Michigan Notebook: May 8, 2009

– As if the Michigan racing industry didn’t have enough on its plate fighting for next year’s Ag Equine Fund monies, Gov. Jennifer Granholm landed another haymaker on Tuesday. From the Michigan HBPA… 

GOVERNOR’S ORDER: An executive order to reduce the projected 1.2 billion shortfall for Michigan’s 2008-09 Budget was issued May 5, 2009 to cut 300 million dollars. In the order to restore a reduction in ORC funding of 3.8 million, 1.4 million was taken from the thoroughbred programs for 2009. In doing so, that leaves -0- for Michigan bred supplements, breeders awards, and stakes races. End result, the state saves .12%, but takes 100% from equine funds. Not certain .12% will have any significant impact on the states problems, certain  100% reduction surely eliminates the breeding industry in Michigan. Attempts will be made to restore funding to an industry that is and has been a producer for the state. It is difficult to understand the rationale to eliminate a revenue producing industry, especially when the revenue received for programs comes directly from the statewide thoroughbred simulcast signal.

This new twist is part of my continuing investigation regarding the state’s cuts to the racing industry. I know I have been teasing this for a while, but the story will be coming to fruition sooner rather than later.

– Representatives from the various facets of the horse racing industry testified Wednesday before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. A horsemen’s rally was held in front of the Capitol Building before the hearing, organized by the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association. Aside from gathering around the Capitol and holding signs, the horsemen took up the side of the road with trucks, trailers, tractors and other farm equipment. It was quite the sight. Though the event was put on by the harness people, whose numbers reached triple digits, it was also open to horsemen from the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse sectors, of which I am disappointed to say there were very few.

As for the hearing itself, the horsemen represented themselves very well in their testimonies, explaining the industry’s impact on the state economy and its struggles from within the state and elsewhere.

Speaking for the Thoroughbred sector was breeder/MTOBA Director Rick McCune, Michigan HBPA Executive Director Gary Tinkle and owner/trainer/HBPA Director Robert Gorham. Mount Pleasant Meadows was represented by  Great Lakes Quarter Horse Association Vice President Carolyn Bay and owner Mike Bale. I’m not going to claim that I know too much about the harness side of the racing business, but the MHHA’s president, Brett Boyd is one heck of a public speaker. His speeches during the rally and before the subcommittee were both top shelf. Also delivering a convincing testimony in favor of the racing industry was former Michigan Speaker of the House Larry Julian, who recieved applause from the capacity crowd afterward.

Now, we’ll see if any of it made any effect on the House members in attendance.

Once the House makes its recommendations, it will meet with the Senate for a joint session before sending their version of the budget to the Governor for her approval.

– This Sunday marks the rescheduled opening day at Mount Pleasant Meadows. The card filled, but the fields are still very small. Of the eight races, four feature five-horse fields and the other four will send four horses to the gates. 

– In some unfortunate news, I came out of the Great Lakes Downs online auction empty-handed. It looks like that moment of sweet redemption where I finally get that clump of dirt isn’t going to happen. Boo-urns. However, it appears the Muskegon Chronicle has picked up the slack in terms of recording the tearing down of the track in this article.

– Speaking of Great Lakes Downs, the two-plus-year investigation by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau finally produced some kind of results on Thursday. Tampa Bay Online reports that jockey Ricardo Valdes was “indicted Wednesday on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit sports bribery.” Valdes is one of seven jockeys, including regular GLD riders T.D. Houghton, Joe Judice, and Jose Delgado, who faced scrutiny following a number of suspicious bets placed at Delaware Park on a race at Great Lakes Downs in 2006. Valdes was not a regular rider at GLD, but made occasional appearances at the Muskegon track during the 2006 race meet.

– Now that training has opened up at Pinnacle Race Course, a new feature I am going to try to get going is listing some of the notable workouts at Pinnacle for the previous week. Here is the trial run…

2008 MI 2yo of the year Mr. Conclusive – May 5 – 3f, 39.40b, 13/20
2008 Sickle’s Image winner Ittybittymeadow – May 5 – 3f, 38.20b, 8/20
4 1/2 furlong track record holder Weepster – May 5 – 3f 39.40b, 13/20
2008 Mackinac Hcp. winner Bishop Casey – May 5 – 4f, 51.20b, 3/5

– One more thing. Consider this your fair warning that the alternative wagering poll is coming down in the near future, likely sometime next week. After a long neck-and-neck battle, the slot machines are once again beginning to pull away from advance deposit wagering. Can they hang on? That’s up to you. Go vote!

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Filed under Great Lakes Downs, Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pinnacle Race Course, Politics

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