Day At The Track
Russell Williams

The Way Forward: Some Initial Steps

Hanover, PA - Pick your catastrophe. We face a world health crisis worse than any we've seen for over a century. Meanwhile, the Governor of Pennsylvania is engaging in some state budget buccaneering that would, if the General Assembly permits it, destroy a two-century-old, native horse racing industry that brings $1.6 billion in economic impact and 20,000 jobs to the state. If this succeeds, what will happen in other states? And, finally, a long list of Thoroughbred and Standardbred industry participants face a reckoning that, looking at their conduct as alleged, you would think they never expected. This last situation is in the forefront of the minds of our Board of Directors as we work through our "annual meeting from home" this week and next. We all abhor the allegations in the indictments and criminal complaints, and we roundly condemn all conduct of the kind. At the USTA, however, there is an obligation to forego the luxury of performative outrage and, instead, to concentrate on what concrete steps our mandate requires us to take. Our record in dealing as an association with cheating and horse abuse is excellent. Now I write to call for concrete action that will move us forward in the right direction. In this editorial, I offer some recommendations. Others will join in, I hope, offering additions and corrections. At last, I hope, everyone of good will in harness racing will contribute time and money to the work that must be done. We can resolve to embrace change and to bear its cost, because we know that only then can our racing sport thrive in the modern era. The Narrative We love horses. This is our narrative, its beginning and its end, and it consists of countless stories of courage, hope, and love for horses that totally contradict the acts of a criminal few. Perhaps our very survival as a sport requires us now to make sure that the world learns about our true selves. When a horse puts its nose ahead of another horse's nose, evolution is at work. Taking the lead is part of a horse's social nature, so (unlike dog racing, for example) horse racing is entirely natural, and horses thrive on it. Horsepersons can tell inspiring stories of horses that found a way to win against unplanned-for adversity, just as we must overcome adversity now. Caring well for horses, and we do care well for them, involves trying to understand these beautiful creatures that cannot communicate with us in human terms. But those of us who employ their intelligence to understand and communicate in something like horse terms become better people for it. There are wonderful stories of lives that have been transformed, not merely economically, but in a deeper way, by the bond with the horse, an animal that evolved along an entirely different strand of the net of creation from humans. Horses can teach us things about courage and beauty, even love, that we would otherwise never learn. Some people do not know that our award-winning writers and photographers have been telling the story of harness racing in Hoof Beats since before the USTA was founded. But today the USTA has more powerful resources for telling the story of harness racing than it has ever had: our website is the most visited in harness racing and is closely watched by other breeds, and our social media presence is a serious force on the internet. Our Communications Department is unrivaled among breed associations, and our ability to put these resources to use is limited only by the cooperation of our membership. Finally, the USTA Board of Directors is meeting as I write, by means of a series of teleconferences, and advanced communications is under discussion. As the USTA and the membership find new and more effective ways to tell the true story of harness racing, we can correct the cultural narrative and propel our sport into its rightful place in the future. "The Feds" In the United States, the federal level provides the services that a central government should provide, while the states retain authority over every other matter. Federal prosecutions are usually the best way to address criminal activity occurring in multiple states. Although the conduct alleged took place in several states, the indictments and criminal complaints under discussion issue from the Southern District of New York, one of the most sophisticated offices within the United States Justice Department. We must not fall prey to the ignorant notion that there is any magical connection between the Justice Department and the Horseracing Integrity Act which, if it ever were to see passage, would be governed by the Commerce Department. As Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (representing state authority), has pointed out: nobody needed a Horseracing Integrity bill to make these prosecutions happen. The laws that make the allegations in the indictments illegal, and the federal, state, and private agencies that built these cases already exist, and we should build on the existing system to prevent cheating and horse abuse, and to incentivize best practices in our sport. The serious problems that the Horseracing Integrity Act poses for harness racing have been explained elsewhere. Yes, we have problems of our own to solve, but instead of throwing this poorly-considered federal Hail Mary, instead of ignoring the states' established knowledge and experience in regulating horse racing, and instead of relying on some unspecifiable federal magic to solve our problems, our effort must be to support and extend the growing cooperation among state racing commissions. The state racing commissions themselves called for this over a year ago, by proposing a dedicated unit among key federal and state agencies to investigate racing matters and, where appropriate, to refer them for prosecution. This call was ignored by those proposing so-called racing integrity bills at the federal level, but individual state racing commissions are continuing nevertheless to strengthen their ties with state and federal enforcement agencies. An even more significant development is taking place. "Interstate compacts" provide a contractual structure that enhances cooperation among states regarding regulations and enforcement. This is not a new concept: for years an interstate licensing compact has existed, simplifying licensing for owners, trainers, drivers, jockeys, and other licensees across the country. In a similar but more important way, an interstate medication compact would bring about consistent medication regulation nationwide. (We don't use the word "uniform," because Standardbred and Thoroughbred medication rules can't be uniform. They must differ in a few areas because the two breeds have different performance models.) Interstate medication compacts are working their way through several state legislatures, and we may be approaching passage of a multi-breed medication compact in one of the leading racing states. If this happens, I believe that the other racing states will quickly follow suit. Reading legislative bills (and enacted statutes) can be extremely tedious for most people. But someone has to do it. And if you read the Horseracing Integrity draft bill, you will discover something very surprising: recognition in the bill's own language of the primacy and importance of interstate compacts and, by implication, state authority. It's almost as if the federalization special interests felt compelled to acknowledge that the states have already done all the work and already have all the know-how regarding medication regulation. Section 4(e) of the draft bill says that the whole federal house of cards collapses if, "after the expiration of five years following [the effective date of the Act]," an interstate compact is established. Amazingly, the draft then goes on, in subsection 4(e)(2), to recite important steps that we should take to develop an interstate medication compact. Let us not wait five years enduring some sort of expensive and pointless federal intermission before we do what should have been done in the first place: to fully establish the breed-specific medication compact that is presently evolving in the states. The Ethical Climate We can achieve a radically new regulatory process that will render extinct the criminal activity of a few horsepersons and veterinarians, and we can do it without having to purchase any expensive federal snake oil. The type of criminal activity under discussion was, in the past, often veiled by certain legal concepts and, to some extent, aided by a certain "don't ask don't tell" attitude within the industry. We now have the opportunity, maybe our last, to change this permanently. First, the days of turning a blind eye to suspicious activity are over. They never should have existed. I offer, as a good counterexample to horsepersons who failed, in the past, to report suspicious activity, the American bar. If a lawyer becomes aware of an ethical infraction and fails to report it, he or she becomes guilty in turn of another serious ethical infraction. In other words, the legal community has a self-policing system that can be expected to work much better than the "don't ask don't tell' system that we have tolerated in racing. In grade school, if you told on someone, you were a "rat." Unfortunately, this way of thinking persisted into adulthood among some horsepersons. It was never valid. We must police ourselves, because our obligation is not to be a "stand-up guy." Our obligation is to ensure the health and welfare of our horses, and to preserve the integrity of our industry. Second, we must recalibrate our internal affairs. No longer can we be excused for leaving investigation and enforcement up to our chronically underfunded racing commissions. But rather than pouring more of our money into the state commissions, we should develop private investigative capabilities that support the regulators' powers and we should demand the commissions' formalized cooperation with the investigations that must be carried out. Much of the investigative work that went into the current prosecutions was carried out not by the FBI, but rather by a private firm called "5 Stones intelligence" or "5Si." We have contracted with investigative firms in past years, but never did we make the sort of commitment that was made to 5Si. Maybe this should be the model going forward: use the power of private investigations wherever necessary to support the work of the racing commissions. Indeed, as Ed Martin pointed out, the current prosecution demonstrates the way to protect racing. No federal Hail Mary is necessary. Third, all licensees in racing should be required to consent to investigation by any racing authority, in any public or private place, at any time, and also to consent to all appropriate, effective corrective action pending a hearing. If you want to participate in our industry, this comes with the territory. I'm aware of a case in which a trainer was caught doing something blatantly wrong to a horse, behaved extremely guiltily when caught, and then influenced a veterinarian to lie about the matter. The USTA suspended this individual and never looked back, but the state racing commission did nothing about it, because it thought that its hands were tied. Let us untie the hands of the racing commissions and other racing authorities, including the USTA, which has always been a powerful investigative force in harness racing. Where are the large sums of money going to come from that will be needed for all of this? This is something that we will have to figure out, and now the discussion has begun. But I can tell you this: the funding we come up with to make effective the work of the state regulators is sure to be less than what the Horseracing Integrity Act would cost us. According to the testimony of a Thoroughbred witness before the Congressional subcommittee that is presently considering the Horseracing Integrity Act, the cost to the Standardbred industry would be about $13.8 million. Even if we had to put that much into the existing system to make it work effectively, at least we would know where the money was going. Conclusion and Invitation Times of peril are also times of opportunity. We're aware, we're outraged, we're worried. But we're also energized as perhaps never before. Now is our chance to do things that probably could not have been done before. The USTA will act. I invite industry stakeholders to join the USTA in developing a comprehensive template that will protect real integrity, support the health and welfare of our horses, and permit the beautiful narrative of horse racing to continue uninterrupted. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association

