Monthly Archives: November 2009

Michigan connections compete at Hialeah Park

Popular Michigan-bred Ozzy You Can Do It will make his first start outside of his home state on Monday at Hialeah Park.

Last Saturday, horse racing returned to one of the sport’s historic venues, Florida’s Hialeah Park, after an eight-year absence.

For its inaugural season, the track is hosting a Quarter Horse-exclusive meet, which has drawn horses, riders and trainers from across the country to race among the flamingos. Of course, what kind of world class Quarter Horse meet would it be without a few horses from Mount Pleasant Meadows?

On Hialeah’s opening day, three horses with at least one start at Mount Pleasant entered the gates, including Michigan-bred Refined Cowboy; who showed little in a second-to-last finish. The other two starters, both trained by Adam Oxendine, fared better. Arrow Stone Head took home a third place check and Apollo Two Socks notched a fourth. Both horses shipped to Mount Pleasant for a few starts near the end of this year’s meet.

The star of the Michigan contingent on opening day, however, was jockey Oscar Delgado. In four starts, Delgado picked up a win and a second place finish. He found the winner’s circle in his first start aboard California-bred Nudder Budder. Delgado picked up another win in the nightcap of Sunday’s card aboard Devilfish.

In terms of new business, Monday’s card will be highlighted by the first out-of-state start by Mount Pleasant Meadows fan favorite Ozzy You Can Do It. The Michigan-bred Aze Beduino gelding has won 11 of 42 lifetime starts, all at the central Michigan oval. Ozzy You Can Do It will also be the first paint horse to compete at Hialeah since its reopening, possibly ever.

Ozzy You Can Do It appears to have the confidence of the oddsmakers, who have him picked second with morning line odds of 3-1. He had his first workout over the surface on Sunday, where he covered 220 yards in 12.53 seconds breezing. The time was the fourth fastest out of seven horses working at the distance.

UPDATE: Ozzy finished last in his start earlier today. By the looks of the chart, he ran into traffic problems early on and was taken out of contention before he could do much. Regardless, it was nice to see the betting public support Ozzy as the third choice at 3.20-to-one. Hopefully he can improve his fortune in future starts with a clean trip.

Tuesday’s entries yield at least three horses with experience at Mount Pleasant Meadows: former stakes regular Track Monster, Bye Bye Cartel and Patriotic Bill, who makes his first start since 2008, where he won a match race against arguably the slowest horse on the grounds then was disqualified. That was a crazy day.

Best of luck to all the Mount Pleasant Meadows-based (or visiting) connections during Hialeah Park’s rededicated inaugural meet.

For more information on Hialeah Park, visit http://www.hialeahparkracing.com/.

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The Haiku Handicapper: 2009 Clark Handicap Recap

Beauty before age
Three-year-olds show up in spades
Next year should be fun

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The Haiku Handicapper: 2009 Clark Handicap

Can Einstein secure a second straight Clark Handicap victory in what will likely be his final race?

#1 – You And I Forever
Slummed mid-level tracks
Still seeking that breakout win
Doubt he’ll find it here

#2 – Macho Again
Stephen Foster champ
Duels Einstein, Bulsbay once more
As live as ever

#3 – Giant Oak
Derby trail dropout
First try in handicap ranks
Appears overmatched

#4 – Demarcation
Midwest-based turfer
Came up big in dirt return
Best at a mile

#5 – Blame
A late-blooming soph
Moving up well through the ranks
Intriguing prospect

#6 – Anarko (Chi)
Chilean import
Well beaten by weaker foes
Prognosis: chilly

#7 – Anak Nakal
Ran last in ’08
Rarely a threat in big spots
Please drop him in class

#8 – Etched
A lightly raced colt
Dubai’s his only hiccup
Could have some value

#9 – Bullsbay
Raging bull on dirt
Load of bull on synthetics
Ought to bounce back well

#10 – Kiss The Kid
Jersey boy heads west
Pushing back retirement
Could sneak on the board

#11 – Timber Reserve
New York circuit vet
Lacking fire since layoff
Should be early speed

#12 – Misremembered
Scored at Hoosier Park
Flunked his last handicap test
Like him, but not here

#13 – Dubious Miss
Borel gets his best
Better fit on Polytrack
Could shock, but doubt it

#14 -Einstein (Brz)
His final go-round
Maragh takes over the mount
Primed for Clark repeat?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Who takes the feature?
It’s Macho Madness. Ooh yeah!
Five, nine fill the tri

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ORC releases 2010 racing schedule

Mount Pleasant Meadows is scheduled to host 23 live dates during the 2010 race meet. Christmas From Mom drives to the finish under jockey Juan Delgado.

