Five reasons why Michigan’s Thoroughbreds should look west

As of right now, the Thoroughbred racing business in the state of Michigan is an industry without a home track to call its own.

While the clock ticks down to the summer racing season, the state Attorney General’s office is taking its sweet time deliberating on whether Pinnacle Race Course is worthy of its conditional racing license. Meanwhile, any immediate alternative (Mount Pleasant Meadows, one of the state’s three harness tracks) will take time to build up into the kind of facility needed to host a meet of the Thoroughbreds’ caliber. Until a decision is made, it is difficult for the decision-makers in Michigan’s racing industry to pull the trigger on either option.

From this writer’s perspective, Pinnacle is at best a 50-50 proposition for opening its doors in 2011. The Detroit-area track closed down all of its operations at the end of last year’s meet under a mountain of debt from municipalities, tax collectors and simulcast providers. Even the track’s website has been offline for over a month, now. A recent story by Crain’s Detroit Business about a looming job-creation audit by Wayne County only heaps more on the pile.

Perhaps it is too soon to simply give up on Pinnacle as a long-term home for Thoroughbred racing, but with the track’s unstable past, present and future, it is not beyond the realm of possibility to consider an alternative.

On the Michigan-Bred Claimer Facebook page, I asked readers where they thought the 2011 Thoroughbred meet would be held, where they would like to see it held and where the long-term future of racing may rest. When presented with the options currently available, the conversation quickly shifted to building a new track in a centrally located area – Grand Rapids or Lansing. Looking at the current situation, it is not hard to agree.

Clearly, this idea is little more than a pipe dream. Pulling it off would mean convincing another wealthy investor that horse racing in Michigan is worth the risk, which at this point is admittedly a hard sell. This, along with a litany of other factors, would make the idea difficult-to-impossible. The following discussion is strictly hypothetical. However, if done correctly, a move west could help drastically improve the health of the state’s industry.

Another aspect discussed in the Facebook conversation was combining the breeds at said centrally located track. From an exposure standpoint, the harness tracks are doing just fine in Detroit. Keeping them there keeps the simulcast dollars flowing in their area. However, it would not be difficult to transition the Quarter Horses and Arabians to this imaginary track, as well.

Before I continue, I realize this plan flies in the face of my 3,000-word manifesto against the contraction of small tracks, effectively shuttering the two tracks I was trying to defend. Don’t worry, I have a plan.

Pinnacle and the proposed track cancel each other out, so there is no loss there. Mount Pleasant would be gutted with the loss of Quarter Horses and Arabians. However, the track represents the only pari-mutuel outpost in central and northern Michigan, so it is important to keep around. Plus, with the track suddenly much closer, there may be more interest to watch the races via simulcast in Mount Pleasant by those who can not make it to the live races every day, but want to play and keep tabs on the track.

To keep the simulcast going, the new track would split itself into a spring/summer and a fall meet, divided with a short mixed breed meet at Mount Pleasant to coincide with the Isabella County Fair. Mount Pleasant gets exposure at a time when the most patrons are on the property, the simulcast can stay open all year, and there is incentive to keep the track up to code to use as a training center. Damage is minimized and everybody wins.

Want to keep Pinnacle in the mix? Give Pinnacle and the new track each one of those meets, then either give Mount Pleasant back the mixed meet horses to run their usual schedule or keep the county fair plan. That way, Pinnacle can continue to stay in business, it gets some time off to ease the cost of hosting a live meet and perhaps it can finally work on finishing the “Phase Two” construction.

Both Grand Rapids and Lansing are viable and acceptable options for such a venture, but there are a few factors that make the state’s capital city particularly attractive in this scenario. To illustrate this, I have outlined five reasons why a move to Lansing might be in the best interest of flat racing in Michigan.

Keep in mind, this is not a call to shut down any track, but simply a scenario to consider in the wake of current events. It’s always better to have a plan than not.

The five reasons why Michigan should consider a racetrack in the Lansing area can be found behind the jump.

1. It’s Still an Urban Area

One of the big draws of moving to Detroit was supposed to be its location in the biggest urban area the state has to offer. More people should mean more money going through the windows. Moving from Muskegon, a town with less than 100,000 residents, the live handle has hardly improved at all in the long-term – definitely not in proportion to the population hike.