Darren Owen

An interview with race caller Darren Owen

Darren, let’s go way back to where it all started for you. What was it that ignited your love for the sport of horse racing? I was five years old and it is one of my earliest lifetime memories. Grand National Day 1973 when Red Rum beat Crisp in probably the best horse race you’re ever likely to see. I remember my Dad saying ‘what do you want to bet in the National?’. He used to get the ‘Horse & Hound’ and ‘The Field’, two magazines. There was a photo of Spanish Steps on the cover of one of them, and I said ‘I’ll back Spanish Steps’. I had 10p each-way on him, and he finished fourth. Red Rum beat Crisp as we all know. I always remember my Great-Grandfather, he was a first-world war veteran, he lived with us, I was 12 when he died. Now he backed Crisp, and I always remember him cursing Red Rum. I was just captivated by the whole thing, remember in those days we would have watched this in black and white. My Dad and my Mum bought me a rocking horse, and on a Saturday afternoon I used to sit on this rocking horse. My Great-Grandfather would have a bet, we used to watch ‘World Of Sport’ so we’d see the racing, and he used to love the wrestling afterwards. I was just hooked from five-years-old. When I was in primary school, I’d be rushing home to watch the last race on the television. Jumping came first obviously, it was the Grand National and the Cheltenham Festival. I quickly got into flat racing as well, and I was just hooked. Most lads in the summer holidays would be playing football on the green, not me I’d be sitting at home watching the racing. It wasn’t betting, I wasn’t interested in betting. It was just the spectacle and the sport itself. You used to have a football bag or a sports bag, and I was more into football then than I was now. I’m not that into it now, but in those days I used to be a big Manchester United fan. I always remember having a Man U sports bag to take to school, but I used to write the names of racehorses on mine. I had Red Rum, Spanish Steps, Sea Pigeon and Greville Starkey. When you decided race calling was the career path you wanted to go down, how did you go about turning that dream into a reality? I suppose the race calling bit came seriously when I was in High School. Your career teachers would be asking what you’d like to do as a living, and I was captivated again by Peter O’Sullevan. I just thought ‘god, that’s an exciting job’. I remember my Dad wrote to Peter O’Sullevan when I was 10 or 11, and got a letter back in which he gave me some advice. On a Saturday afternoon and in the school holidays, I’d be watching the racing with the volume turned down to practice the commentary. On a Friday night I would draw the colours out for Saturday’s racing. I would get the felt tip pens out and I had a list of the owners. I would practice and then record myself doing the commentaries during my high school days. Living in North Wales, we used to pick up RTE radio, the Irish radio. I’d listen to Michael O’Hehir doing the Irish racing on a Saturday afternoon, and in the 80’s they recruited Aussie Jim McGrath. That was the first time I’d heard ‘Aussie Jim’ around about ’84. I thought ‘God, he was bloody good’, so that’s where I got the interest in race calling from. My Mum and Dad would go to the careers advisors at school, and they used to put me off saying ‘that’s not a job, that’s not a career’. I’d love to go back there now and stick two fingers up at them! Can you remember the first race or race meeting you called? Describe the emotions you were feeling leading up to it? When I left school, I got a job in a furniture store and funnily enough the guy in charge of the store was an ex-jockey. The guy in charge of the printing company who did all the work for the furniture shop became a friend of the proprietor, and one of his jobs was to print racecards at the local harness racing track. There was a grass field and they used to race there from late-May to early-September, once a week on a Wednesday night. I wasn’t really into it but he came in one day and said they were looking for somebody to replace their regular commentator who was missing a couple of meetings to go on holiday. He asked whether I’d be interested to go there and have a bit of a trial. I went there and I think the trial might have been the day Reference Point won the Derby. The first race I called was a three-runner harness race, and I was shaking in my boots. That was my first broadcast, and I started getting a few harness meetings as a result of that. I used to go from North Wales to York on a Saturday night. I would get the train to Manchester and a lift from there. I’d get £15, that’s all it was, but I just wanted the experience. Then what happened was when a neighbour of mine heard a promotion on BBC Radio 2 looking for an amateur sports commentator. So I entered this competition, and the country was split into eight regions. There were five regions of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. What you did was chose your sport. There were eight events and fortunately horse racing was on that list. I went to BBC Radio Wales HQ in Cardiff, and Steve Ryder was one of the judges. He hated horse racing, absolutely hated it. I’d won the regional final and so had qualified for the National final in early-December. It was at The Oval, and my late Grandfather came with me. Along with Steve Ryder, John Inverdale was another one of the judges. In the National final I had to call Nashwan in the King George, then there was a tie-break and I had to do a piece of radio commentary on a Wimbledon final. Well that was an absolute disaster. I had no interest in it whatsoever, and finished third. But as a result of that, I started getting work every now