The Michigan Office of Racing Commissioner officially released the racing schedules for the state’s five pari-mutuel tracks on Monday.

In total, Michigan will host 261 days of live racing at Thoroughbred track Pinnacle Race Course, mixed breed track Mount Pleasant Meadows, and harness tracks Hazel Park Raceway, Northville Downs and Sports Creek Raceway.

As previously reported by the Michigan HBPA, Pinnacle Race Course will feature 84 days of live racing in 2010. The New Boston racetrack will begin its meet on June 4 and will host live cards on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until June 27, at which point it will add Tuesdays to its schedule until the end of the season on Oct. 31. If the dates remain unaffected, the track will host 12 more race dates than this year’s 72-day meet, which was shortened to help make up for cuts in funding to the ORC. Pinnacle was originally scheduled for 83 days in 2009 prior to the cuts.

Mount Pleasant Meadows will host 23 live dates next year. Opening day is scheduled for May 15. The mixed breed track will race primarily on Saturdays until closing day Sept. 25. Mount Pleasant will also host live cards on Sundays during the following days: Aug. 1, Aug. 22, Sept. 5 and Sept. 12. The track will take a week off on Aug. 14, likely to allow the Isabella County Fair to use the facilities. Mount Pleasant was originally approved for 37 days in 2009, but its schedule was cut down to 18 days in order for ORC employees to be present for live racing at both Pinnacle and Mount Pleasant following a series of layoffs.

Hazel Park Raceway is scheduled for 61 live dates from April 30 to Sept. 18. Live racing will be held on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Northville Downs’ 18-day winter/spring meet will begin Feb. 12 and conclude April 24. Live racing picks back up for 15 live dates Sept. 23 and goes through Nov. 20. During both meets, Northville will be live on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Sports Creek Raceway will continue with 18 days of racing from Jan. 1 to Feb. 7. The track’s fall meeting will begin on Nov. 26 and conclude on Dec. 31. Sports Creek will race Fridays, Satudrays and Sundays, except for a live day on Monday, Dec. 27. No live racing will be held on Dec. 24 or 25.

For an ABC 12 news feature on Sports Creek Raceway’s upcoming meet, click here.

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Keeping in touch

In my never-ending quest to become the one-stop source for most of your Michigan racing needs, I have added a new page listing contact information for the state’s horsemen’s groups and other important entities. Also listed are links to pages to help locate your representatives in Lansing.

We are approaching an important year in the history of the Michigan racing industry. The industry may be moving under the umbrella of the Gaming Control Board in January, and the summer and fall will likely be spent on the campaign trail to support a slots issue on the November ballot.

With that in mind, it is more important than ever to stay in contact with your horsemen’s groups and congressmen and women in Lansing to let them know how you can help and how you can be helped. Communication is key at a time like this, and the list is a good place to start.

To view the list, click on the “Industry” link at the top of the page or click here.

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Pontiac Silverdome sold…Or is it?

The Daily Tribune (Oakland County) and Michigan Messenger report Adreas Apostolopoulos, a Toronto-based businessman representing Triple Properties Inc., purchased the Pontiac Silverdome in a Monday auction.

The City of Pontiac sold the former home of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions for the winning bid of $583,000. The group has 45 days to close the deal. Future plans for the Silverdome involve using the venue for men’s and women’s professional soccer franchises. Indoor professional soccer is still more watchable than the Lions.

The Tribune reports the city has turned down bids between $17 million and $22 million in the past. Quite the drop from there to just over a half-million.

What does any of this have to do with horse racing you may ask?

The Silverdome’s connection to the racing industry is twofold.

First, the construction and repair of the Silverdome was partially bankrolled by a subsidy from the Michigan Agriculture Equine Development Fund, the source of the state’s racing industry development programs including breeder’s awards and Sire Stakes purses. The fund provided $800,000 per year from 1974 to 1990, then $726,400 in 1991 before the subsidy was discontinued by the state.

Using these figures, the racing industry kicked in approximately $13,526,400 over the 17 years of the subsidy to build and maintain the Silverdome. The funding was ended when it was decided the money was going toward operational expenses instead of building costs.

The second connection may also end up being the reason the Silverdome won’t be hosting soccer games anytime soon.

Crain’s Detroit Business reports an Oakland County judge has ordered an injunction halting the sale to the Toronto group because another party claims to already have an agreement in place with the city.

Civil rights attorney H. Wallace Parker, also president and CEO of Silver Stallion Development Corp., filed the complaint leading to the injunction on the grounds the sale violated a prior agreement with the city to purchase the property.