Here are the average per-day live handle figures for the last two years at Great Lakes Downs and the first two years at Pinnacle, according to the Michigan Office of Racing Commissioner/Gaming Control Board’s annual reports.

2006: $23,692.85
2007: $20,752.80
———- GLD closes, Pinnacle opens ———-
2008: $44,086.67
2009: $29,009.81

The first year’s daily live handle at Pinnacle doubled itself, but once the newness wears off, the number sinks back down to a hair above GLD levels. The 2010 figures are not yet available, but there is little to suggest the drop was an aberration.

Lansing is Michigan’s 5th largest city, with a population of around 115,000. If college students do not factor into that number, it jumps another few tens of thousands. Lansing is comparable in population size to Erie, Penn., home of Presque Isle Downs; pretty close to the Evansville, Ind./Henderson, Ky. area of Ellis Park and bigger than any city in West Virginia or Delaware. The city is plenty big enough to sustain a racetrack. If it is run correctly, the size of the host city is all but irrelevant (Within limitations, of course. A racetrack in the Upper Peninsula is probably too far away from civilization to be successful, but I could be wrong).

If anything, building in a mid-sized city could create a more intimate community atmosphere at the track. Build it on the edge of town headed toward Grand Rapids, the state’s second largest city, and it might even draw some fans from that region, as well. If it is marketed to them correctly, they will come.

2. The Territory is Less Hostile

There is little question that Pinnacle was built in the middle of a hornet’s nest. Two harness tracks reside in Detroit that more than likely don’t appreciate the new competition. Three casinos reside in Detroit that definitely don’t appreciate the new competition. Tribal casinos are trying to gain a foothold in the region, as well. All of that goes away with a move west.

The concentration of casinos is significantly lower in the Lansing area than Detroit. Aside from perhaps the FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek, no tribal casino has a legitimate complaint that a racetrack in the area would infringe on their turf. With so many gambling options in the state, the key to operating a successful gambling venture is finding out where gambling is not already at the saturation point and building there. That philosophy is magnified if and when it comes time to expand into a racino.

3. Proximity to Michigan State University

One of the biggest burning questions that plagues the racing industry is how to attract new, young fans. The easiest way to achieve this is to target those most likely to become fans and work outward from there.

Where in the state of Michigan is there a more concentrated population of young people interested in the agriculture and equine industries than the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing?

There are several directions to go with this. First, there is the obvious marketing angle. “College Days” are popular at tracks in university towns, and there are few things college students like more than cheap beer. If done correctly, there are plenty of ways to get the students to turn out.

Second, MSU is a campus filled with young people looking to pursue a career working with animals. There is doubtlessly a good number of able, educated students who would be willing to do grunt work on the backstretch for cheap. Even better, call it an internship and have them work for free. These students could very well be the next generation of Michigan horsemen. A strong relationship between the track and the school could someday even lead to the formation of a racetrack industry program, similar to that of the University of Arizona. A tie-in with MSU could mean some state money coming the track’s way, which never hurts.

Even better, students come to MSU from around the country. When they go home, they expose their friends and family to tales from the track, generating a wide network of buzz. Perhaps those friends and family don’t bother to make the trip to Lansing to see the races in person, but if the track should be playing on a screen in the corner of a simulcast hall on Derby day and they decide to give it a shot, that’s a few bucks Michigan didn’t have before.

4. Proximity to the State Capitol

Want to get the attention of the decision-makers in Lansing? Build a track in their backyard. An issue is harder to ignore if elected officials have to drive by it every morning. At the same time, contact between horsemen and elected officials would be easier than ever. With both groups in the same town, exposing your state congressman or congresswoman to horse racing would go from a full day’s investment driving to and from Detroit to a leisurely afternoon or evening just down the road. Plus, horsemen would have one less excuse to stave off visiting their politicians and speaking to them one-on-one. I’ve found members of Michigan’s racing industry have gotten better at this, but there is always room for improvement.

A move to the Lansing area could also help tip the dominoes toward a move back to the Department of Agriculture from its current home in the Michigan Gaming Control Board. Right now, Pinnacle is in a fairly convenient location for the Detroit-based Gaming Board, whose primary duty is oversight of the three downtown Detroit casinos. Moving a track with a long meet out of that bubble is one more straw on the “racing is not worth the trouble” camel’s back. Suddenly, the short drive from the Ag Department’s office looks like an easy way for the Gaming Board to shed a burden it probably didn’t want and for the racing industry to transition back to an office that better fits its needs and purposes.