and then for BBC Radio Wales. I called the Welsh National won by Bonanza Boy. I used to do some of the Saturday meetings at Chepstow over jumps, and by doing that I bumped into some of the guys who used to work for the old Excel service which was just about to be taken over the Press Association. One of the guys who used to work for them was Mark Slater, and through him I met Martin Harris and then Dougie Frazer. Now they said to me ‘when there’s a lot of racing in the summer, our boss is sometimes looking for extra cover so we’ll take your name’. This was in February. I then heard nothing till about June, and got a phone call out of the blue inviting me to a trial at York. I was full of cold, but I went and he invited me back on the Saturday. Mid-July they started giving me regular work and I was on their rota. They had five regulars, four of them had regions and there was me filling in the gaps. One week I could be in Scotland, and then the next down at Lingfield. I used to do about five or six days a week and that lasted for about two years. I started getting work for the Racing Post and the Sporting Life. I had to leave harness racing for about two years, and then I went back to it. I read that SIS were looking to recruit about two of three commentators. Wolverhampton had a harness track on the outside and they wrote to SIS on my behalf saying they should look at me, so that’s how I became a racecourse commentator in 1998. You are now a well respected commentator, and out of the many races you have had the pleasure of calling, which one gave you the greatest sense of job satisfaction? Well certain races you always remember. Obviously doing my first Grand National for BBC television, that meant an awful lot. When I got that gig with the BBC I was part of the commentary team when Amberleigh House won in 2004. When I was a kid I always said I had two ambitions, to be a race caller and to call the Grand National. I had to pinch myself that day. I’ll be honest, I was shaking in my boots, I really was. I was as nervous as hell, it’s the most nervous I have ever been in my life. Everywhere you looked, it was Grand National day and I thought ‘bloody hell, millions are going to listen to me this afternoon’. I remember parking up at Aintree that day thinking ‘now come on, shake yourself. This is what you’ve always wanted in your life.’ The night before I had a missed call from Graham Goode. He said to me ‘you’ll be fine tomorrow, just take a deep breath’, and I’ll never forget that. It was a monumental day. I so wanted to get those words out: “there crossing the Melling Road”. I got a lot of satisfaction out of that, a lot. Given the current situation we find ourselves in at present with the coronavirus, would you agree this is a huge blow for the industry? Well it is, but at the end of the day we’ve got to give ourselves a reality check. There are people dying out there. Admittedly, we’re a massive industry, but what is sport? Sport is a great triviality isn’t it? In the grand scheme of things, that’s all we are. We tend to get wrapped up in our little cocoon, in our own little world, wondering when racing will return. On the topic of the coronavirus, the flat season schedule is up in the air at the moment. How would you like to see it reintroduced when the time comes? Well first of all let me just say, regarding proper racing, it’s a good job we got three-quarters of the season done. It’s a major blow to racing that our biggest event can’t take place next week. Let’s not make a big issue out of this, the National is the biggest event, not Cheltenham. Regarding the flat season, it’s very important for the bloodstock industry that the three-year-olds have their chance on the big stage in the classics. At the end of the day, the bloodstock industry is a cog in the wheel. I’m convinced what will happen is that when racing does return, and I don’t think there will be an explosion of meetings, I think the BHA and the European Pattern Committee will need to discuss a revamped pattern for the 2020 season. They’ll have to work back from the Autumn I.e. Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe and Champions Day to try and salvage the season. Let’s say for example we’re in a position to resume racing in July. Races like the Eclipse would obviously fall by the way side. A starting point for the pattern would be the Guineas with a three-week break to the Derby. If they could get the Derby run by early-August, I see no reason why the Juddmonte at York couldn’t take place. You could always reschedule the King George to September. I certainly think you could try and save a few of the=ose weight-for-age races. Out of the many racecourse you’ve visited, which is your favourite and why? Major soft spot for Aintree, because I just love the National. At the end of the day, the National is our shop window, don’t care what anyone says. Whether you’re the biggest flat aficionado going, the Grand National is our shop window. One of my pet hates is when people run scared of the National. People almost want to stand there and apologise for the National, there’s no need to do that at all. We should be proud of it, it’s the race that sells British racing. It’s the only race that matters to the man in the street. To youngsters coming through wanting to gain a position in racing media, what golden piece of advice would you give them? Follow your dreams, follow your ambitions. Devote an awful lot of time, seek as much advice as possible but most of all practice. Practice. You’re luckier in the age we live in that you always have access to race footage. Back in my day we were relying on BBC, Channel 4, ITV to show racing. We had no racing channels. By Liam Hedgecock Reprinted with permission of Sportsbyte Sunderland

