Monthly Archives: July 2011

Opening day 2011 at Mount Pleasant Meadows

Opening day at Mount Pleasant Meadows was the climax of a roller coaster year for the central Michigan track. Porsche Pink is led to the winner's circle with Nate Alcala aboard.

On the track’s Aug. 1 closing day last year, the idea of Mount Pleasant Meadows hosting Michigan’s lone Thoroughbred meet seemed outlandish.

A lot can happen in a year.

The central Michigan racetrack’s July 24 opening day was last stop of a roller coaster offseason that included the shuttering of Pinnacle Race Course and months of “Will they? Won’t they?” tension as the state, the track and the horsemen all worked to get on the same page.

The pressure went down to the wire, as the Michigan Gaming Control Board balked on approving Mount Pleasant’s live meet until just days before it was scheduled to commence. Once the paperwork got signed, the gears got turning – and with little time to spare, they got turning fast.

Since Mount Pleasant called it a meet last year, I have been to more racetracks around the country than I can count on two hands. At no point was I more genuinely excited for a day of racing than I was for this year’s opening day.

By the time the horses came over for the first race, I could hardly contain my giddiness, and it lasted throughout the card. The tension that built up with every event that made it look like the place would never host another race had finally come uncoiled. This feeling could have also been due in no small part to mild dehydration, but it was still pretty amazing, nonetheless.

I have been watching and playing the races at Mount Pleasant for years, but for the first time since I first picked up a program, I had absolutely no idea how the races were going to shake out. Would the native horses and riders have a home-track advantage until the new ones figured out the four furlong bullring? Would class prevail regardless of the racing surface? Would horses and bloodlines that succeeded at five-furlong Great Lakes Downs recapture the magic? Would the horses bred for Pinnacle be able to adapt? As it turns out, the answer for just about all of these questions was “yes.” Every bettor on the grounds was on a level playing field, and it was an exciting time.

The best thing about opening day was, without a doubt, getting to see everyone in the same place – Thoroughbred people, Quarter Horse people, Arabian people and other fellow racing enthusiasts. Mount Pleasant is a very communal track, and that spirit was not lost on its new residents. I was glad to see this.

The crowd was robust – easily double the average attendance, if not more. I have never been good at eyeball estimating a crowd, so whenever I want to gauge the attendance at Mount Pleasant, I look out at the parking lot. On a normal day, the cars usually make two rows. On this day, they made four very long rows. It was kind of beautiful.

But enough talk, lets look at some pictures…

Continue reading

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pictures, Racetrack Visits

My new gig

For those who have not yet heard the news, I am starting on as a staff writer for Thoroughbred Times on August 8.

Dating back to my internship with Thoroughbred Times in the summer of 2008, my goal has been to get back with the publication in some capacity. Over that time, I have appeared in the magazine, website and daily publications in a freelance role at some of the sport’s biggest events.

If one got right down to the nuts and bolts of it all, my time with Thoroughbred Times was largely responsible for the birth of The Michigan-Bred Claimer. I did not want to start a racing blog until I had the right kind of momentum behind my name to make it stand out from the pack. An internship with Thoroughbred Times provided just that.

So, what does this announcement mean for this site? Honestly, I don’t know.

The job will require a move to Lexington, Ky., which means that coverage of racing in Michigan will become nearly impossible to pull off, especially on top of all the responsibilities of working for a leading Thoroughbred publication. Considering all the recent goings on at Mount Pleasant Meadows, this is a pretty considerable bummer, but opportunities like this are too rare to pass.

I have been asked if I would ever pass the title of “Michigan-Bred Claimer” on to someone else to carry on the coverage of the state’s racing industry. Quite frankly, I have spent so much time building the brand and its reputation that I’d prefer to hang on to the name for possible future use. This is not to deter anyone else from picking up the torch and providing the coverage Michigan desperately needs, in fact I encourage it, but if you use the “Michigan-Bred Claimer” name, I will find you…

Regardless of what happens to this blog, readers will still get to read my often off-kilter thoughts on racing in the pages of Arabian Finish Line. Because the publication covers a different breed of horse from Thoroughbred Times, the “Making Claims” column will live on.

Anyway, that’s what’s new and exciting around here. This development more than likely would have never happened without everyone who has read, commented, promoted and otherwise helped make The Michigan-Bred Claimer a rousing success in drawing attention to what I have to offer, and more importantly, what Michigan racing has to offer.

So many people in Michigan’s racing industry have been vital in helping me get to this point – from the horsemen’s organizations, racetrack personnel, owners, breeders, trainers and anyone else that was ever nice enough to accept an interview request, to the people on the track for not punching me when I shove a camera in their faces.