5. Potential for Night Racing

By moving back to Detroit, Pinnacle made itself subject to Michigan’s “6:45 Rule”, prohibiting the track from conducting night cards without permission from the other two Detroit tracks. Here is the official language…

Unless a different agreement is reached by all the race meeting licensees in a city area, a race meeting licensee shall not conduct a live thoroughbred horse race after 6:45 p.m. on any day except Sunday. Unless a different agreement is reached by all the race meeting licensees in a city area, a race meeting licensee shall not conduct a live standardbred horse race before 6:45 p.m. on any day except Sunday. Notwithstanding the 6:45 p.m. time restrictions, the commissioner, upon request by a race meeting licensee, may grant to the race meeting licensee a race meeting license authorizing any of the following:

(a) The licensee to conduct live horse racing programs that would otherwise be prevented by the 6:45 p.m. time restriction, if no other race meeting in a city area is licensed or authorized to conduct live horse racing at the same time the licensee proposes to conduct the requested live horse racing programs.

(b) Waiver of the 6:45 p.m. time restriction pursuant to the written agreement of all race meeting licensees in the city area.

– Horse Racing Act of 1995 – Section 431.310

At Great Lakes Downs, weekday evening racing was the track’s bread and butter. It’s a proven method for smaller tracks. One only needs to look south to Indiana Downs, who not only runs live on weekday evenings, but schedules their biggest races early in the week. The competition for simulcast bucks is lighter, people with jobs are out of work for the day and connections at many other tracks are freed up on dark days, or at least done for the day at their home base. Indiana Downs broke its single-day handle record twice last year. Both were on Wednesdays. The successful movement toward night cards at Turfway Park and Churchill Downs only provides further evidence for the argument.

Since moving to Pinnacle, the track has had to go head-to-head with the nation’s marquee summer meets for the eye of the simulcast player. Judging by the number of tracks I have seen in my travels offering the Pinnacle signal (Very few. None in Kentucky or at Arlington Park), the track is not winning that battle. According to the Horseplayers Association of North America’s 2010 figures, Pinnacle earned a failing “E” in simulcast signal distribution.

Truthfully, it is hard to blame simulcast operations for not wanting to pick up Pinnacle’s signal. As much as I love racing in Michigan, there are probably over 10 Thoroughbred tracks that are more attractive from a betting standpoint on a Saturday afternoon in August (Let’s try this: Saratoga, Del Mar, Arlington, Ellis Park, Hoosier Park, Woodbine; arguably Presque Isle, Prairie Meadows and the two West Virginia tracks. That’s 10 right there). With a mid-to-low quality racing product, it is not hard to get lost in that shuffle. The track’s apparent troubles paying its simulcast bills does not help matters, either.

With no other tracks to object, moving to Lansing would free Michigan’s Thoroughbreds from the 6:45 rule. All of a sudden, the exact same racing product becomes a much more attractive simulcast option for tracks. Bigger handle means more money for the purse structure, which makes everyone better off.

No one knows how the situation in Michigan is going to shake out, but in the event that Pinnacle cannot continue, Lansing looks like an ideal spot to start over once again.


Filed under Commentary, Pinnacle Race Course

22 responses to “Five reasons why Michigan’s Thoroughbreds should look west

  1. Derek

    Always an interesting thought here on your blog! Don’t forget about the crazy Pontiac Silverdome track that was floated a few years back!! LOL

    My hopes are for a Thoroughbred meet somewhere this year…is that too much to ask? I’m saddened that we cant even work a deal to have a meet with the current uncertainty surrounding Pinnacle.
    Lansing would not be a “stretch” for a track. Lansing has a 100k population and a few fast growing counties around it. Change is certain to come to all breeds of racing in the next few years.

  2. Number one it is Jerry Campbell that can’t get the wheels turning. Bobby Barron was at the MGCB last Wednesday and was told they have to wait another 15 days because Campbell is trying to work some Investment deal out and didn’t know if his friend who has been an investor from the start is going to throw anymore of his money into Pinnacle.