Airlifted by helicopter to hospital

Two seriously injured in cup pileup

Two drivers are recovering in hospital after a sickening fall in the main event at the Inverell harness racing meeting on Sunday afternoon. The field in the 2020 Inverell Cup had travelled only a short distance when the pole horse stumbled and fell, with the incident causing a chain reaction that brought down several other runners and completely disrupted the field. Reinswomen Elly Chapple and Sarah Rushbrook were seriously injured and were airlifted by helicopter to hospital. Both are reported to be in a stable condition with multiple fractures as well as other injuries. Fellow reinsman Brad Elder, of Maitland, who was also involved in the fall, but escaped unharmed, said it was alarming to see it all unraveling. "I was on the back row drawn beside Sarah. I saw her get catapulted out when the one in front of her went down. It looked like she was thrown about five metres up into the air," Elder said. "I fell out, but I was a bit lucky and didn't even get a mark. I got up and ran to the number one horse who was the first to go because it was still down on the track. I just sat on his head waiting to get help," he said. "His driver was okay. I think he landed on the horse beside him, which was being driven by Elly, who got caught up in it all. It was nasty. Let's just hope both the girls get better quickly." Elly Chapple Local ambulance paramedics stabilised the pair at the track before transporting them to Inverell airport where the Westpac Life Saver Rescue helicopter was waiting with a doctor on board. They were further treated by the Critical Care Medical team before flying to Lismore Base Hospital. Sarah Rushbrook's older sister Rebecca, posted yesterday afternoon that after being thrown from the sulky, Sarah went into the railing. "Her right femur is broken upper midway and she has a broken tailbone and a bunch of cracked ribs. She hit her head, but the helmet did its job," Rebecca's post said. "After surgery we'll know if the broken vertebra is pressing on her spine. If this is the case, Sarah will be transferred to the Gold Coast which will be awkward as she will be there on her own with the border closures. "She is in good spirits and already talking about when she can get back in the gig." Rebecca said one of the doctors who'd examined Sarah had English as a second language, referring to the sport as "chariot racing". "Watching how tough she is I think it's fair enough to call her a Gladiator!" Rebecca posted. Sarah Rushbrook Inverell Harness Racing Club shared a message on behalf of Julie and Dean Chapple, parents of Elly, expressing thanks to the community for the unbelievable support. "We received so much help on the track and later travelling to Lismore. Thanks goes out to the clerks of the course Dwayne Dixon and Col Mathers along with club secretary Kerry Miller-who is a nurse in her working life away from harness racing." Elly Chapple was still undergoing scans yesterday but is believed to have a broken elbow. All horses escaped serious injuries. The incident forced the final two races on the Inverell program to be abandoned. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

United States Trotting Association

USTA response to horsemen’s letter

Following is a letter sent to U.S. Trotting Association President Russell Williams and his response to five prominent harness horsemen — George Segal, Marvin Katz, Steve Stewart, Myron Bell and Richard Alan Arnold — who called for action from the industry because it “owes a debt and profound obligation to two essential and dependent constituencies without whom our sport cannot exist: the Wagering Public and our beloved Standardbred Race horses.” Letter to Russell Williams from Segal, Katz, Stewart, Bell and Arnold March 19, 2020 Mr. Russell Williams President United States Trotting Association 6130 S. Sunbury Road Westerville, OH 43081-9309 Dear Mr. Williams: As Owners, Breeders and caretakers of Standardbred race horses, we owe a debt and profound obligation to two essential and dependent constituencies without whom our sport cannot exist: the Wagering Public and our beloved Standardbred Race horses. Both are totally dependent on the integrity and good faith adherence to the tenants of our sport by the vast majority of our sport’s participants who understand the need for honesty and humanity. In addition, both require exclusion of cheaters who violate them. Harness Racing has a devoted following to whom we all owe a duty of transparency and integrity. The work of a cheater doping horses in the shadows of the shed row is neither transparent nor honest. And worse, it is an unconscionable abuse of our noble charges. This chemical subterfuge, though apparently practiced by a distinct few undermines our sport and requires those honest participants who are in the vast majority standing up and saying enough. Although, the wagering public and our racehorses are both essential to our sport, there is one very important difference. The public can vote with their pocketbooks by moving away from the sport if they are displeased. But our beloved race horses cannot choose to leave if they are abused. For those of us who breed, raise, train, race and care for these magnificent animals, know that horses love to interact and develop relationships with humans who treat them well; and these noble beasts excel at performing in the manner they were bred to do. Those loveable characteristics of the racehorse makes it criminal to abuse these wonderful creatures or stand silent when others are doing so. The recent indictments of 29 members of the Horse Racing Industry by the Department of Justice was both shocking and depressingly disappointing. Common sense tells us these 29 individuals who were indicted are unlikely to be the only participants in our sport who may be responsibly charged with violating laws protecting our wonderful racehorses and the Betting Public. A crisis is upon us and make no mistake, the general public is watching. Two very different newspapers, the Washington Post and the (Louisville) Courier Journal, each published sobering editorials regarding Horse Racing and the doping indictments: “Horse Racing Has Outlived Its Time” Washington Post, March 13, 2020 “Horse Racing Doping Scheme Leaves No Option” Courier – Journal, March 10, 2020 In response to these clarion calls the time for action is now. It is time to stand up for our great sport and to protect our race horses from potential harm by the unscrupulous who would destroy and abuse both for potential gain. In this time of crisis the undersigned call for the following concrete steps to be taken immediately: 1. For the U.S.T.A. to actively and publicly condemn the type of activity alleged in the DOJ indictments and proactively work with other industry groups to propose and obtain comprehensive regulation to prevent the mistreatment of our horses through doping and other unethical activity. 2. For the U.S.T.A. to reinstate its Tip Hotline for persons of integrity to report suspected cheating – SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING. 3. For U.S.T.A. to form an industry committee to investigate the extent of the doping problem in our sport, including, if necessary, hiring private investigators and provide its findings to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. 4. For all of us to commit to the betting public, our race horses and each other to speak up – disassociate ourselves from cheaters and to shun those who we know are dirty trainers and vets or owners who associate with them. In many ways 2019 was one of the greatest years in our sport’s history. But recent developments make it clear either the vast majority of us who love this sport and these magnificent creatures we call race horses, stand up for what is right or, the pride we now feel for being involved in this noble and enjoyable venture may turn to the shame we will bear for being associated with an enterprise that expired through our neglect. Yours very truly, George Segal       Marvin Katz       Steve Stewart       Myron Bell       Richard Alan Arnold cc: U.S.T.A. Board of Directors Williams’ response to Segal, Katz, Stewart, Bell and Arnold   March 30, 2020 Dear George, Marvin, Steve, Myron, and Richard: Your timely and eloquent letter is most welcome. I respectfully refer you to an item that was recently posted on the USTA website (http://ustrottingnews.com/the-way-forward-some-initial-steps/). In it, I offer some recommendations and invite all harness racing stakeholders to join the effort to preserve all that is best about our sport. Your letter, representing the views of some of our industry’s leaders, is the first contribution to that effort, and sets the perfect tone for the industry conversation that we must have. Most of your concerns are answered in detail in the website post. The Tip Hotline is being restarted as you recommend. As my website post makes clear, a major investment in investigative capability and sweeping changes to the regulatory process will be needed. Given the magnitude of this, I’m glad to report that we already have a committee in place to handle these matters. It is the Executive Committee of the USTA Board of Directors, and it represents all harness racing interests. In my quarter-century on the USTA board, we have never had such a skilled, cooperative, and active board and executive committee as we have today. I cannot thank you enough for your letter. Please expect to be called upon to assist with and contribute to our work. Very sincerely, Russell Williams President, U.S. Trotting Association

