Monthly Archives: March 2010

Michigan Gaming Control Board: Eight days left

From the Michigan HBPA website

LIVE HORSE RACING DESTROYED: The Michigan Gaming and Control Board (MGCB) advised the Michigan horse racing industry that the additional 20% will only permit regulation of EIGHT (8) live race days for the remainder of the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010. The simple explanation was that the budget only allowed funding for 104 live race dates and 96 have been run including 11 at Pinnacle last October 2009. The current message does not even come close to that issued to the industry by MGCB in early March. MGCB has indicated that Pinnacle will only be regulated for 3 days during the balance of the fiscal year.

Attempts continue to bring some sanity to this issue, unfortunately, the industry has not had any significant support from the MGCB to determine how daily regulation increased from $4,300 per day to $5,923 in 2010. They gave us a bill and refuse to itemize it. At this point, any restored days will need to come from our diminishing purse pool. The current decision has taken away 62 race days or 95.4%. The cost to restore all 62 days @ $5,923 is $367,226.00 that will devastate our purse pool. The HBPA board is scheduled to meet Wed and continue to address the issue.


Nothing else has come out regarding this announcement, but if there is a shred of truth to it, something seems very illegal about this whole situation. The constant shell game of race dates to be regulated and the cost to make up the ones that have been dropped makes the powers that be appear as genuine as an 1850s sharecropper.

Keep an eye out for updates.

UPDATE: The actions of the Gaming Control Board and the rest of the Michigan state government could set a frightening precedent for jurisdictions in other states. Regular commenter on this site Pacingguy further elaborates on the issue on his blog, View From The Racetrack Grandstand. Definitely a recommended read.

The Daily Racing Form has also put up a story about Pinnacle’s potential three-day meet, which can be read here.


Filed under Pinnacle Race Course, Politics

Michigan ties at Keeneland Two-Year-Old sale

As I alluded to in a previous post, I will be heading down to Lexington, Ky. in coming days for opening weekend at Keeneland Race Course.

Also on the itinerary for the weekend is the Keeneland Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Having never been to a Thoroughbred sale of this magnitude, I am looking forward to the new experience.

As many of you have surely noticed, I have a knack for finding Michigan ties in just about any racetrack adventure I have had. It appears this one will be no different.

While perusing the online sale catalog, I was quickly drawn to the dam line of Hip No. 61, an unnamed dark bay or brown colt by Bluegrass Cat. The juvenile’s bottom half runs deep in the history of Michigan, from local legends to national powers.

The colt’s dam, Maid’s Broom by Deputy Minister, is one of the most successful producers of Michigan-breds in recent memory.

Her masterpiece is Tenpins, the highest-earning Michigan-bred of all time. The Smart Strike horse won nine of 17 races and earned $1,133,449 over his career, including a track record-setting win in the Arlington Park Handicap (G2). He also racked up Grade 3 wins in the Prarie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders’ Cup Handicap, Philip H. Iselin Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park, the Fayette Stakes at Keeneland Race Course and the William Donald Schaefer Handicap at Pimlico Race Course. He also hit the board in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, another running of the Fayette Stakes, the Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds and the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Despite all of his big efforts, Tenpins could only muster a third place finish in his lone start on Michigan soil, a Maiden Special Weight in his debut at Great Lakes Downs. He currently stands in Louisiana at Elite Thoroughbreds.

Maid’s Broom also produced three foals who earned stakes victories at Great Lakes Downs or Detroit Race Course. Override Battle, an earner of $222,850, set the track record at Great Lakes Downs for a mile. It’s A Sweep, who earned $196,781 in his career, set the GLD track record at 1 1/16 miles, then set the mark for 1 1/8 miles in his next race. Dust Around did not set any track records, but she did earn $101,780 during a successful stakes career at Detroit Race Course.

Going back a few generations, potential buyers will notice two-time co-champion older male, and leading sire, Nodouble. Though he was an Arkansas-bred, Nodouble got his start in Michigan (for a $7,500 tag at Hazel Park. He won the race and wasn’t claimed) and earned one of his biggest wins in the 1968 Michigan Mile and One-Eighth Handicap at Detroit Race Course, where he upset defending Horse of the Year Damascus.

