Tag Archives: Detroit News

Michigan Notebook: August 26, 2010

Jockey Oscar Delgado has found success at tracks across the country, including Mount Pleasant Meadows.

– Crain’s Detroit Business has been monitoring the situation surrounding Pinnacle Race Course’s sale of a parcel of land to the Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians and the ensuing controversy it has generated in the local government. The publication has published several updates since the deal was publicly announced, outlining Pinnacle’s economic situation, tax snafus by the Huron Township government, and concerns by local leaders about the handling of Pinnacle’s incentives to purchase and build on the property.

Here is a list of stories published on the site in recent days. There are some inaccuracies in a few of the details (most notably suggesting the racetracks themselves are footing the bill for additional State regulation when it is actually coming from the horsemen’s purse pools), but the general idea paints an unsettling picture of the relationship between the track and local government.

8-25 – Text of Wayne County Commission’s concerns about Pinnacle Race Course

8-25 – Commissioners weigh legal issues of Pinnacle land deal

8-24 – Tax bill snafu puts Pinnacle in arrears, Racecourse fights assessments, battles other financial problems

– Detroit News editorial page editor Nolan Finley discussed the state government’s treatment of Michigan’s horse racing industry in his column on Thursday. Finley notes the hypocrisy of offering movie studios hundreds of millions in breaks and incentives to film in Michigan, while leaving horse racing, an industry that generates money for the state and provides jobs without the massive state investments, out to dry. Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association president Patti Dickinson and Pinnacle Race Course owner Jerry Campbell are quoted in the piece, as is spokeswoman for Governor Jennifer Granholm, Liz Boyd.

Hoosier Park put out a news item on Aug. 12 about Quarter Horse jockey Oscar Delgado, also a regular at Mount Pleasant Meadows. The piece profiles Delgado’s life and racing career, where he has won riding titles at Mount Pleasant and the inaugural Quarter Horse meet at Hialeah Park. He also discusses racing against his brother, Juan, who is among the leading Quarter Horse riders at Mount Pleasant and the Indiana circuit. Oscar Delgado currently hangs his tack at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa.

– The Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association Yearling Sale is this Sunday at the Michigan State University Pavilion’s south barn. The yearling show begins ay 9 a.m. followed by the sale at 1 p.m.. For an online catalog of the sale, click here. To view this site’s preview of Sunday’s sale, click here.

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Filed under Pinnacle Race Course, Politics

Michigan Notebook: July 23, 2010

– David Belknap, a placing judge at Pinnacle Race Course and former Thoroughbred trainer, died Wednesday at his farm near Pinckney, Michigan. The Daily Racing Form reports he was found in the paddock after apparently being kicked by one of his horses. Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

– The 2010 meet at Mount Pleasant Meadows has been shortened by a week. The final day of racing at the central Michigan mixed breed track is now scheduled to be Aug. 1.

The Detroit News wrote a feature about Pinnacle Race Course on Thursday outlining the challenges the New Boston track has faced this year. Topics discussed in the article include the severe cut in race dates following racing’s transfer to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, the rising cost of regulation, and the possibility of Thoroughbred racing returning to Hazel Park for the first time since 1984.

Mount Pleasant Meadows is holding a contest on its Facebook page, with the winner receiving a set of goggles signed by the track’s jockey colony. To enter, become a “Fan” of Mount Pleasant Meadows on Facebook, then this Monday between 6-6:30 p.m., a prompt will go up on the page’s wall asking who won the seventh race on the preceding day’s card. The first person to answer correctly wins the prize.

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Michigan Notebook: April 7, 2010

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.

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Mata featured in Detroit News story

Federico Mata is a fan favorite rider at Pinnacle Race Course, shown here aboard Banning.

Federico Mata is a fan favorite rider at Pinnacle Race Course, shown here aboard Banning.

Pinnacle Race Course and one of its high-profile figures garnered some media exposure on Monday when jockey Federico Mata was made the subject of an in-depth profile piece in the Detroit News.

The article follows Mata through a day’s work at Pinnacle, from the morning workouts to the final race of the day about 12 hours later.

Having seen so many stories about racing that claim to go behind the scenes, but then dumb things down to “introductory pamphlet” level, it was refreshing to see a non-Kentucky-based newspaper story really get into the daily lives of the people at the track. Peeks behind the curtain of the race day are rare, even with Animal Planet following Mike Smith and Chantal Sutherland through their routines, so to see a story done well like this makes for good reading and helps draw interest to the sport. Hopefully it leads to more stories of a similar theme in the future. Detroit Free Press, I’m looking in your direction…

When I was starting out as a handicapper at Great Lakes Downs, one of the first lessons I learned was a horse with Mata on its back was rarely a throwaway. Mata was the leading rider at the now defunct Muskegon racetrack in 2000 and was rarely far from the top spot most years, a trend he has continued at Pinnacle. He rode my grandpa’s horses on occasion at GLD and was the focus of many winner’s circle photos aboard them, rarely missing the board. 

Last year, on Pinnacle’s opening day, the audience was sprinkled with people wearing Freddie Mata T-shirts from back in the day at Detroit Race Course. With that kind of local name recognition already established in the Detroit area, Mata was the natural and correct choice among Pinnacle’s current jockey colony for a story like this.

The online version of the story also features a 30-photo gallery of Mata’s day from beginning to end and a short video following him through his routine on the backstretch, on the track and in the jock’s room. 

Props to reporter Gregg Krupa, photographer David Coates and everyone else who helped put this story together. Very nice work.

To read the story, click here.

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