Guelph, ON Mar. 30, 2020 - Equine Guelph has opened a FREE offering of their online Sickness Prevention in Horses course ($85 value - free with coupon code) in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.   TheHosePortal.ca course is based on the Canadian standard for equine biosecurity.  While many are at home for the next few weeks, this is an ideal time to learn online and develop your own action plan and backup arrangements.   Maintaining health is everyone’s responsibility. Biosecurity is a word and practice not well understood by an unsettling number of public riding facilities.   How many people wipe down the chains and snaps on cross-ties with disinfectant because they understand this is one of many practices that can reduce the risk of disease spread?  This is just one of the simple take-aways from Equine Guelph’s free Biosecurity Calculator online healthcare tool.   Other agricultural industries such as poultry and dairy follow strict protocols to ensure the health of their animals.  Every person entering a facility has to log in and out.  They follow the rules of National Codes of Practice and Biosecurity.  The horse industry also has a National Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines and a National Farm and Facility Level Biosecurity standard for the Equine Sector.      Those who have read and follow those guidelines may well lament over the number of facilities that immediately introduce an unknown horse into it’s herd with complete optimism that nothing will go wrong.  In this time of heightened alert, all reliable sources of education to prevent sickness are our salvation.  We all can and must take steps to safeguard health of both humans and animals.   Just what do you say to someone who comes back from their boarding barn search with the complaint, “Oh, it’s a lovely facility but they want to quarantine my horse for the first month - that will be inconvenient and I want my horse to have group turn-out.”?  The COVID-19 outbreak has made us all keenly aware of the importance of physical distancing as a crucial way to prevent the spread of disease.  Asymptomatic (no evidence of symptoms) does not equate to no health risk to others.   Our minds should instantly become more at ease when a facility has a quarantine protocol, wants to see vaccination records or even wants to see results from a strangles swab.  Horses are social, herd animals and being with their herd mates is an important component of their welfare but there is also an important balance to strike in safeguarding herd health.    If a horse enters a stable (perhaps travelling from a ‘hot spot’ – e.g. auction or yearling sale to name but two) asymptomatic upon arrival but they happen to be carrying a transmittable disease – what then?  They can pass the disease on to the entire herd.  That is inconvenient, costly and in the worst-case scenarios deadly. It is also a preventable welfare issue for the horses that suffer from the disease.   In this unprecedented time of social distancing, people are becoming acutely aware of the importance of carefully monitoring health and following quarantine protocols.   Monitoring for fever, cough and signs of sickness is daily news at the moment.   In a recent  article run by the Toronto Star regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Amy Greer, Canada research chair in population disease modelling at the University of Guelph  was quoted “It’s possible that Ontario will never experience the level of community transmission that the model estimates — just as it’s also possible that the province is on the cusp of a wider outbreak.  From a public health perspective, that’s always the challenge,” said Greer,  “If we do a really good job, people say, ‘Well you were overreacting, because nothing happened.’”   Well-run equestrian facilities and well informed horse owners closely monitor horses that have recently traveled.  Temperatures are taken daily along with a thorough horse health check.  Feed buckets, water buckets, tack, stall-cleaning equipment are not shared.  Hoses are never allowed to touch down into the buckets when they are refilled.  New arrivals may be able to see but not touch other horses.  Ideally, a separate quarantine barn is utilized.   For existing residents, such as horses returning home from being on the show circuit (higher risk location) best practices are to turn them out together but separate from the herd that does not travel.     Dr. Scott Weese, infection control expert at the University of Guelph has been very busy with his Worms and Germs blog as of late, providing advice for the FAQ’s coming in from animal owners. Weese was recently interviewed by TVO What we know — and don’t know — about how COVID-19 affects animals.  Weese is also featured in many resources in Equine Guelph’s biosecurity resources.   Maintaining health is the responsibility of everyone.   Arm yourself with scientifically proven information.  Ensure you have a written plan in case you get sick or injured to ensure ongoing care for your horses.   Stay safe everyone during this COVID-19 pandemic.  When it is all over may we all emerge strong, informed and vigilant in biosecurity best practices.    Equine Guelph’s Resources for Equine Health & Biosecurity: Equine Guelph’s Biosecurity Calculator - free online healthcare tool Equine Guelph’s Sickness Prevention online short course - Special FREE offering! Equine Guelph’s Health & Disease 12-week online course   Equine Guelph HEALTHflash Alert – COVID-19 - Caring for your horse during a pandemic    COVID-19 resources helpful for horse owners and caretakers     Notes to Editor: Equine Guelph is the horse owners' and care givers' Centre at the University of Guelph in Canada. It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups. Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government - for the good of the equine industry as a whole. For further information, visit www.equineguelph.ca.   Story by: Jackie Bellamy-Zions - Equine Guelph   Photos:  (images available upon request)    Photo Caption: Have you created an action plan to care for your animals?   Web Link(s):  Story web link: https://thehorseportal.ca/2020/03/protect-your-herd-equine-guelph-announces-a-free-offering-of-online-sickness-prevention-course/   Other web links:   FREE offering of Equine Guelph's Online Sickness Prevention in Horses course https://thehorseportal.ca/course/sickness-prevention-in-horses-s20/   National Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines https://equineguelph.ca/pdf/tools/codeofpractice/equine_code_of_practice%20(1).pdf   National Farm and Facility Level Biosecurity Standard for the Equine Sector  https://www.equineguelph.ca/pdf/tools/CFIA_ACIA-7979460-v1-Equine-Standard-English-PDF-Final.pdf    Toronto Star article: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/03/10/social-distancing-could-go-a-long-way-toward-slowing-down-covid-19-researchers-say.html?fbclid=IwAR29CXayus3I2LUofg6A7Xg-Z8520SicukLH-0moAC8KM5RmG9J87W__UQ4   Worms and germs blog by infection control expert, Dr. Scott Weese https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/   TVO story with Dr. Weese: https://www.tvo.org/article/what-we-know-and-dont-know-about-how-covid-19-affects-animals   Equine Guelph HEALTHflash Alert – COVID-19 - Caring for your horse during a pandemic   https://www.equineguelph.ca/news/index.php?content=666   COVID-19 resources helpful for horse owners and caretakers https://thehorseportal.ca/covid-19-updates-resources/   Equine Guelph’s Biosecurity Calculator https://www.equineguelph.ca/Tools/biosecurity.php   Equine Guelph’s Sickness Prevention online short course https://thehorseportal.ca/course/equine-biosecurity-standard/   Equine Guelph’s Health & Disease 12-week online course https://courses.opened.uoguelph.ca/search/publicCourseSearchDetails.do?method=load&courseId=17916       Jackie Bellamy-Zions Communications Equine Guelph Guelph, ON  N1G 2W1 519.824.4120 ext. 54756 jbellamy@uoguelph.ca  

