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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Mount Pleasant Meadows opens for training

Mount Pleasant Meadows is inching closer to the start of its 2011 meet.

Mixed breed racetrack Mount Pleasant Meadows opened its facilities for workouts on Wednesday in preparation for a 2011 live meet that looks more and more likely to occur.

The central Michigan oval became the destination of Michigan’s Thoroughbred meet following the voluntary surrender of Pinnacle Race Course’s racing license earlier this year. The track also features Quarter Horse, Paint Horse and Arabian racing.

Local trainers Tom Dunlap and Dave Gates filled the day’s work tab with Quarter Horse and paint breezes. To view the times for Wednesday’s workouts, click here.

Mount Pleasant briefly opened the track for workouts in mid-May, but soon closed back up following a conflict with the state. The track’s simulcast area has been unaffected by those issues and remains open.

No official dates have been announced for Mount Pleasant’s 2011 meet, but speculation from reliable sources suggests that opening day will likely be scheduled for late July. According to the Michigan HBPA website, negotiations are currently being conducted between the racetrack and all of the horsemen’s groups involved to complete a contract and get racing underway.

The Morning Sun, Mount Pleasant’s local paper, was on the scene for the day’s workouts and put together a photo slideshow featuring an interview with Dave Gates. To view the slideshow, click here.

To follow all the workouts from Mount Pleasant Meadows as they become available day-by-day, click here.

UPDATE: The Morning Sun followed through on the photo slideshow with a story on the front page of Thursday’s print edition.

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Change proposed for Michigan state-bred purse supplements

The Michigan State Senate introduced an amendment to the Michigan Horse Racing Act of 1995 on Tuesday to account for the possibility of no live Thoroughbred racing in 2011.

Senate Bill 434, introduced by Fowlerville Sen. Joe Hune, would distribute Michigan’s state-bred purse supplements to horses that win allowance or claiming races outside the state if no live racing is held within the fiscal year. Michigan’s current fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture.

Here is the proposed language to be added to the Act (section 6.A). The new addition is in bold…

(a) A sum to be allotted thoroughbred race meeting licensees to supplement the purses for races to be conducted exclusively for Michigan bred horses. If, during a fiscal year, live thoroughbred horse races are not conducted at a licensed race meeting in this state, the sum appropriated under this subdivision shall be paid at the end of the fiscal year to supplement the purses of Michigan bred thoroughbred horses that win allowance and claiming races at licensed horse race tracks outside of this state.

To read the bill, click here.

To follow the bill as it makes its way through the Capitol, click here.

UPDATE: A similar bill is making its way through the State House of Representatives regarding Michigan’s breeder’s award program. Here is the language that would be changed in HB 4784…

If, during a fiscal year, live Thoroughbred horse races are not conducted at a licensed race meeting in this state, a sum shall be appropriated under this subdivision to pay breeders’ awards, in amounts not to exceed 10%  of the gross purses, to the breeders of Michigan bred Thoroughbred horses that win at races conducted at licensed horse racetracks outside of this state.

The bill, introduced last Thursday by Rep. Cindy Denby, was read for a first time and referred to the House Committee on Appropriations.

To read the bill’s language, click here.

To track the bill as it makes its way through Lansing, click here.

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