I’ve got all sorts of stories and photos from my recently concluded trip to Kentucky, but until I get everything sorted out, here is a rundown of happenings in the state during my absence.
– The Detroit News prominently featured a story about the decline of harness racing in Michigan and the ongoing investigation of race-fixing at the state’s tracks. Among those interviewed for the story, written by Francis X. Donnelly, are Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association president Brett Boyd, executive director Dan Rakieten and former deputy racing commissioner Tom Dorsey.
The story touches off on many of the key issues currently facing Michigan racing: expanded gaming, slashed race dates (though it strangely omits the part about the Gaming Control Board further cutting the dates to a single-digit number between four tracks) and the migration of the gambling dollar from the racetracks to casinos and the lottery. However, the most interesting, and hard-hitting, part of the story comes from its final paragraphs, which showcase the potential self-defeating prophecy behind the charity poker room at Northville Downs.
The track added the poker as a way to lure a younger generation to the racing. But the card players didn’t seem interested.
Except for glancing at one of the track TV screens, Mike Robinson has never seen a race. It didn’t look all that exciting, he said.
“I never thought about it,” the 32-year-old Dearborn resident said about becoming a racing fan. “It’s not as fun as poker.”
– The Detroit News reports Mount Pleasant-based lawyer John W. Parrott pleaded guilty in a Portland Ore. court last Thursday to “one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States using a fraudulent tax shelter via leasing Thoroughbred mares.” He faces up to five years in prison.
Parrott holds several high-ranking positions with GeoStar Corp., a former gas and oil exploration agency in Mt. Pleasant. Geostar was the parent company of ClassicStar LLC, which the Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun reports had operations in states including Michigan, Kentucky, Utah and Florida. The company’s “mare lease program” offered the opportunity to to invest in Thoroughbred breeding by leasing out mares to be bred. The program was sold by telling investors it would reduce or eliminate their income taxes, which resulted in a tax loss to the federal government of over $200 million. Aside from tax fraud, the Morning Sun also reports ClassicStar may have sold more shares of the lease program than it could actually support.
It appears this is far from the first time ClassicStar has found itself in court regarding its mare lease program, as the Blood-Horse reported on a similar case in 2007. Be sure to check out all three links for more details on this complicated situation.
– Pinnacle Race Course was ranked 68th, second to last, in the Horseplayers Association of North America’s 2010 Track Ratings. The ratings compare major Thoroughbred racetracks in North America by factors pertinent to horseplayers including takeouts, field size, variety of wagers and simulcast signal distribution. Pinnacle was assigned a “D-” grade by HANA, only better than Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Assiniboia Downs, which was given an “F”. Keeneland Race Course was awarded the highest grade of a “B+”. I intend to examine these ratings, and Pinnacle’s place among them, at a later date, but until then, here are the figures used by HANA to determine the rankings.