    Second I totally disagree with moving the Thoroughbreds west. They belong in the Metro Detroit area. That is where the Horse Players want them and that is where the action will always remain. Personally I’d like to approach Gov. Snyder with the Idea of bringing T.B.s back to where it all started. The Fairgrounds.

    As of this moment 165 acres there are just sitting deserted, all buldings there are still viable. The Coliseum alone seats 5,600 people. Along with Horse Racing there I’d have concerts going. They could use some of the Revenue to bring back the State Fair at the end of August. A lot of events could take place simultaneously with Horse Racing throughout the year.

    Detroit would welcome even more revenue with open arms. I’d push for slots at the tracks and I believe if the T.B.s were back at the Fairgrounds I’d believe implementing further gaming to the Tracks would gain much needed support from Detroit that already houses 3 Casinos. The Race Track if a Racino would be the fourth source of Casino Revenue for the city.

    It would be a Win-Win-Win deal for not only the Thoroughbreds but the State & Detroit.

    As the saying goes whats old is new again. Governor Snyder said let’s RE-INVENT Michigan. I’d think putting the Thoroughbreds back into a Detroit Arena would be a start. I can’t think of one Horsemen that would object. The place would be packed and If they ever get the rail system in future going to carry people from Pontiac to Detroit. Even further packed.

    Western Michigan will never support a Horse Racing Track like the Horse Players from the Detroit & surrounding areas. This was our base at the start and this should remain our base for the future.

    I’d love to see Pinnacle go, get finished and fly. But if it can’t. Then I’d fight for The Fairgrounds with the propasals I sited.

  3. ragman

    You need to take a field trip on a Friday afternoon to Hazel Park. There you will see why being in the metro area is so important. Pinnacle is even a stretch to be classified as being in the metro area.
    Michigan State???? How many of your fellow students from CMU joined you for a afternoon at MPM?
    Does anyone know where they can still buy a Racing Form?

  4. mibredclaimer

    I’m still not entirely sure how the Silverdome plan was supposed to work. I can’t imagine the building is large enough to run inside, so they’d either have to knock it down, run around the circumference (which would be awesome for about a day, then get really old), or run somewhere else by the track and have the stadium for another purpose and share the parking lot, Meadowlands-style.

    The current situation is indeed frustrating. Hopefully we get SOMETHING settled out before it starts cutting into potential race days.

    I’ve never been to the Fairgrounds, so I will refrain from too much comment on its viability from a facilities standpoint. However, I have heard a lot of stories from people that don’t like that part of town at all. Are people going to want to venture into a part of Detroit where they feel less than secure to go to the races? Warranted or not, a stigma exists, and those can be hard to break. Churchill Downs isn’t in a great part of Louisville, but the track was there first, so tradition brings the people in. I worry people may not make the same trip for something less established.

    Also, it appears Wayne County is chomping at the bit to tear Pinnacle a new one. After all the tension between the track and the county, I wonder if Wayne County is going to be interested in getting back in the horse racing saddle so quickly.

    I don’t know the answer to this, but I wonder what the legal ramifications would be for building a casino on a state fairgrounds? The non-tribal casinos work very closely with the state, and the lottery is run by the state, so there is a quasi-precedent, but I can see someone out there raising a stink about a casino on state property.

    I have admittedly never been to Hazel Park. One of these days, I’m going to have to get down there.

    The big difference between Michigan State and Central Michigan is that MSU has a major focus on animal science and veterinary programs, where CMU does not. Just look at all the well-attended horse-centric events MSU hosts every year – the horse expo, the Spartan Stampede rodeo (not to mention the school’s rodeo team), various horse shows, etc.. People with an interest in animals/horses pay to go to MSU to learn more about them, and outsiders congregate there to do industry activities. Building a track in the Lansing area would only give them another chance to hone their craft and geek out. Because CMU doesn’t offer any programs or events in that vein, you don’t see as many students who might care about horses. Instead, they get psyched about a Ke$ha concert. Sometimes I wonder if I went to the wrong school…

  5. averagebear

    About a decade ago hazel park was running 140 days a year harness and now they’ve got what 50? They have the excess capacity and I think there is local interest to run a meet for ‘runners.’

    Harness on its own is hard for most people to understand. The first time someone goes to hazel they don’t understand things like ‘gait’ or the breeding history of the standardbred. Most people think harness horses can be any old nag. They don’t think its prestegious and see it as kind of second rate.

