Tag Archives: Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association

Michigan Notebook: February 2, 2010

– A story in Monday’s Oakland Press features Hazel Park CEO Dan Adkins and the petition he and his group, Racing to Save Michigan, are spearheading to implement casino gaming into the state’s five racetracks. The story highlights the additions Hazel Park made in 2004 after State Congress approved slots at the track. However, the structure was never finished after Gov. Jennifer Granholm failed to sign the bill into law. The restrictions set in place by Proposal 1 of 2004 further sealed the building’s fate.

Progress with the petition has been hampered by a lack of support from the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association. The HBPA website cites the petition’s lack of provisions for live racing, simulcasting, purse revenue and horsemen’s organizations for its refusal to endorse the plan in its current form. Negotiations over the language of the petition have been ongoing between Adkins’ group and the horsemen’s organizations, but according to the HBPA’s site nothing has been finalized.

– A six horse crash Saturday night at Sports Creek Raceway made the local news. WJRT-ABC 12 reports the crash occurred when the lead horse in a race at the Swartz Creek harness track fell to the ground. Horses and drivers then began to pile up as they tried to avoid the fallen leader.

Two drivers were taken to the hospital following the accident. According to the MHHA website, driver Larry Lake suffered a shoulder injury that will require surgery, but he was released Sunday morning. Keith Crawford was placed in intensive care, but is expected to be released in the near future, if he is not out already.  Amazingly, it was reported none of the horses were seriously injured, and only one was “slightly hurt”.

To view the news feature, including footage of the crash (no fatalities, but still not for the faint of heart), click here.

– For those of you curious about the demolition progress of defunct Muskegon racetrack Great Lakes Downs (or, like me, just need closure), a citizen of the Internet took several pictures of the scene while taking in the decay of her former community. The photos, interspersed with other shots of the area can be found here.

– Consider this your one-week warning to vote for the Michigan-Bred Claimer 2009 Photo of the Year before the poll closes up. Photo #9, “Caged Animal”, enjoyed a burst in popularity and holds a comfortable lead. If you feel another photo is more deserving of the title, this is your last chance to do something about it. If that photo is your favorite, make sure it closes strong. Either way, you’ve got a week to decide.

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State Congress pushes racing funding bill through in the nick of time

Good news from the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association website:

Your efforts have helped a great deal!  Our bill has changed to HB4311 and has passed the Senate!  As of 2:37 p.m. the bill was concurred with in the House.  It now moves to the Governor for her signature.  We have been notified that the Governor intends to sign this bill the morning of 11/6/09.  The ORC office was contacted this afternoon by the Governor’s office and instructed to report for work tomorrow, 11/6/09.

Prior to the Legislature’s rapid action to approve the funding, all live and simulcast racing in the state of Michigan was scheduled to shut down indefinitely at midnight tonight.

HB4311 was initially a bill to fund correctional services, scholarships and election reform projects. It appears the racing-related items were added on along with funding for community health programs, wetland protection and can & bottle return fraud protection.

The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 32-2 with with three abstentions. It then went back to the House where it was approved by a 91-12 margin with seven not voting. Click the links to see the roll call votes from each chamber.

In the midst of the shift over to the new bill, the Senate also modified the amount of funding to the three racing-related line items. The Office of Racing Commissioner and Producer Security (Grain Elevators) line items saw a decrease, while the Horse Racing Indusrty Programs line saw increased funds.

For a spreadsheet detailing the changes in funding between the  bills, click here.

For more information on HB4311, click here.

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Senate’s delay to cause shutdown

From the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association website:

We have learned that HB4288 is not scheduled to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee until at least Tuesday, 11/10; therefore live and simulcast racing will end 11/6/09.

After yesterday’s elections saw Ohio approve casinos in its major cities, the news just keeps getting worse for Michigan racing.  Keep an eye out for new developments.

For more information about HB4288, click here.

Thanks again goes to Twitter user @ThoroFan spotting this announcement.

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Michigan Notebook: October 23, 2009

Things have been, and will continue to be, pretty hectic due to midterms, so here are a few links to interesting stories to keep you occupied until things calm down…

– The Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association announced Thursday live and simulcast racing will cease on Nov. 5. The organization stated on its website the move is in response to an executive order by Gov. Jennifer Granholm moving the racing industry under the umbrella of the Gaming Control Board and the Governor’s veto of racing-related line items in the State Budget. For more information, click here.

UPDATE: Since this was first posted, the Michigan HBPA has also put up the announcement on its website. It adds that the stoppage is due to total layoffs in the Office of Racing Commissioner stemming from the Governor’s line item veto of funding to the ORC. This means the halt in racing activities will, in fact, reach across all five of Michigan’s tracks.

UPDATE TWO: Here is a story further explaining this situation from WJRT ABC 12 News. The piece focuses on local harness track Sports Creek Raceway.

– When the news came out about the petition get the casino issue on the ballot, one of my first thoughts was whether the recently-closed Jackson Harness Raceway would get in on the action. This blog post from Jackson Citizen Patriot columnist Brad Flory answers that question. Short answer: They’ll have to buy their way in.

– Many in Michigan’s racing industry believe the Gaming Control Board is a poor fit as a governing body. This story in Crains Detroit Business (who seems to cover Michigan’s racing industry better than any other publication in the state) outlines that discontent, further elaborates on the terms of the transition to the Gaming Board, and describes the industry’s plans to protest the decision.

– Pinnacle Race Course announcer Matt Hook named his divisional award winners after the conclusion of the 2009 meet. Hook’s selections coincided with the six winners of the Sire Stakes races, so I will not dedicate a post to rehashing the information. To find out who else received honors, a Daily Racing Form story can be found here.