If this colt were a Michigan-bred and I had the money, I would think long and hard about purchasing him, bringing him back to Michigan and, more than likely, destroying everyone. Unfortunately, as a Kentucky-bred horse by a Kentucky sire, he is not eligible for any stakes races at Pinnacle Race Course. Looking at the bottom of the page though, he is eligible for the Breeders’ Cup, so perhaps I would have to set my sights a little higher.

Whether I have the available funds to bring him home or not (doubtful unless he has a number of legs that doesn’t equal four), I intend to get some pictures to share of him and any other juveniles that catch my eye at the sale or its preview day.

Because of my upcoming trip to the Bluegrass State, things might be a little quiet around here for the immediate future. To fill the time, I recommend checking out the newly launched Hello Race Fans! website.

The site is organized by fans of the racing industry to introduce newcomers to the various aspects of the sport and keep current fans up to date with features and analysis of key races and events. Among the highlights of the site are letters to new horseplayers from members of the industry.

If for any other reason, be sure to visit the site to check out the HRF Index. Fashioned after The Paulick Report’s Derby Index, the HRF Index polls various members of the racing media community, myself included, regarding some aspect of the racing industry.

The inaugural index sorts out the top handicapping books, as decided by the panel of voters. Normally, I do not believe in handicapping books, as I lose just as much money after reading them, but end up thinking twice as hard about it. However, for the opportunity to be included in such an esteemed group of judges, I managed to find five books I liked enough to tout.

For those of you who will be in Lexington this weekend, enjoy the races and the sale, as I intend to do the same. For those of you who will not be attending, enjoy the website as I already have.


Filed under Commentary

The Haiku Handicapper: 2010 Dubai recap

Dubai World Cup

By a slim margin
Gloria gets redemption
For last year’s defeat

U.A.E. Derby

Musir bullies sophs
Big Blue horses run third, fifth
Derby hopes in doubt

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The Haiku Handicapper: 2010 Dubai Daily Double

Dubai World Cup

The world’s richest race
U.S. platoon is so-so
A wide open field

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

#1 – Allybar
Your host’s top entry
Renewed focus in Dubai
Local hero rides

#2 – Gitano Hernando
Loves it on fake dirt
Goodwood shows he’s capable
Of stealing spotlights

#3 – Red Desire
Rising Sun filly
Never turns in a clunker
Hard not to like her

#4 – Gio Ponti
The Yanks’ first-stringer
Didn’t handle the trip well
Could be a red flag

#5 – Gloria De Campeao
Last year’s runner up
Returned well from summer tour
Could get redemption

#6 – Vision D’etat
A great road tripper
Folds in the Arc De Triomphe
Leaning toward latter

#7 – Lizard’s Desire
South Africa’s shot
Middle of pack in class test
Would need to step up

#8 – Furthest Land
Won the Dirt Mile
Hasn’t done much after that
Seems too ambitious

#9 – Crowded House
British invader
Came back well from light ’09
Coming into form?

#10 – Richard’s Kid
All-or-none closer
Career rebirth on West Coast
This ain’t the West Coast

#11 – Twice Over
Third in the Classic
Comeback race from strong autumn
Lots to like in him

#12 – Mastery
The Sheikh’s distance horse
Lacks pop on synthetic tracks
Is this race too short?

#13 – Mr. Brock
Off a busy month
Excelled in minor stakes tries
Tough spot to break through

#14 – Amor De Pobre
From Chile with love
Well back in Saudi Grade One
Hard to justify

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

Who gets crazy paid?
Gitano Hernando wins
Eleven, five, three

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

But wait, there’s more! A breakdown of the field for the Eastern Hemisphere’s major Kentucky Derby prep race, the U.A.E. Derby, can be found behind the jump.

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Filed under The Haiku Handicapper

House passes bill to restore race dates

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill on Mar. 18 to restore some race dates taken away by the Michigan Gaming Control Board on March 3.

