Sports Outside the Beltway

1 man killed, 50-60 horses destroyed in Ohio Fairgrounds fire

My father took me to Lebanon Raceway one or two times back in the 1970′s. From the Dayton Daily News-

One person is dead and another remains missing in a barn fire Saturday morning, Dec. 5, at the Warren County Fairgrounds. The fire also killed 50 to 60 horses and destroyed the barn.

The dead person has not been identified, according to Doyle Burke, chief investigator for the Warren County Coroner’s office.

According to Krista Wyatt, a Lebanon Fire Department captain, the fire was called in at 4:50 a.m., and when firefighters arrived, the roof had already collapsed and the barn was fully involved.


Up to 80 horses could have been in the barn, but none of them were scheduled to participate in two horse-drawn carriage parades in Lebanon Saturday. The parades draw thousands of spectators to downtown Lebanon each year, according to Mikki Caston of the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the parades.

Very sad.

Note- I’m not sure the barns where the fire took place are associated with the racetrack I been to. One news story says it is, another is vague. Counties in Ohio had fairgrounds where horses raced, at least they did in the 1960′s and 70′s. A track and a fairgrounds aren’t necessarily the same thing.


Hoosier Park owner defaults on loan

More bad news for North American horse racing.

Centaur LLC, owner of Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, defaulted on a loan to senior lenders Tuesday, October 27 when it missed a reported $13.4 million interest payment. The Indianapolis-based company stated in a press release issued October 29 that the decision to forego the interest payment on a $400 million-plus loan was done as part of an effort to restructure corporate debt. Centaur used the loan to pay a $250 million casino licensing fee and spent a total of $150 million on grandstand renovation and construction of its 92,000 square-foot racino, which opened in June 2008.

“Our business operations at the property level are healthy and generate positive cash flow from operations. We remain committed to putting our capital structure on solid ground,” Centaur Chairman Rod Ratcliff said in the release. “Restructuring our corporate debt will place us in a position for long-term success and benefit our customers, employees, horsemen groups, host communities and other stakeholders. We are confident our steps will ultimately strengthen the company.”

Down here in Florida, a racetrack is about to re-open. Hialeah Park which last had a race over eight years ago is going to host quarterhorse races beginning on November 28th.

Armed with its new quarter-horse permit — and racing dates approved this week by the state — Hialeah Park is gearing up for a Nov. 28 reopening. Roughly 150 construction workers are doing double shifts painting ceilings, patching damaged pipes and sweeping floors. As the deadline gets nearer, they might go to triple shifts.

“It will definitely be presentable. . . . for sure,” said Orlando Ceballos, the construction project manager.

Will Hialeah, which first opened in 1925, once again exude the grandeur that so many fondly remember?

Not completely, as large portions of the massive restoration effort won’t be done by the time Hialeah again welcomes the public.

Visitors at first will be allowed into the clubhouse area, but other sections still being repaired — such as the grandstand — will remain closed.

Gambling options will also be limited, as slot machines are not expected to arrive until a year or so from now.

I think it’s wishful thinking to believe Hialeah will prosper under those circumstances.


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.


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?


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.


Former Horse racing and NY Mets announcer Jack Lee dead at age 73

I didn’t know Lee worked at Shea Stadium but do remember his voice calling the races at Roosevelt Raceway. Roosevelt was the closest harness track to the part of Long Island I grew up in till 1976. I only went to Roosevelt a few times, but heard Lee’s voice many times when weekend races were broadcast on local and cable television after I moved away from the NY area. RIP.

Jack E. Lee, a longtime race announcer most closely associated with his work at Roosevelt Raceway, died Thursday, July 30. He was 73.

Mr. Lee was a popular fixture at the now-shuttered Roosevelt, from 1968 until 1985, and also called races at Freehold Raceway in 1966 and from 1990 through 1998.

His mellow voice and descriptive calls were known to millions via his race calls on the “Racing from Roosevelt” TV shows syndicated across the nation by WOR-TV. He also served as the public address announcer for the New York Mets at Shea Stadium, and was for a time the ring announcer for World Wrestling Federation shows at Madison Square Garden.

Mr. Lee was retired and living in Florida at the time of his death.


Board votes to discontinue harness racing at Prairie Meadows

The Iowa track is cutting back on all forms of horse racing. From the Des Moines Register-

Prairie Meadows’ board voted to adopt a new racing format for 2010 over the objections of thoroughbred owners, who said a shorter season would cripple horse breeding in Iowa.

The board voted 9-0 with three abstentions in favor of a 2010 season that would have a 56-day thoroughbred meet followed by a 30-day quarter horse season, and no harness racing.

This year, Prairie Meadows offers a 50-day thoroughbred season, a 32-day mixed thoroughbred-quarter horse meet and a 16-day harness meet.

Betting and horse breeding have decreased over a decade, and the thoroughbred meet has fought horse shortages and small fields. The track in 2008 paid $20million in purses while taking in $4.8 million in pari-mutuel betting revenue. Including other expenses, the total loss has been estimated between $23 million and $29 million.

These losses occurred despite the fact that Prairie Meadows being a casino in addition to its hosting horse races. This throws cold water on the beliefs of some horsemen that other forms of gambling can save racing industry.

If there are any Iowans among my readers, can one of you tell me if there are any other harness tracks still operating in your state? I seem to recall there being one in the Quad Cities area of the state.


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