    A thoroughbred meet at hazel park would benefit because there’s already an established customer base and most of these people haven’t seen runners since ladbroke liquidated DRC. They could run thoroughbreds from the beginning of April to the beginning of July and then have harness from the middle of july to the end of october. MPM could run three days a week from July to the middle of october. I mean i never had classon fridays. I could have went to the track.

  6. Average Bear

    Been there done that in that Bull Ring.

    The Horsemen had rathered to go clear across the state to Muskegon at the end of 1998 than to go back to Hazel Park. They don’t even have a barn area to accommodate Thoroughbreds. And if the MIHBPA want to continue paying to build race tracks they might as well stay at Pinnacle. Because that was Hartman & Tyner’s view in 1998 to the T.B. Horsemen.

    They wanted us to re-build their barn area and we said screw that.

    Hazel Park got their license pulled to have that Charity Casino there. It was shut down. You want a little and I mean just a little history on these crooks read up.

    I find it amazing that Hartman & Tyner went into partnership with Ladbroke on Canterbury Downs in 1990.

    Michigan investors Herbert Tyner and Bernard Hartman bought all the debt for $12 million. And they finished the deal by forming a partnership with Ladbroke–which owns three U.S. tracks and controls more than 25% of the off-track betting market in the United Kingdom.

    And all of us know what happened to that Minnesota Track. Yet Ladbroke wasn’t able to bulldoze the place because they didn’t own the land Canterbury sat on. Something they were able to achieve with DRC.

    Canterbury was sold as a Race Track to the Minnesota Horsemen.

    Michigan to start with had no business letting H.P. own two tracks, when the State finally years later said they couldn’t they had already made a dump out of DRC. Then Ladbroke outbids the Horsemen, but did they?

    And did Hartmen & Tyner own a piece of DRC’s land? I wonder.

    But since Ladbroke was their buddies, if you don’t think they didn’t spend every ounce of their effort and in reality Ladbroke loved doing it. All reveled in the destruction of DRC. One less Track and piece of competition for Hazel park. You kidding yourself.

    The hell with Hartmen, Tyner, and their pin up boy Dan Adkins. I would rather cease to race than go back to H.P. and the crooks that probably had a hand directly in the destroying of DRC.

    And Joe, I know 8 mile & Woodward isn’t exactly the safest area of town. But in these days what area is? They’ve had more murders, shop liftings, car jackings at Schoolcraft & Middlebelt since they did bulldoze DRC and replaced it with a Meijers. You just don’t hear about it every time a Livonia squad car shows up there. ASK THE LIVONIA POLICE DEPT.

    On the State Fair Grounds Land. You’re going to love this.

    Hudson sold the land to the Michigan State Agricultural Society for one dollar on April 18, 1905.

    In 1904, Joseph L. Hudson, together with three of his associates, decided to give the State Fair its permanent home. They formed the State Fair Land Company, which acquired 135 acres (0.55 km2) between 7½ and 8 Mile Roads, east of Woodward Avenue. Because Hudson had no interest in running the fair, he sold the land to the Michigan State Agricultural Society for one dollar on April 18, 1905. The Agricultural Society accepted the land then purchased an additional 32 acres (130,000 m2), extending the fairgrounds to 167 acres (0.68 km2). Throughout the following years, additional land was purchased and sold. The present size of the fairgrounds is 164 acres (0.66 km2).

    Horse Racing was under Agriculture until Granholm decided to dissolve the ORC and place us under Gaming. If you don’t think that Agriculture doesn’t want us placed back under them. Think Again. They would fight along side the Horsemen to get the T.B.s back at The Fairgrounds.

    But reality is Michigan gave the State Fairgrounds to Detroit.

    September 23, 2010 5:01 PM
    State to give 160-acre fairgrounds site to city of Detroit

    ( From Article Above ) And The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority voted against taking over the Michigan State Fairgrounds as a metropark.

    So Detroit still owns the State Fairgrounds.

    If Michigan gets a brain and gives the tracks what so many other States around us have done and give them full blown gaming. It benefits ALL. Including Agriculture: The reason why that Fair was put into place to begin with.