The bill, HB 5407, proposes to transfer $308,688 from the Purses and Supplements line item of the Ag Equine Development Fund to the Office of Racing Commissioner to help fund the regulatory body. According to the House Fiscal Agency’s analysis of the bill, an additional $36,458 would be kicked in by “private funds from the horse racing industry”.

The analysis projects this additional funding to the ORC would help restore 46 race dates that were taken away by the cuts. The total number of days reduced in the Mar. 12 announcement by the Gaming Control Board was 112.  It is not specified how the dates would be distributed between the four racetracks affected by the announcement.

Also included are a few interesting boilerplate items that suggest the State Legislature may be looking for some answers from horse racing’s new regulators. Among the items listed is a request for a status report from the MGCB regarding the transfer of the ORC into its jurisdiction. However, the highlight of the boilerplate items is the third item as seen below in the Fiscal Agency’s “Cliff Notes” version…

3. Cost of Conducting Race Dates
Requires the Michigan Gaming Control Board to use actual cost data in determining regulatory costs of conducting horse racing dates, and requires reporting.  Requires refund if costs charged to certified horsemen’s organizations is more than determined actual costs.

As many who follow Michigan’s racing industry know, the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has been investigating the reasons behind the jump in required funding for the ORC from last year. In 2009, the horsemen’s organizations paid $4,700 per additional race date to keep the ORC going at the tracks. This year, the fee has jumped $5,923 per race date.

The bill passed in the House by a vote of 106-2. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Tuesday. To track the bill, and all its changes, through Lansing, click here.

One of the two “No” votes came from Representative Justin Amash (R – Kentwood) from Michigan’s 72nd House District.

From Amash’s Facebook Page…

“Just voted no on HB 5407, which makes supplemental appropriations related to horse racing (we were told that money is just being “moved around”). Leadership pushed the bill onto the floor to resolve an alleged “emergency” with respect to racing dates. Legislators were given only minutes to read and analyze the bill. It passed 106-2.”

Thanks to Ragman for pointing that out.

Considering it was read and revised three times, I am surprised Mr. Amash was not made aware of the bill earlier. I will give Mr. Amash the benefit of the doubt, as he may not have enough knowledge about the racing industry to make an informed decision, which would be a shame for everyone involved. If that is the case, there are many fine people in this state, probably even in his own district, who would be happy to educate him.

Also, as someone who has eyes on a U.S. Senate seat in November, it is easy to posture oneself as someone who “takes a stand” to voters with a vote like this. However, given the circumstances Amash provides, if he truly did not have the time and background knowledge to make an intelligent decision on the issue, the ethical thing to do would have been to abstain instead of trying to make a statement, and toying with the fates of the state’s horsemen, with a “no” vote.


Filed under Commentary, Politics

Edmore horseman featured in Daily News story

The front page of Monday’s Greenville Daily News is two-thirds occupied by a story about the dire situation of the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industries in Michigan.

This comes on a news day when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark health care reform bill, local towns battled over Google Fiber and the Michigan State University men’s basketball team won an NCAA Tournament game on a last-second shot.

Needless to say, this is a pretty big deal.

The story, written by Daily News staff writer Jessica Dudenhofer, focuses on Edmore Thoroughbred breeder Rick McCune, who has been hit hard by the decline of racing in the state.

Dudenhofer examines the negative repercussions of Proposal 04-1 and the effects the industry’s downturn has had on the state’s five racetracks. The story continues by looking at the number of jobs affected by the racing industry, both on and off the racetrack, and the puzzling lack of interest Gov. Jennifer Granholm seems to have in preserving them. The article wraps up with a discussion about the massive state cuts in funding to horse racing programs. Line items appropriated by the Ag Equine Development fund are generated by the racing industry itself through a tax on simulcast handle.

Others interviewed for the story include Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Patti Dickinson, spokesperson for Gov. Granholm, Liz Boyd, and State Representative Mike Huckleberry.

To read the story, click here.

Also, be sure to check out the video that accompanies the piece. I make a brief cameo near the end holding one of McCune’s stallions, Research.

