This was released by the Office of Racing Commissioner earlier today…
LANSING – Racing Commissioner, Christine C. White, today signed orders eliminating 101 live race dates for the remainder of the 2009 fiscal year ending September 30, 2009.
The budget for the Office of Racing Commissioner (ORC) was reduced by $1.4 million in the Governor’s Executive Order issued on May 5, 2009. The budget for the ORC during fiscal year 2009 was set at $3.8 million and has been reduced by $1.4 million with only four months remaining in the fiscal year.
“This was the last thing we wanted to do,” Commissioner White said, “but our hands are tied. There is insufficient funding to get us through the fiscal year.”
While the actual days are still in negotiation, the thoroughbred industry that includes Pinnacle Race Course will see a reduction of 42 days out of its original 82 days. Mount Pleasant Meadows will lose 18 of its 37 days. The harness industry will see reductions in two tracks. Hazel Park will lose 38 days and Northville Racing Corporation will be cut the three days scheduled for this fiscal year.
Obviously, this is the day Michigan’s racing industry has feared for a long time. I have already said my piece on the situation as a whole, so I will not rehash myself here. However, I do have some thoughts on this press release…
– According to this release, Pinnacle will get 40 days, as opposed to the 25 days the initial projections were reporting. However, ORC Information Director Liana Bennett said those lower figures were not official. The Detroit News reports Pinnacle owner Jerry Campbell met with Gov. Jennifer Granholm at Mackinac Island over the weekend and got some funding restored, which could explain the matter. However, a story today from Crain’s Detroit Business and Campbell’s reaction to the cuts makes me wonder what really happened up north…
Campbell said he met with Gov. Jennifer Granholm and offered to have the state’s horse industry give up two days of racing and use the purse money from those days to fund the state track officials.
The racing commissioner said it needs $154,000 to staff the race days, Campbell said, which could be offset by the purse money from two days.
The governor listened but made no commitment, he said.
– Crain’s Detroit Business
The release also says Pinnacle is still in negotiation for dates, which may or may not have something to do with the two aforementioned stories. I am unsure if this means the actual number of race dates could fluctuate or if the issue is with how the 40 days will be disbursed throughout the season.
– Make no mistake, these cuts are bad. But with the average field sizes Mount Pleasant Meadows has been putting out so far, I am not sure if the track would have had the horses on the grounds to run more than one day a week anyway. The number of entries and races have both been rising steadily since opening day, but there are still too many four-horse fields to imagine an additional day of racing per week filling fields with any consistency. Ontario’s Ajax Downs opens in the coming days, meaning the influx of Canadian-based horseflesh leaving the gates could slow to a trickle, which would drive the number of entries even further downward. On the plus side, with half a season’s worth of purse structure now just sitting there, Mount Pleasant might be able to put up a few purses big enough to bring some horses back from Indiana.
– The release is vague regarding when the remaining dates will be run. When news of the cuts was first announced, the plan seemed to be to run Pinnacle from June to July and lay everyone off for the rest of the fiscal year (another part of the proposal that Bennett said was unofficial). It is not clear whether running 40 dates will expand the schedule into later months or if the track will be live for more days per week during the two months originally planned.
I’ll ask around and see what else I can find out. Keep checking back to this post as I get more information and turn my initial speculations into facts.
Until then, here are stories on the situation by the Thoroughbred Times and the Blood Horse.