In particular, an enormous debt of gratitude is owed to Rick McCune, who has been one of my biggest teachers and supporters in this business. Simply put, if not for Rick, I would probably still be one of those kids who spends more time running races on the apron than watching the actual races on the track. There is no way I am here writing this post about this subject without his guidance, and for that, I can’t thank him enough.

A plethora of thanks also goes out to all of the publications who took me on as a freelancer and allowed me to expand my career to new levels. It was a thrill opening the mailbox every day and seeing my work appear in a different magazine, including Arabian Finish Line, Midwest Thoroughbred, Louisiana Horse and online at Thorofan.com.

Even if the end is near, this isn’t it for the blog just yet. I still have some time in Michigan, and as the last year has proven, there is never a dull moment in this state. Without a doubt, that experience will make me even better on my next stop.

I look forward to getting started on my new gig.

 

UPDATE: From the Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association website…

Joe Nevills, creator of the MI Bred Claimer Blog and member of MTOBA, will be leaving Michigan to take a position as staff writer for the Thoroughbred Times.  He begins this next phase of his career on August 8th in Lexington, KY.  A farewell party will be happening at Mt. Pleasant Meadows this Sunday, July 31st.  All are invited.  The MTOBA Board sends their congratulations and will all look forward to following  Joe’s stories in the Thoroughbred Times.  We will miss you Joe but we are oh so proud to have our own Michigan Bred son make it to the big leagues in Kentucky!

13 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

It’s On: Mount Pleasant Meadows approved for 2011 meet

After almost a year of uncertainty, Mount Pleasant Meadows will kick off its 2011 live meet this weekend.

Mount Pleasant Meadows has met the requirements set by the Michigan Gaming Control Board and will conduct a live meet in 2011.

The announcement was made Wednesday afternoon, before the races drew for the Sunday, July 24 opening card. Saturday’s races were canceled after entries were ordered by the state to cease Tuesday morning.

To make up for the cancelled day, some of the races from Saturday’s card were combined with Sunday’s to produce the opening program. A total of 82 horses were entered in the day’s 12 races – 11 Thoroughbred and one Quarter Horse.

Here is the revised schedule from the Michigan HBPA website…

Sunday Post Time 1pm

2011 Amended race dates:
Sunday July 24 and 31
Sunday August 14 (County Fair no racing 6th, 7th  or 13th)
Saturday August 20 and Sunday August 21
Saturday August 27 and Sunday August 28
Saturday Sept. 3, Sunday Sept. 4 and Monday Sept. 5
Saturday Sept. 10, Sunday Sept. 11
Saturday Sept. 17, Sunday Sept. 18
Saturday Sept. 24, Sunday Sept. 25
Saturday Oct. 1, Sunday Oct. 2
Saturday Oct. 8, Sunday Oct. 9
Saturday Oct. 15, Sunday 16
Friday Oct. 21, Saturday Oct. 22 and Sunday October 23
Friday Oct. 28, Saturday Oct. 29 and Sunday October 30

 An updated condition book will be posted as soon as it is made available.

One of the major stalling points in the process of getting approved by the state was the use of purse pool funds to offset operating expenses. To alleviate the problem, the track will charge a $400-per horse, per-entry starter fee. The fee is refunded if the horse does not start.

The Michigan HBPA will cover the ship-in costs for the first 200 Thoroughbreds to ship-in during the meet. Mount Pleasant has 55 ship-in stalls.

To read the Gaming Control Board’s executive order regarding Mount Pleasant Meadows, click here.

23 Comments

Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows

Michigan Gaming Control Board issues statement on Mount Pleasant Meadows

From the Michigan HBPA website…

MGCB ISSUES DECISION TO YESTERDAY’S ATTENDEES, rec’d at 4:19pm July 15, 2011:

“Gentlemen,

Based upon our discussion yesterday, there exist some outstanding matters that need resolution prior to any live racing at Mt. Pleasant Meadows.

Foremost, as discussed, the outstanding breakage needs to be paid and all aspects of the race meet application that require modification need to be amended, including details of capital improvements as discussed in our meeting.

The legality of the use of the purse pool to fund track operations was brought up last year by the HBPA and the MGCB was asked to look into the matter. In doing so, the advice from the Attorney General’s office was that purse pool funds could not be used for track operations, thus the purse pool order was issued earlier this year. Additionally, audits of the purse pool were conducted to further identify its usage.