As is the case most times I come across a feature on a Michigan horseperson, I will take this opportunity to stress the importance of outreach to the media and others who can be of assistance.

This story happened because the reporter overheard McCune discussing his situation at a legislative luncheon at Montcalm Community College earlier this month. She contacted McCune shortly after the meeting and set up the first of two interviews at his farm.

The end result was a front-page, screaming-headline explanation of the state of Michigan’s racing industry that can’t be missed by anyone reading the paper, or even walking by it. The story’s online presence will only help spread its message to an even bigger audience. All it cost McCune was some time at the kitchen table to talk shop and an extra trip to the barn to show off his horses.

It is an important time to ensure the public is informed about horse racing. There could be up to three casino proposals on November’s ballot, and it is critical that the public knows the benefits a healthy racing industry could have for the state if the right initiative is passed. The passage of Proposal 1 in 2004 is a prime example of how public misinformation can swing an election. One of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to reach lots of people and at least have the information out there is the mass media.

As always, I would be happy to assist interested parties in the process of contacting, interviewing or otherwise dealing with local media. Some time ago, I posted some contact information to various local news outlets. The link to that post can be found here. The list may have a few changes since it was first posted, but this a good place to start.


Filed under Commentary, Pinnacle Race Course, Politics

Late program changes

This is just a little note to bring attention to my new email address…

After almost five years of putting up with the quirks of CMU’s email system, it was time for a change. The old address will remain open, but it will not be checked as frequently as the Gmail account. Feel free to change your contact information at your convenience.

In other website changes, I have added my photography portfolio to the “Samples” page. The online portfolio is one facet of my developing, web-capable resume, and I figured I’d share it on this site. Check it out here.

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My racetrack wish list

With the snow beginning to melt and warm weather slowly starting to find its way into the forecast, my itch to hit the road is beginning to return once again.

Plans are in the works for a trip to Keeneland Race Course in April, so that will ease my road trip jones for the immediate future. However, one of my goals for 2010 is to add some length to the list of tracks I have visited.

Below is a list of ten tracks I would like to cross off my list sometime in the future. Some of them are very plausible to hit in the coming year, while others are more likely to be long-term projects. The tracks range from tiny harness and Quarter Horse bullrings to the host of the last two Breeders’ Cups, so there is plenty of variety. Some of my selections may appear less than ambitious, but there is a reason for each, and any of them would be a huge “get” for my list.

Before we get too deep into this, the premise for this post was lifted from a great post on Equispace. A little while back, Thoroughbred Times News Editor Ed DeRosa also listed some of the tracks he has yet to cross off his impressive list.

The top ten tracks are listed in alphabetical order, followed by some honorable mentions. Let’s have a look…

Ajax Downs
I only became aware of this small Ontario track early last year, but from the sounds of it, I was missing out. Before getting approved for slots, Ajax Downs was a quirky, little Quarter Horse track that ran for tiny purses and was shaped like a “J”. Cindy Pierson-Dulay of described the track as “a 440-yard straightaway ending in a sharp right hand turn for the runout.” Since the slots, the track has remodeled into a five furlong oval and boosted its purse structure enough to draw the attention of some Mount Pleasant Meadows-based horsemen. If anything else, the track’s website is among the most impressive and comprehensive I have seen from a track of any size.

Bluegrass Downs
Where, you ask? In a past life, the Paducah, Kentucky track was a popular destination for horses and people from Mount Pleasant Meadows. Today, Bluegrass Downs is a standardbred-exclusive track. Harness racing isn’t exactly my bag, but from the description of racetrack bucket-lister McChump, the track’s too-small-for-its-own-good atmosphere is right up my alley.

The remaining tracks on my wish list can be found behind the jump. Did your home track make the list? Click the link below to find out.

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Filed under Commentary

Michigan Notebook: March 8, 2010

Michigan-based jockey T.D. Houghton has not been allowed to ride at several racetracks since his involvement in a still-pending investigation was announced in 2007.

Michigan-based jockey T.D. Houghton has not been allowed to ride at several tracks since his involvement in a still-pending investigation was announced in 2006.