– This story comes from Illinois, but I’m counting it because it needs to be considered in Michigan. Here is a very informative Q&A piece about Advance Deposit Wagering. It does a better job of explaining the complicated ADW subject in plain English than any source that immediately comes to mind, including myself. It seems ADW suffered from the same “gray area” status it currently does in Michigan.

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Michigan Notebook: June 4, 2009

Match a Bat and Nate Alcala finish ahead of Cosmic Sky and Juan Delgado in a Thoroughbred race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

Match a Bat and Nate Alcala finish ahead of Cosmic Sky and Juan Delgado in a Thoroughbred race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

As mentioned earlier, it has been a big week for meetings. Here is what I have picked up so far…

– Monday’s Senate meeting in Lansing was not quite as public as I first expected. That being said, there were a lot of things discussed that probably were not meant to leave the room, or at least get the lid blown off them by a college student who hasn’t had an active press credential in about nine months. I like sitting in on these meetings. I don’t want to get shut out of them just yet.

With that in mind, here are a few things I do feel comfortable sharing at the moment…

1) The meeting was conducted by an assistant of Senator Cameron Brown who took the information from the discussion back to Senator Brown. It was held in the office of Senator Ron Jelinek, but to my knowledge, no members of the Michigan Legislature were in attendance.

2) The people in charge of answering questions about the Office of Racing Commissioner’s bankroll said the biggest impact of Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s executive order slashing its budget was not so much the cut itself, but the fact that it was done in the middle of the year when a considerable portion of the budget had already been spent. Had the cuts been at the beginning of the fiscal year, the ORC rep said they would have been easier to adapt to. 

3) The Senate has proposed folding the ORC into another department to save money. Right now, it is a Type I agency that reports to the Governor. The two leading options right now are the Department of Agriculture and the Michigan Gaming Control Board. The thought process was though the gaming board has the investigative capabilities the industry needs, there were concerns that it does not have the promotional prowess of the Department of Agriculture. Either way, integrating the ORC into either one is seen as a long-term project 

4) Nothing was decided. Some interesting things were said, but ultimately, everyone was still in the same place they started when things wrapped up.

– Yesterday was the “Horse Racing Industry Focus Group” in Lansing. I have not heard much about what came out of the meeting, but the slideshow put together by the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association looks very well done. MHHA President Brett Boyd is one heck of a public speaker, so I have no doubt it was a very effective presentation. From what I have seen of him, the racing industry would be doing itself a huge favor by putting Boyd in front of as many cameras and microphones as possible. 

– Friday is opening day at Pinnacle Race Course. It should come as a shock to no one reading this that I will be there covering the excitement. I may even be making a return trip for the Saturday card. Expect some kind of write up and pictures once things settle down. Hope to see you there!

Until then, here is some reading material on Pinnacle from the Daily Racing Form and the Southgate News-Herald.

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Michigan Notebook: April 30, 2009

Lots of goings on in Michigan racing this week…

– From the Michigan HBPA:

HEARING SCHEDULED: House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture hearing is scheduled for May 7th at 10:30am in room 426 of Capitol Bldg and will focus on horse racing. This committee is the conterpart to the Senate Committee that restored a large portion of Ag. Equine Funds the Governor took out of the 2009-10 Budget.

Please plan to attend, more the better, to show a large support group to restore the funding. If you cannot attend, please contact the Committee members* listed below. This is not a time to be inactive, we all know the industry is facing very serious challenges.

* I inserted the link to my post listing the contact information of the House Ag Appropriations Committee members. If you want to send along the form letters or write your own personal message, there is still time, but be quick abut it.

Also, the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association is organizing a “Horseman’s Rally” prior to the hearing. Interested parties should be at the State Capitol building on the corner of Capitol and Allegan in Lansing at 9 a.m. Here is the information from the MHHA website.

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If everything goes to plan, I intend to be at this hearing and will report back if anything significant comes from it. Also, be sure to keep an eye on my Twitter feed or check out the Claim Box on the right side of the page next Thursday for live updates.

– Pinnacle Race Course recently released its stakes schedule for the 2009 meet. For a pdf of the schedule, click here.

Here’s what I like and don’t like about what I see…

What I like is Pinnacle’s decision to package several of its stakes races together to give itself some marketable days of racing. If Pinnacle follows through and properly advertises these days and/or gives them killer promotions, it could lead to a nice boost in attendance and handle. One of the popular ideas to revive public interest in the racing product is to put out more “big race days.” With this, Pinnacle is taking a step in the right direction.

What I don’t like are the estimated purses for the Michigan Sire Stakes, the state’s marquee series of races for Michigan-sired horses. Two years ago, the Sire Stakes races were good for $120,000 a piece for each of the six divisions. This year, they’re slated to offer $50,000, blacktype races by the skin of their teeth and no bigger than any other race on the stakes calendar. 

Because the Sire Stakes purses are partially funded by the state, the final purses could fluctuate depending on how things go with the budget situation. Either way, the fact that purses this low are even in the discussion is an unsettling notion.

As I have noted several times in the past, the worst thing a new track can do is give people a reason to leave, be it fans or horsemen. Indiana’s purses are going to grow. Pennsylvania’s are already massive. It was already getting harder and harder to justify sticking around before the potential cut in the state’s biggest races. This could make it that much harder. While the dire status of the Sire Stakes purses is not entirely the fault of Pinnacle Race Course, it will be the track that suffers because of it.

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