March 28, 2020 - The weekend Solvalla feature was the V75 Gold Paralympia (purse to winner 300,000SEK, 2140 meters autostart, 12 starters) and 2.2/1 Disco Volante (7g Scarlet Knight-Glorify-Super Arnie) was a gate to wire winner for harness racing driver Ulf Ohlsson, trainer Stefan Melander and owner Stall Courant AB. Disco won for the fifth time in six 2020 starts and raised his life earnings to 4,192,915SEK. The victory was career win 24 in 59 appearances. He overcame that belief of some that he could only win at 1640 meters, a distance that he won four straight races entering this contest. Race time was 1.10.9kr (mile rate 1:54). Reckless (10m Ready Cash-Haver-Supergill) rallied for second with trainer Bjorn Goop the pilot. Gareth Boko (7m Make It Happen-Vanilla Boko-Pine Chip) was third, reined by Marc Elias for trainer Conrad Lugauer. The next leg of the Paralympic qualifiers is at Jagersro on April 4. Legs of the Paralympic Trot 2020 Saturday March 28 - Solvalla Saturday April 4 - Jägersro Saturday April 11 - Romme Saturday April 18 - Umåker 'Last chance' Final will be held at Åby Saturday April 25. On the same card fast class mares contested the STL Mares Pixies (220,000SEK to the winner, 1640 meters autostart, eight starters) with victory to late closing and 22/1 I Love Paris (10f Steinlager-Marie Dulcinea-Egyptian Gentleman) handled by her trainer Bjorn Goop. The victory increased her life earnings to 3,938,294 with this her 14th career win. Unique Juni (7f Uptown Yankee-Staro Unique-Supergill) was second for Jorgen Westholm and Hevin Boko (6f Going Kronos-Welat Boko-Garland Lobell) took third for Rikard N. Skoglund. The favorite and leading Ultra Bright made a miscue. Earlier on the program were four year old divisions of the Margaretas, each for 300,000SEK to the winners, each raced over 2140 meters autostart. In the filly division 2.2/1 Alaska Kronos (4f Trixton-Illinois-Donerail) scored timed in 1.13.9kr for Orjan Kihlstrom, trainer Daniel Reden and owner Stall Zet. Ganga Bae (4f Muscle Hill-Alexia As-Conway Hall) took second for Jorma Kontio The colt division of four-year olds saw 15.8/1 Untion Face (4m Joke Face-Croix d’Am-Love You) score for trainer/driver Adrian Kolgjini over the Kilhstrom teamed Digital Summit (4m Super Photo Kosmos) clocked in 1.12.7kr. The two three-year old divisions were won first by the filly Clockwork (3f Zola Boko) at 10.3/1 odds and clocked in 1.14.5kr for reinsman Ulf Eriksson. The male division saw 3.4/1 Forever Melon (3g Infinitif-Easter As-Dancers Victory) score in 1.15.7kr with Orjan Kihlstrom up. The main SWE race programs as also being offered by PMU while the FR tracks are closed due to Covid19. PMU is offering an e-Quinte+ wager each day on one SWE race. Thomas H. Hicks  

Thoroughbred racing is set to lag behind its sister codes when New Zealand racing finally gets the green light to return. The billion-dollar racing industry has been in lockdown like the rest of the country since last week and faces a rocky resumption even when restrictions are eased. Racing bosses in all three codes — thoroughbred, harness and greyhounds — are confident they can race safely, with strict protocols, if and when the country returns to Covid-19 alert level 3. That would obviously be without crowds but the problem for thoroughbred racing isn't the lack of people, it is the almost certain lack of fit horses. Confusion has reigned in the code since last week when the Ministry of Primary Industries initially ruled that training tracks could stay open for compliant trainers but then changed their mind. But in between those two decisions New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing put out its own conditions for training which were poorly written and saw many trainers and some track bosses think they had to shut down even though the MPI hadn't changed its stance. Some leading trainers had already decided to cease training but others wanted to continue. Once major training tracks like Cambridge closed all but a tiny percentage of the leading stables were automatically closed down. The latest NZTR recommendations suggest people can train at their own properties with people who live there (family or staff who reside on the property) but galloping or fast work is prohibited, although there is no clarification on how that will or can be policed. The spluttering shutdown means even if New Zealand returns to level 3 in late April and racing was technically allowed to go ahead the next day, there will be next to no horses ready to race. Racing's lost month after comeback Senior trainers yesterday estimated it will take at least a month for horses who are being walked, cantered or exercised on treadmills to get up to anything like race fitness. So the new trackwork and training restrictions leave the thoroughbred industry hamstrung to the point that racing may not resume until June even if the country returns to Level 3 by May. That is a month of lost income for not only most people in the racing industry, horse owners through stake money, the TAB through turnover and the Government through the taxes paid by racing, at a time the Government could probably do with very cent. When racing does return there are also grave fears among the thoroughbred industry as to how much money the TAB will be able to contribute to stakes as they have faced the double blow of racing being halted along side almost all sport, the latter a massive provider of revenue for the TAB. When thoroughbred racing resumes it could be with mini meetings of six races of small fields, all over shorter distances than usual because of the horse's lack of recent racing. It will almost certainly be restricted to zones, as most racing in Australia now is, to reduce travel and therefore risk of Covid-19 spread inside the industry. NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry admits mistakes were made last week and with only a skeleton staff working on extreme pressure some are forgivable. But the trainers spoken to by the Herald yesterday are still largely confused by what lies ahead and are hoping for more direction as New Zealand gets closer to the first lockdown removal deadline, albeit aware that may be extended. Other codes better off Greyhound racing will be the easiest of the three codes to get back on track while harness racing looks set to be well ahead of thoroughbreds because the majority of harness horses are trained on private tracks. The rules sent out by HRNZ yesterday say trainers can work horses at their home properties as long as they don't use staff who live outside the property and working should be kept to half speed. While that will reduce race-ready fitness many harness trainers jog their horses for up to 40 minutes below half speed most days of the week anyway and because they are allowed to do that they could have them ready to race a week or two after a return to Level 3. And harness racing has the added advantage of racing on all-weather tracks so they can race at any level through winter, whereas once the wet weather sets in many galloping trainers will be reluctant to race their better horses. That could see a track like Auckland's Alexandra Park holding meetings as early as mid-May should the country revert to Level 3 when we all hope it does, even if those meetings are only six or seven races containing small fields. Michael Guerin Courtesy of the NZ Herald