– When it comes to bad news in Michigan, the hits just keep coming. Various news sources report over 30 people are being investigated by the Michigan State Police and Michigan Gaming Control Board for alleged race-fixing schemes at harness racetracks in Michigan and Ontario. According to the Associated Press, the management at Michigan tracks Hazel Park Raceway, Northville Downs and Sports Creek Raceway are not being accused of any wrongdoing and are cooperating with the investigation. The Flint Journal reports the investigation has been ongoing for about 11 months.

UPDATE: It seems this story has garnered some national exposure. ESPN’s Bill Finley has commented on the situation on the sports network’s website. In the piece, Finley suggests the pools at Michigan’s harness tracks are too small for any sensible race fixer to bother with. He also questions if authorities, who don’t know enough about the intricacies of the sport, are too gung-ho in approaching this situation and predicts little will come of it.

Hat tip to Longshot for sniffing out the ESPN story.

– Jockey T.D. Houghton, who grew up in Hazel Park, has been grabbing headlines following the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s Feb. 25 deferment of his request to ride in the state. His primary reason for applying was to ride at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.. Houghton has been denied access to ride at several tracks across the country after he was named in a race-fixing investigation in 2006 involving seven riders at Great Lakes Downs and Tampa Bay Downs. For more information, an article by Thoroughbred Times can be read here and the Blood Horse’s take can be found here.

– In a bit of lighter news, I was quoted last week in a piece on by Claire Novak. The blog post addressed recent suggestions by Vic Zast and Paul Moran to “dumb down” horse racing to appeal to today’s ADD-riddled youth. As one of many contrarian examples, I discuss how social media may actually make understanding the sport easier for young people with short attention spans. Be sure to check out Novak’s work, as she is the best turf writer in the country under the age of 25 – and that’s including myself, so you know she’s got to be good.


Filed under Politics

Gaming Control Board slashes Michigan racing dates

The Michigan HBPA website reports…

MICHIGAN GAMING AND CONTROL BOARD MEETS WITH INDUSTRY: On Wednesday, March 3, 2010 the MGCB indicated the number of race days that will be reduced for the balance of the 2009-10 fiscal year due to budget cuts. Attendees were told that the approved dates of 261 for racetracks will be reduced to 112 or 57%.

Pinnacle Race Course days reduced for the 2009-10 fiscal year ending September 30, 2010 are 34(52%) leaving 31 race days from June 4 to August 13…Friday, Saturday and Monday. At this point, no racing between Aug 14 to Sept. 30, 2010.

Efforts are underway to challenge the cut and amount stated as cost per to regulate a live race day by ORC staff. More details will be made available as soon as possible.

UPDATE: The Michigan Gaming Control Board has come out with a slideshow outlining the changes in race dates for each track and the fiscal reasons for the announcement. For those of you too busy to peruse the presentation (though I suggest you do it anyway), it shows downward trend after downward trend in race dates, handle and governmental “give-a-damn” followed by an execution-style bullet to the back of the head in the form of massive cuts in race dates.

Here is the breakdown of the cutbacks by track…

Pinnacle Race Course
Before (Dates initially allotted): 84 days –  June 4 to September 30
After: 31 days – June 4 to August 13
Change: -53 days

Mount Pleasant Meadows
Before: 23 days – May 15 to September 25
After: 11 days – June 6 to August 29
Change: -12 days

Hazel Park Raceway
Before: 61 days – April 30 to August 6
After: 29 days – April 30 to September 18
Change: -32 days

Northville Downs
Before: 18 days – February 12 to April 24
After: 11 days – March 5 to March 27 (some dates have already been run)
Change: -7 days

Sports Creek Raceway

Sports Creek has already conducted all of its race dates for the 2010 fiscal year and will not be affected by the Gaming Control Board’s announcement.

Clearly, this is bad news, but Michigan has been in this spot before. That said, if this goes through as it was drawn up, it is hard to imagine this year being anything less than devastating to the state’s racing industry. Check back for updates as more information becomes known.


Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pinnacle Race Course, Politics