorized.

According to the department’s complaint: “The unauthorized issuance and use of test cards with excessive amounts of money loaded onto them was largely, if not completely, unchecked — there were no facility procedures or regulations governing the issuance or check out of test cards, nor receipts issued when test cards were turned in.”

The department fined Gulfstream $800,000 — $100,000 for each count.

The owner of Gulfstream Park is in bankruptcy. So the fine may not even be paid. The track also already owes $144,000 in back taxes. If they can’t pay those taxes, why should the State of Florida be hopeful will Magna Entertainment will pay the new fines?

The penalty follows a two-year inquiry by the state — and a criminal investigation that resulted in the conviction of one employee for cheating and organized fraud. Other employees were fired or suspended but not charged.

In September 2007, employees at Gulfstream caught a patron playing slots — for free — by using a card that was only meant to test the machines.

Investigators found that a slots technician had given the man the test cards and shared the money he won.

A subsequent investigation found that many cards that were normally worth about $5 of play had instead been loaded with hundreds of dollars.

According to the complaint, the test cards were not tracked — no unique serial numbers, sign-out requirements or system for logging them.

One employee is convicted, others are allowed to return to their jobs but the track is fined. The rules are certainly different in Florida.


Muscle Hill wins the Hambletonian

The 84th edition of trotting’s biggest race is now in the record books. From AP-

Muscle Hill delivered as expected Saturday in the $1.5 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

The dominant 3-year-old trotting colt cruised to a six-length victory in record time. The overwhelming 1-5 favorite, Muscle Hill led all the way from the rail in the mile trotted in 1:50.20, erasing the Hambletonian mark of 1:51.20 set by Glidemaster in 2006.

Muscle Hill extended his winning streak to 13 in the richest race of the year in harness racing. He lost his first race and is undefeated since. Brian Sears drove for trainer Gregory Peck as Muscle Hill won for the fifth time this season.

Sears also drove the winner of the Hambletonian Oaks yesterday. That was the first time in the history of these racers that the same person drove the winners of these races in the same year.


Royal Pains- Sheik Mohammed gets 6-month ban for horse doping

He was also fined $4,200. From AP-

The International Equestrian Federation banned its president’s husband — Dubai’s Sheik Mohammed — from riding in endurance races for six months after his horse twice failed doping tests.

Sheik Mohammed accepted the suspension based on his horse Tahhan’s positive tests for a hypertension drug and the steroid stanozolol, equestrian’s governing body said Monday.

“Consistent with the FEI’s strict liability approach to anti-doping rule violations, the panel has found Sheik Mohammed responsible for the doping of his horse,” a tribunal panel said in a ruling published on the FEI’s Web site.

His ban runs through Oct. 3, and he was assessed $4,200 in fines and legal costs.

The sheik’s horse trainer, Abdullah bin Huzaim, admitted giving the horse drugs without the sheik’s knowledge before the 74.5-mile desert races at Bahrain and Dubai.

Bin Huzaim was banned for a year and fined.

Horse racing is a sport where anyone big or small can lose money by wagering. When damage is done to the sport’s integrity, the punishment has to be harsh.


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