The Pontiac City Council approved the purchase of the Silverdome by Silver Stallion Development in July 2008 for $20 million, later reduced to $17 million. However, the purchase was vetoed by the city’s mayor when he deemed Parker unable to pay for he project – a claim Parker denies, though Crain’s reports he never produced the money to pay for the bid.

According to Crain’s, Parker intended to develop the area into a $250 million entertainment venue, Thoroughbred racetrack and equine research facility. Silver Stallion Development applied for race dates at the Silverdome with the Office of Racing Commissioner for 2009, but the request was denied. It is unclear whether the proposed racetrack would involve leveling the Silverdome itself, but it is hard to imagine racing going on inside the structure.

Regardless of the outcome, it is fascinating to see how the racing industry touches businesses far away from the racetrack.

UPDATE: Here is another informative article from the Michigan Messenger on the Silverdome auction, identifying the winning bidder and and offering further information on the key players in this story. Apparently someone wanted to buy the property to use as a landfill(!).

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Racino states draw breeders

A good indicator of the racing industry’s health in a given state is the number of mares it sends to the breeding shed.

This is a factor I try to illustrate whenever I explain Michigan’s situation to those unfamiliar with the industry. Because I am a strong believer in visual aids when giving a presentation, I decided to put together a chart to describe the breeding industry in the state of Michigan, compare it to other states in the region and explain the impact of alternative wagering on everyone involved.

It is no secret that horsemen are flocking to states with casino gaming at its racetracks. The fact will inevitably be brought up in any discussion about alternative wagering in a state that lacks it. However, the point is driven home when the figures are in clear sight.

Let’s have a look at the chart…

Thoroughbred Mares Bred in the Great Lakes Region by State, 1998-2009

Thoroughbred Mares Bred in the Great Lakes Region by State, 1998-2009.

X Axis = Year; Y Axis = Mares Bred *2009 figures are current as of 10/13/2009. Some reports are still yet to be received by the Jockey Club.

For a more detailed breakdown of the year-by-year breeding totals, a spreadsheet of the above data may be read here.

So what can we learn from these figures?

First and foremost, breeders are taking their mares where their foals can make the most money. The top three states listed in this sample are “racino states” (Because of its clear breeding advantage in the region, Kentucky was not included in the sample). The increased purse structure that comes with expanded gaming not only gives the horses themselves the best chance to earn a good living, it trickles down to the breeders in the form of incentive programs.

Also worthy of note is that in 1998, two of the three leading states (Indiana and West Virginia) actually bred fewer mares than Michigan. Today, both states breed several hundred more.

The clear exception to this rule is West Virginia, whose figures have actually decreased since installing full-blown slots in 2006. Two factors may be responsible for this. First, West Virginia installed slots at the same time as neighboring Pennsylvania. The 2007 debut of Presque Isle Downs, about 135 miles away from Mountaineer, also helped draw horses out of West Virginia. Second, the breeder’s incentive program in Pennsylvania is quite lucrative. Boosting the purses only made it that much juicier. Here, have a look for yourself…

Breeder’s Incentive Programs in the Great Lakes Region by State

However, West Virginia enjoyed a major boost throughout the first half of the decade. It was the first state in the region to adopt expanded gaming in 1999 when it installed coin-operated video lottery terminals. With the help of the VLTs, West Virginia pulled itself up from the dregs of the racing world to the point where the state actually led the region in mares bred in 2004. Despite the recent dropoff, West Virginia remains well ahead of the game from where it began.

Another conclusion that can be drawn from the data is racino states are drawing mares away from non-racino states. The poster child for this observation is Ohio, a state flanked by one armed bandits in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Indiana. Eleven years ago, the Buckeye State accounted for a comparable number of mares bred to Pennsylvania and was well ahead any of its other neighbors (excluding Kentucky).

As more and more states allowed its tracks to install casino-style gaming, the breeding totals in Ohio began to plummet. In 2009, the state is in danger of breeding fewer than 200 mares, a figure that would have seemed unheard of less than a decade ago.

Other states in the region without any forms of alternative wagering, Illinois and Michigan, have also seen significant drops as their neighbors reaped the benefits.

Once the cornerstone of the Great Lakes region, Illinois has seen its breeding totals cut in half over the last decade. Michigan’s drop off has been just as drastic, with a decrease of over 40 percent in the last year alone.

As these figures demonstrate, the benefits of installing alternative wagering are quite apparent on the breeding industry of that state. The increased purses and breeder’s incentives make them attractive places for horses to send their mares, which in turn improves the reputation of that state’s racing industry. At the same time, neighboring states without expanded gaming will be adversely affected as its horsemen migrate to states where they can make the most money.

Racinos have the ability to shift the balance of power in a region. It is time for the state of Michigan to decide which side of the scale it wants to sit.

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