Based upon review and internal discussion of the information from yesterday’s meeting and contracts recently provided between the associations and the track, the contracts denote that the purse pool remains to be used to fund operations through the use of assessments. Although this may have been prior practice by the tracks, it is by no way an “industry standard” and based upon advise from the Attorney General’s office we cannot find it to be a viable use of the purse pool funds. The track must find alternative methods to fund operations outside of deriving money from the purse pool, even if indirectly through a horsemen’s account. The MGCB is not opposed to the use of fees prior to a race, such as a starter fee, which are not derived from the purse pool.

Until the aforementioned information is addressed and we are provided contracts which adhere to the racing act and purse pool order, live racing cannot commerce at Mt. Pleasant Meadows.”

Thank You
Erik Pedersen, Deputy Director
Division of Horse Racing, Audit & Gaming Technology

With a week to go before Mount Pleasant’s scheduled opening day, and just days before the races draw, this is not promising news. One can only hope the situation is promptly rectified and racing in Michigan can finally get off the ground as planned.

UPDATE: The Michigan HBPA has put out a response to the Gaming Control Board’s ruling…

MT PLEASANT MEADOWS: Efforts are currently underway to address and comply with ALL request made in Erik Pedersen’s letter.

The MI-HBPA, GLQHA and MPM are amending contracts to meet requirements to permit entries to be taken Tues. and continue for plans for opening day Saturday July 23, 2011. A meeting is scheduled for Sat. and the MGCB will be available as the process continues.

Information will be updated ASAP.

1 Comment

Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows, Politics

Mount Pleasant Meadows releases first 2011 condition book

The groundwork for Mount Pleasant Meadows’ upcoming meet was revealed Wednesday when the track released its first condition book.

Aside from laying out the conditions from Mount Pleasant’s opening day on July 23 to Aug. 24, the document provides an interesting preview of what to expect during what will be an unprecedented meet.

Thoroughbred races will make up the bulk of the cards. The claiming ranks will range from $2,500 to $8,000, along with allowance and starter allowance contests. No stakes races are listed for any breed.

Mount Pleasant’s Thoroughbred purse structure will be regionally competitive, and even better than some tracks in surrounding states. For example, here is how Mount Pleasant will stack up against other regional tracks running at the same time at the open maiden special weight class…

Presque Isle Downs* – $39,000 (Plus up to 30% PA-Bred bonus)
Hoosier Park* – $35,000 (Plus 40% State-bred Supplement)
Arlington Park – $28,000 (Plus $10,080 Illinois Registered Owner Award for ICF)
Mountaineer* – $17,600
Mount Pleasant Meadows – $10,000 (Plus $2,080 for T.A.F)
Thistledown – $7,200 (Plus $5,000 if winner is OH-bred)
River Downs – $6,400 (Plus $5,000 if winner is OH-bred)
Fairmount Park –  $5,600 (Plus $2,016 Illinois Registered Owner Award)

(Purse information gathered from condition books or entries available on Equibase or track websites)
*Tracks with expanded gaming or “Racinos”. 

The meet’s first half will be heavy on sprint races. A vast majority of the Thoroughbred races written in the first book are carded between two and six furlongs, with races at a mile or longer dispensed sparingly. However, because of the track’s four-furlong oval setup, featuring a six-furlong chute, any race contested at four furlongs or longer will include at least two turns.

Quarter Horse, Paint Horse and Arabian races will fill out the remainder of the cards. Purses appear consistent across the breeds and classes, with a base of $3,000 plus up to an additional $2,333 from other sources.

The track, and Michigan’s racing industry, still await a final endorsement by the Michigan Gaming Control Board before the meet is set in stone. Until then, the track continues to prepare for the live meet as scheduled.

If all goes to plan, Mount Pleasant Meadows is expected to race Saturdays and Sundays from July 23 to Oct. 30. A few three-day weeks are being planned for the second half of the meet to make up for the dates lost to the Isabella County Fair in early August.

To download the condition book, click here.

UPDATE: There have been some tweaks made to the condition book to account for actions taken by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. The above version is no longer current. For an updated version of Mount Pleasant’s condition book, please contact the track or the Michigan HBPA.

5 Comments

Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows

Michigan Thoroughbred live meet contract moves to Gaming Control Board

The Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and Mount Pleasant Meadows have reached an agreement on a live Thoroughbred meet for 2011 and sent the contract to the Michigan Gaming Control Board for approval.

From the Michigan HBPA website…

MT. PLEASANT MEADOWS: The contract between the HBPA and Mt. Pleasant Meadows has been signed and sent to the MGCB for review and approval of the assessment fee and additional race dates. In addition, the contract requires a policy to cover jockeys, efforts are underway to secure a policy prior to opening day.