    The first official Michigan State Fair was held in 1849, which is claimed by the state of Michigan to be the oldest state fair in the United States. The first fair was held in Detroit, Michigan. Subsequent fairs were held in other cities until it received its permanent home in 1905 at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit.

    It has endured as an institution in Michigan agriculture because it has served an important purpose and played an interesting and useful role for more than one-and-a-half centuries.

    I’m sure if those grounds were turned back into a Race Track and they were to get Gaming as in a RACINO. I guarantee there would be ample security and police in and around the facility.

    Understand something nobody has fought harder than Robert Ficano for Pinnacle. It is the Harness Tracks and Detroit Casino Political $$$ to lobbyists that are trying their damndest to slaughter Pinnacle.

    And Jerry Campbell himself can take a lot of the blame. He likes to play games with everybody and I mean everybody. Elke Doom of Huron Twp.. doesn’t even know what the hell is going on at Pinnacle. Campbell will not talk to Huron Township. Everybody has had it with this man.

    The HBPA are fighting everyone. Track, State, Harness & Detroit Casinos.

    I want Pinnacle to be a go, but not like it’s been. Stable area doesn’t even have a bathroom or Track Kitchen for the barn area workers and it is appalling.

    At some point logical thinking has to kick in. And I think from all perspectives The Fairgrounds is our best bet. But my proposal to Detroit would be id the T.B.s go back there. They must support the Race Tracks efforts to get Slots. Like I stated why wouldn’t they. It would be the fourth source of Casino Revenue for them, but in the form of a Racino.

    I don’t know I was born and raised in Detroit. I go down by the Riverfront all summer long, so going to 8 mile & Woodward isn’t a big deal to me.

    If a venue such as a Race Track or Racino. I think they’d make the area secure. Who Knows?


    Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum (also Hockeytown State Fair Coliseum) is a 5,600-seat multi-purpose arena in Detroit, Michigan. It is home to the Wayne State University Warriors ice hockey team. The arena was also host to the 2006 men’s and women’s College Hockey America conference tournament. Wayne State played its first collegiate hockey season in 1999 at the arena following the coliseum’s renovation. Wayne State played its next three seasons at the Great Lakes Sports City Superior Arena in Fraser and then two seasons at the Compuware Sports Arena in Plymouth before returning to the Coliseum in 2005.

    Between early 1999 and mid 2000, the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum was the site of three different Extreme Championship Wrestling house shows.

    In 2006 the Royal Oak-Shrine Catholic High School Knights ice hockey team began playing at the State Fairgrounds Coliseum. The team left in 2007 and is returning for the start of the 2008-2009 season for their first varsity season.

    To this day still very viable.

    A lot of things could be going on that 166 acres along with Horse Racing.

  8. ragman

    A year and a half ago someone I know was playing poker at HP every night. Now every night he is at HP playing the trots on simulcast and said that they couldn’t even get enough poker players for a game anymore. Maybe the business just dried up.

  9. averagebear


    i’ve heard worse stories about corruption at HP than just the card room. Didn’t they pay street tax to the Giacolone family back about the time Stevie Cauthen stopped in to ride a race? Most institutions in the inner ring suburbs are corrupt along with institutions in detroit. you get used to it.

    One thing the fair grounds might face, if a race track is put there, would be opposition from Palmer Woods residents. Remember when the niederlanders wanted to put auto racing there just a few times a summer and the residents went nuts?

    Investing any money in detroit property right now might be more risky than usual if Bing gets what he wants with the forced migrations he’s proposing. Some versions of his plan have called for a green belt in that area. The state fair’s position on a train line might also find it zoned for manufacturing. The only good thing might be that its close to the proposed light rail.

    I agree with giving the tracks slots (and tables) The oligopoly we have now in detroit and the native cartel we have in the outstate areas restrict competition far too much. Take-outs need to fall. Its just that the tracks have made half-harted attempts to sell the idea of legalizing slots.

    What they need to do is write an omnibus gambling amendment. The first article should mandate complete payment of lottery jackpots and protect them from income tax. Article 2 can give slots to the tracks. The racing would have to advertise article one and never mention article 2. Article 1 is a moral issue most people will relate with. The lottery is already a funding mechanism for government so it does not need to be taxed. Sell that idea, and let slots at the track tag along with it. Never mention that part. Racinos cause NIMBY recations in most surbanites so its a hard sell from the beginning.