Harness Racing was halted about two weeks ago at The Meadows, shut down because of social-distancing measures and the threat of coronavirus. But horses need to exercise, and it takes humans to train them and care for them. That continues at The Meadows and all over the country. The lack of competitive racing also threatens stakes racing and the big-money purses that go with it. The Meadows is no exception. While stakes racing isn’t scheduled until the Pennsylvania Sire Stake series starts May 2 at the North Strabane Township track, other events such as the Currier & Ives for 3-year-old pacing fillies (May 22) and for pacing colts (June 20) also are in question. The Adios eliminations are scheduled for July 25 with the final set for Aug. 1. Until further notice, racing has been limited to one harness track in the country, Cal-Expo in Sacramento, Calif. The California Horse Racing Board approved the track to begin racing last Friday. Racing will be held there Tuesdays and Wednesdays through April 22. The Meadows’ return to racing might be determined by the reopening of the casino and return to work by state employees because race judges are employees of the state. Races cannot be contested without judges. For now, keeping horses active and their handlers healthy is a main objective. “Most days, (horses) are coming out and exercising,” said Ron Burke, the top trainer in the world. “We’ve turned some out, so they are put in paddocks. But there’s not enough paddocks for all the horses. “The horses have to come out and either jog lightly or some days they go closer to race speed. So, when races pick up, they are fit and ready to go. Basically, with a barn bigger like ours, we’re able to simulate races.” Jim King, Jr., one of the top trainers in the country, has his horses at his farm in Delaware. He has a number of stakes-eligible horses. He’s attempting to strike a balance. “It kind of changes every day,” said King. “We don’t know what is going on ourselves. There is no change in what we do with the horses. Jim King, Jr. “I had a half-dozen ready to qualify. In fact, I dropped them into qualifiers, but they didn’t draw in. They were that close. A couple more were a few weeks away. I had to finish getting them ready and once they are ready, I’ll back off. My other horses will keep going with an abbreviated schedule. They’re jogging, not as far as usual and only training once a week.” Dirk Simpson, who owns a significant stable of horses at The Meadows, said horsemen have been through racing lulls in the past, pointing to planned weeks off and a layoff in 2018 because of a deadly virus. Racing at The Meadows was shut down for more than one month early in 2018 because the virus was contracted by a handful of horses in late January. “The first week, it’s just kind of normal business,” Simpson said. “We’ve been down before. You think it’s OK and things are going to be the normal. We’ve survived it before. “Now, we’re into two weeks and there is no sign of racing. I’m thinking, my own personal point of view is that at some point the state will open it back up. We can operate with a small group of people. The governor will eventually allow (state employees) to go back to work. Dirk Simpson “I’m trying to be optimistic. Two years ago, we were shut down a month and my barn was hit hard. We just weathered through it. You get 60 days; it’s a totally different thing to tackle. If this goes longer than three weeks, it would be a hardship – first the smaller stables and then the larger stables. It’s scary right now. I’m staying as positive as I can.” Neither Burke, King nor Simpson have laid off any workers. None has reported anyone who has become ill with the virus. The entire harness racing industry is looking forward to getting back on the track. “We need the end date,” Burke said. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near finding the end date. “We’re trying to keep people from congregating and they’re good at it. It’s not like we have cubicles we’re sitting in to watch our horses. Once on the track, those horses keep you separate.” Burke is stressing to employees to maintain social distancing, washing their hands and staying healthy. “We need to stay healthy because the horses need us to take care of them,” he said. King has 3-year-old filly pacer, Lyons Sentinel, who’s coming out party came at The Meadows, to be concerned with. Lyons Sentinel won nearly $900,000 as a 2-year-old. “She was a little behind most of them (his other horses) anyway,” King said. “She’s training but nowhere near. … She’s six weeks from qualifying anywhere. I have to keep the horses moving, not race read but moving enough so I can have them race-ready in 10 days.” Burke thinks the harness racing industry could return faster to close to normal operations than other industries. “It could be done under any system they want, 40 to 50 people,” Burke said. “Horses have to exercise anyhow. There are ways. It would take some adjustments. The way we prepare, you’d have to cut the number (of people) and change the way you go to the paddock. You could put the horses together and we could separate people. “We should be able to get back about the quickest of any industry. We don’t need interaction. People can bet from their phone and on computers. I have a little hope for whatever social-distancing requirements there are, we can manage it.” Reprinted with permission of The Observer-Reporter

