A dark day for Michigan racing

This just came in regarding the meeting between Pinnacle Race Course, the horsemen’s associations and the Office of Racing Commissioner. The news isn’t good…

From the Michigan HBPA website…

HUGE CUTS: Racing Commissioner Christine White has issued the reduction in days to comply with the budget cuts in the May 5th Executive Order. Pinnacle Race Course has been cut 63% which equals 39 days, leaving only 25 days to be run in June and July only. There are no days approved for August and September. This has basically eliminated Michigan Thoroughbred Racing. There may be some adjustments possible and efforts will continue to somehow restore enough days to provide a decent meet. The commissioner needs to submit her budget cuts this Friday. Any change will be posted as soon as possible.

The worst day pari-mutuel racing has ever faced.

MHHA @ Hazel Park were cut 65% and Mt. Pleasant Meadows 68%

Before I go on, let me state that I understand times are tough and there were going to have to be some sacrifices. Also note that I am commenting only on what I have seen and heard in the last few hours, which is likely a fraction of the whole story. 

That being said, I find it hard to believe such a drastic reduction of dates was the best possible answer to the crunch left behind from Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s executive order taking a good chunk of the racing-related monies to patch up the budget deficit. 

When a state has thousands of state-bred horses and only one viable Thoroughbred track (Love Mount Pleasant Meadows, but it has more stakes races for Paints than Thoroughbreds), that track can not afford to only run a short boutique meet. It is the mid-to-low level tracks running longer meets that prop up the Keenelands and Saratogas of the world and make it worthwhile to breed horses in those states. Saratoga has its Aqueduct, Keeneland has its Ellis and Turfway Parks and Del Mar has its fair circuit.

Only a small percentage of the horses at the major tracks will travel to the next big-money gathering. The rest don’t just vanish into the ether until next year’s meet. They go back to the local tracks and reap the benefits of their state-bred programs.

All Michigan has is that local track. Once it shuts down, there is nowhere else for the average Michigan-bred to go to earn a decent living. With half the year being lost to winter, the window for making money in Michigan is small enough as it is.

With the decrease in race dates, there will be no time to work a horse who has spent the winter in the pasture into shape. At the absolute most, horses will get four, maybe five, starts in during the abridged racing season. Even with a stakes win or two (assuming the stakes races are worth any more than a good allowance race), it will be near impossible for horsemen to get close to breaking even in 25 days, especially if the purse structure takes a hit along with everything else.

I have been told this change may only affect the current fiscal year , so perhaps racing will return for a while in October and perhaps November. That might net Pinnacle a few more dates later in the season, but it appears it will come after a several-month break.

As regular readers of this site know, one of my big mottos is “never give people a reason to leave.” This would qualify as one hell of a good reason. I will be curious to see if enough people stick around to fill the cards. Indiana and Pennsylvania are looking better by the day. 

If you are anything like me, you have a lot of questions about the details surrounding this announcement. I’ll do my best to get the answers and send the information along. Until then, hope for the best.

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6 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Pinnacle Race Course, Politics

6 responses to “A dark day for Michigan racing

  1. Andrew

    Hi Joe,

    Wow. After Googling a little, I have found that some fairs are cancelling harness racing this year (such as the Western MI fair) or cutting back drastically (Holland). No surprise. I agree with your points, where will you even be able to find horses to fill a card? Going, going, gone.

    • Just a few years ago the participating harness racing Michigan fairs numbered 30.

      For 2009 there is a mere 16.

      In addition the STATE has eliminated the non-stakes overnights from the fair programs. All these races are mandated from the “handle” and/or General Purse Fund based on 2008. How the State of Michigan is able to appropiate these funds for other uses without changing existing laws is A CRIME.

  2. LK

    Gary Tinkle was just on WWJ-AM (10:30am).. said things perfectly.. you should try to get ahold of a copy of the interview..

  3. ragman

    WJR/Frank Beckman.
    RG

  4. mibredclaimer

    Andrew,
    Yeah, the fair circuit is getting hit hard. Looks like they’ll get even less in next year’s budget.

    I’m really worried that no one is going to even send their horses to the gates. Unless the purses take an outrageous spike from the cut in dates (doubtful), I wouldn’t blame the ones that didn’t.

    LK & Ragman,
    Thanks for pointing that out. It is indeed a very well spoken segment. I’ll get it up ASAP.

  5. jeff

    just shutter down ! no since running a program of racing like this ! who can own who can drive or ride who will come to michigan? theres no money here closer down ! it’s a dead industry !

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