  10. And I heard on the contrary ( through a HBPA member from a T.B. Horsemen that went there ) the place was packed at all times. The players didn’t dry up, the $$$ did. Please go back and read the first link I posted.

    But I will find out what infact happened and who or why it was shut down.

    And this is just one comment as recent as January 25th, 2010.

    vandl says:
    January 25, 2010 at 1:43 pm
    Great room w/ great turn out @ tourneys. full menu w/ $1 hotdogs / free soft drinks and coffee

    VA:F [1.9.7_1111]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)Reply

    See Danny boys explanation on his twitter account.

    This next link probably describes Hazel Park to a Tee.

    Ace Gaming Supply’s ran H.P., still runs NVDs & Trippers in Lansing. But Hazel Park gets shut down?
    That’s because somebody SHUT THEM DOWN.

    Danny boy say’s they’re exploring other poker room options and say’s Tracks should be given Commercial Poker rooms.

    There’s your story. H.P. didn’t feel like they were making enough.

    @mardigrasboss Why did Hazel Park Raceway’s Poker Room get closed down? about 21 hours ago via web in reply to mardigrasboss
    His response on his Twitter Account ( from the Mardi Gras Casino Link ) was @HazelParkCronie We are exploring options for poker. Fact is, the tracks should be permitted commercial poker. We may reopen soon. about 3 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone in reply to HazelParkCronie

    H.P. didn’t close it down because of lack of players, the State might of or the crooks didn’t feel they were making enough $$$. Hartmen, Tyner & Adkins are nothing but crooks, that’s why the dummy Corporation:

    vandl says:
    January 25, 2010 at 1:43 pm
    Great room w/ great turn out @ tourneys. full menu w/ $1 hotdogs / free soft drinks and coffee

    VA:F [1.9.7_1111]

    Doesn’t sound like there was a lack of players. Other links say the same. Always packed.

  11. Player1990

    Doesn’t matter where a new track is at or if it trades days with Pinnacle. If the sport is not promoted and advertised (like Pinnacle wasn’t) it’s not going to be successful. A business doesn’t get profitable by only cutting expenditures. It has to advertise, market, and promote.

    It can be argued that the current business model for racing is broken – but in Pinnacle’s case even that wasn’t followed. I know cutting live racing to two days a week hurts – so what was done about it ? Nothing. It’s like going into the boxing ring and laying down. No promotion, no marketing, nothing.

    It takes money to make money.

  12. Average Bear

    Tony Zerilli

    In 1949, Tony became president of the Hazel Park Racing Association and Track in Hazel Park, Michigan. Tony purchased a controlling interest in the operation for $50,000. Over the next twenty-three years, Hazel Park produced an estimated $15,000,000 a year in revenue, netting an annual profit of $1,200,000 for its investors. Although listed as the number one man in the Hazel Park operation, Tony is thought to have deferred to Jack in business dealings. Hazel Park was such a success that in August 1970 Tony, Jack, and Dominic “Fats” Corrado decided to build another race track. The three men invested $2,500,000 in 280 acres (1.1 km2) of land in Hollywood, Florida, for the construction of a second racing complex. However, the second project, to be called Hazel Park South, was cancelled when Tony ran into legal problems in Las Vegas. Tony’s legal difficulties not only canceled Hazel Park South, but in 1972 forced him and his partners to sell the original Hazel Park Complex in Michigan. Upon the sale of Hazel Park, Zerilli made $780,000 from his 92,634 shares.

    Tony Zerelli was a made man. He had his own crew. And let me tell you something else the Mafia were the best owners that Race Track ever had. Nothing was a dump when they had it. It was ran with some class. Crooked, but classy.


    How so right you are and that was the very first question posed at the July 2010 General Membership meeting by me to Lisa Campbell.

    Why no Promotion of opening day June 5th or for that fact Rachel Alexandra & Zenyatta weekend?

    She didn’t even have to answer because Trainer James Jackson started hollering at the top of his lungs, are we here to just let anybody come here and raise hell or are we here to talk about Horsemen’s Business?

    Well this anybody started at DRC in 1976. And I would think since it was the HBPA as in HORSEMEN’S $$$ funding the damn meet and track that the question was about Horsemen’s business.