Race dates: 30 days starting July 23, 2011 – October 30,2011, Saturday and Sunday

Stewards are available Wednesday and Sunday mornings for clocking and licenses.

Condition Book will be available soon.

The meet’s 30-day schedule was leaked a few weeks ago, but this is the first time the HBPA has come out with a statement on its website regarding the details of the proposed meet.

Once the contract passes the state’s final hurdle, the meet ought to become official. Details on the meet’s schedule, including first post times and whether or not races will be run during the Isabella County Fair (Aug. 6-14) should be made available at that point.

As always, keep it here for further updates.

5 Comments

Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows

Preaking Out – Part 1: The Beginning

The days of Lookin At Lucky's colors adorning the Pimlico Race Course weather vane were numbered in the days prior to the Preakness Stakes.

If “The Hangover” series of films taught the world anything, it’s that the best parties are the ones that take weeks to get your life back together afterward.

As arguably the biggest party on the racing calendar, the events surrounding the 2011 Preakness Stakes could definitely find themselves in that conversation.

This is the excuse I’m going with to explain my dithering in writing my Preakness weekend retrospective. When you’re running with the Wolfpack, there isn’t always time to write.

It took a grand total of 17 hours on the road to get from Michigan to Baltimore, factoring in a detour to Lexington to carpool the rest of the way with Thoroughbred Times editor Ed DeRosa. I was working as something of a utility man for the publication during the Preakness and the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale that followed.

After a trip through eastern Kentucky, West Virginia (which reminds me of Montana if everyone was really into pollution) and western Maryland, we arrived in Baltimore a few hours before the Preakness post position draw.

This trip marked my first visit to Pimlico Race Course, and Maryland in general, so the track layout was uncharted territory on my internal map. Fortunately, the first sight that fell before me as I walked on the property was the Preakness stakes barn. All of the horses shipping in to run in the Preakness were under one roof. After spending the aftermath of last year’s Kentucky Derby roaming Churchill Downs’ expansive backstretch seeking quotes from connections, a barn like this was a boon for a lazy journalist such as myself. What a beautiful building it was.

The plant itself was not quite as beautiful. Pimlico has typically gotten a bad rap for not aging well, and it is not entirely unwarranted. The facilities had definitely seen better days, even after the obligatory “Preakness Cleanup”.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of this was the media elevator, which used technology that probably pre-dated anyone on the grounds. It didn’t smell the best, either, but employees seemed to blame a fresh coat of paint for that. Personally, I have never experienced a paint with that particular odor, but it made me feel sorry for the elevator attendant.

The elevator led to the press box on the top floor. More so than Churchill Downs or Keeneland Race Course (I haven’t worked in a lot of press boxes, okay?), the Pimlico box is the closest I have come to what the average person might imagine a racetrack press box to be – rows upon rows of desks pointing toward nothing in particular, where everybody is within shouting distance and nothing is shiny. If one removed the HDTVs from the walls and replaced the laptops with typewriters, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to assume the reporters were covering a race decades ago instead of in the present day.

Initially, I was a little turned off by the press box. Mind you, I am a small track guy, so it was not that it wasn’t “nice” enough. Where I come from, we don’t even have press boxes. I was just underwhelmed for a track hosting one of the world’s most important races. However, once I figured out what parts of the desks to avoid, lest I get splinters, I eventually learned to embrace the Pimlico media room. By the end of the weekend, I even grew to like it a bit. Further proof that I should never trust my first impression on anything.

Prior to the Preakness draw, I headed back to the stakes barn to film any potential contenders that should arrive as they exit their trailers. The best I could find was the trailer of D. Wayne Lukas, who had fringe contender Saratoga Red. Barring some kind of major surprise, the horse wasn’t going to draw into the race, so he wasn’t a terribly high priority.

As the Lukas horses unloaded, the trainer came over and chatted with the members of the media waiting outside his barn. He spun a tale to them about a time when he was not allowed in the paddock of a major racetrack (which I choose to remain unnamed to protect everyone involved) after handing out all of his paddock passes. Apparently, some security guards don’t recognize a hall-of-fame trainer when they see one.

After Lukas headed on his way, I checked my phone and saw that the draw was about to start, so I hi-tailed it to the infield.

I had my camera in tow from this point on, so I’m going to let the pictures do the talking. The rest of the story can be found behind the jump…

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Racetrack Visits, Story Time, Triple Crown