    Yet she stood there at the end ( Campbell’s are broke mind you ??? ) but had the nerve to stand there and State I’ve just bred 26 mares.

    And the Horsemen sat there like zombies not saying one single word. Too broke to fund their Track, but not too broke to breed 26 mares. The big bad bouncer who likes to hear the sound of his own voice played suck up to the Owner of Pinnacle. But what did it gain for the Horsemen?

    After the meeting it was only then that 15 people came up to me and said you were right, and I replied I didn’t see or hear anybody having my back so save it.

  13. ragman

    If you keep digging I think you will find that James Bellanca was the brain behind the Hazel Park operation from the start and may have owned a majority of the shares.

  14. Now, I am not all that familiar with the politics of MI racing, but my understanding is Hazel Park would welcome a thoroughbred meet. Hopefully, Pinnacle will be allowed to open. but the reality is no one in their right mind or a brand new vision of racing as being part of an entertainment center is going to build a track anywhere in Michigan without slots. You can aim for your own track, but a track willing to host you should not be ignored, provided the deal is mutually beneficial.

  15. ragman

    Where did you get the idea that HP would welcome a thoroughbred meet. Dan Adkins their decision-maker resides in Florida near their Casino/dogtrack and trys to live the life of a rockstar. He is little motivated to spend time in Michigan.
    Plus…He has already spent many $$$$ constructing a building to house slots that never came and then funding a ballot petition last year that never really got off the ground to try obtain slots for racetracks. So my guess is he wouldn’t risk the money required to make HP into a thoroughbred ready track.
    As far as politics goes rember last year when Christie in NJ was hailed as “The Man” when he kicked up purse money at Monmouth and raced on weekends. He saved racing in NJ. What did he do last week? Vetoed an Internet Gambling bill that would have provided purse money for the tracks with the comment that the tracks would have to survive on their own without state money. If our new Guv, Rick Snyder was confronted with a racing/gambling decision he might very well seek advice from Christie.
    We may be doomed.

  16. Don

    Pinnacle will be here for a long long time. Any place in MI during the past 3 years would have ended up in the same position. Do not forget that we are still climbing out of the worst recession since the 40’s. How much money will be wagered when you cannot afford to buy food. Huron Township is the perfect place for this track. Near the airport and major populated areas. Now that the Indians have a stake, watch to see what I say is true.

  17. Don,

    The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians are fighting among themselves. They voted the first deal down and with good reason. Ted Gatzaros was involved and who originally burnt them with Greektown.

    This Tribes board is as crooked as they come and the members are not going to allow this to happen again with their money. They are already apprehensive about this second deal.

    They can’t come together anymore than the Horsemen can.

  18. ThePaleHorse

    To preface this, I live about 10 mins from Pinnacle and really want that place to succeed. Although, I see the problems and I see why the outlook is bleak.

    I know this goes against what I want, and adds to the argument for a Lansing track, but you did fail to mention the School of Hospitality at MSU. I am an ’09 graduate of the school (yes, I am a young racing fan) and I really think that the students in the School of Hospitality could add to the track since it is one of the top hospitality schools in the nation.

    Just thought I would throw that out there.

    Now back to learning about the history of racing in metro Detroit!! ahaha

  19. Otis

    For those of you who are clamoring for “alternative gaming” and thinking it’s the saviour of racing, you should check out this Steve Crist article from the DRF:

    And, before you go pointing towards the success of racinos in Iowa, Indiana, and Pennsylvania remember this. Harrah’s owns a dog track in Iowa and is offering to stop racing in lieu of giving back a bigger chunk of slots revenue to the State. There have been rumors of late that Indiana and Penn governments are looking at using the slots racing subsidy to cover shortfalls in their general funds.

    In my opinion, I don’t see how slots can help racing over the long term. If I’m a business owner and I produce two products and one product makes money, and that money must be used to support product #2, I will stop producing product #2.

    What I’m saying is this, the racing leadership in this State should be looking at ways to grow the handle through actual wagering and not a slot machine subsidy.

  20. Otis,

    Right on! This is the same thing I tell my standardbred friends. Fix the product and you won’t need slots.

  21. ragman

    Otis, Pacinguy
    I agree.
    It’ll soon be April and it won’t even matter to racing fans whether Pinnacle opens or not. How could anyone make such a feeble attempt at running a racetrack?

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