When Kurt Sugg looks back on his childhood, some of his fondest early memories of harness racing involved climbing into the family's Ford Ranchero and accompanying his father, Ivan, on trips to the county fairs in Ohio. Sometimes, they would stop on the way to pick up driver Jeff Fout, then continue on their journey to the races. One horse in particular at that time, a pacer named On Bret, was the center of Kurt's attention. The reason was simple. On Bret found his way to the winner's circle on a regular basis. The colt won 13 of 19 starts as a 2-year-old in 1978, just as the then 9-year-old Kurt was becoming immersed in the sport. "I remember going to the fairs and (On Bret) would win all the time; at least it seemed that way when I was there," Kurt said, adding with a laugh, "I guess I got to thinking it was pretty easy back at that time. Being a kid, you don't realize it's not as easy as it appears. But from a child's eyes, that's the way it appeared to me." Kurt jogged his first horse that same year. "My toes just barely could touch the stirrups and my butt was just on the edge of the seat," he said. "This is kind of all I ever really wanted to do. After school, we were always down at the barn helping dad when we got old enough to clean stalls and harness horses and things like that. That's kind of where it started. "And I always liked the competitiveness. That really got me into it. I like being competitive." Eight years after On Bret's rookie season, Kurt won his first race as a driver. In the ensuing 34 years, he has added 4,319 more, plus 1,067 as a trainer. Not surprisingly, he has cited his father as the biggest influence on his career. Ivan was the 2003 Trainer of the Year after guiding No Pan Intended to the Pacing Triple Crown and was inducted into the Ohio Hall of Fame in 2006. "I didn't work for my dad back then (when No Pan Intended raced) so it was kind of different, but I was happy to see my dad have that success in the business, which I think he deserved," Kurt said. "He did this his whole life. "When I was a kid, we went to the horse sales and dad would buy some yearlings, but they were always on the cheaper side, and he developed them into good stakes horses. When he got some little better horses, he proved what he could do with his training ability. That was a thrill for me to watch." Last year as a driver, Kurt won 361 races, the second-highest total of his career and not far from the 375 victories he posted in 2016. His $2.78 million in purses in 2019, though, were a lifetime best. He was off to a strong start this season, with his 96 triumphs tied for seventh among all drivers in North America, before racing was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was second in the driver standings at Northfield Park, trailing only five-time national dash champ Aaron Merriman. "This was by far the best start to a year I've ever had," Kurt said. "Everything was going along very nicely for me. I'm anxious to get back to racing, but I understand we need to do what we need to do to protect ourselves and the whole nation as far as this goes. "We have a big farm here, so we can get out and move around. But, still, not being able to go and do anything is really tough." Kurt has 10 horses at the Wayne County Fairgrounds in Wooster and another five horses at home. "We can sit in the living room and look out the window and see the horses in the field, so we really enjoy that a lot," he said. Although the sport faces an uncertain time, Kurt said people in the industry will work together to come through it. "We're pretty competitive on the track but when it comes down to somebody needing something and the welfare of the horses, people are going to band together to help them out," Kurt said. "That's good to see." Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association

Trainer Cran Dalgety’s Bathurst Gold Crown celebration party isn’t going exactly as planned, but it is going to be a long one. Two weeks in fact. That is how long Dalgety will be trapped in the Novotel Hotel at Auckland Airport after being forced into quarantine when returning from overseeing Dr Susan’s Group 1 $100,000 win at Bathurst on Saturday night. Dalgety, who trains the filly in partnership with Nathan Purdon, flew back from the successful Sydney campaign expecting to continue through to Christchurch and then into isolation at home in Canterbury. But the jovial horseman got a shock when he was informed of the new Covid-19 protocols at Auckland airport that meant if he didn’t have somewhere to self-isolate within a five-hour drive he had to go into forced quarantine at the Novotel, which is 50 metres from the Auckland Airport International Terminal. “I think I missed the cut off by a day of two,” laments Dalgety. “So basically I am in lock down in the Novotel, which could be worse, at least I got a nice hotel. “But the rooms are quite small and has no opening windows and I am only allowed outside for 20 minutes a day. I was hoping to be able to use the gym but we aren’t so I am going to try to get the running shoes on and make the most of the 20 minutes. “My daughter has sent me an exercise app so I can work out in the room, but there isn’t much room to do that either.” Dalgety gets food brought to the room three times a day but it is left at the door and he isn’t allowed to collect it until the staff member who drops it off is gone. For a country boy, and one who loves his fitness so much he has completed the famed Coast to Coast, this is a less than ideal situation. “It is not great but I understand the situation and I just have to make the most of it. “I have my phone and my laptop, so I can work a bit, but I have watched Dr Susan’s win on Saturday night plenty of times already.” Dr Susan has travel problems of her own as well as Dalgety was keen to get her to Perth for the West Australian Oaks but those plans have been shelved. “We could fly her but no groom cause it also would have meant whoever flew with her had to self isolate 14 days both there and on the way back, which is not practical. “So she has gone for a spell at Benstud, which is hardly ideal because she is fit and ready to race on. “Technically we could have kept racing her in NSW but she would have been rated a free-for-all grade horse and that is not fair on her. “The real shame is she is racing so well and could have gone there and then the Queensland Oaks but that carnival has been canned. So will have a break and we will have to look at next season.” Dalgety laughs when he thinks of how Dr Susan nearly threw away both her Group 1 wins this season, in the Victoria Oaks and on Saturday. Both time she galloped in the score up and caused false starts before recovering to lead throughout at the second attempt. “She does that when she is really well, she clenches her tail between her legs and gallops,” says Dalgety. “And you wouldn’t believe it it is hereditary. Her grand dam Sparks A Flyin (who won a NSW Oaks) did it and so did her dam Safedra. “I sent her (Safedra) to Luke McCarthy to be trained a few years ago and she was hot favourite for a $50,00 race in Queensland and she did the same thing and blew the start. “It is funny because Dr Susan is a lovely quiet filly most of the time but she gets too well for her own good some race nights.” Dalgety might be feeling the same for much of the next two weeks. So if you are a mate of the man in the colourful shirts don’t be scared to reach out over the next 13 days. Dalgety will have plenty of time on his hands.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Guerin

Three Victorian harness racing trainer-drivers who travelled interstate to contest the prestigious Gold Series finals at Bathurst, NSW, have been the first caught up in changed Victorian quarantine arrangements, announced Sunday. The three were racing in the rich finals of the Bathurst Gold Crown juvenile race series but have subsequently been caught up in the ever-changing and necessary requirements for racing under COVID-19 restrictions. Permissions were granted by both NSW and Victorian authorities on Friday for David Miles, David Moran and David Farrar to travel to Bathurst to drive and race their qualifiers for the Group One Gold feature events for two and three-year-olds. It's believed the trio was advised on Saturday afternoon, after they had already got on the road, that a change in the interpretation of the requirements meant they would need to go into isolation after their return to Victoria. They were further told that they would be permitted to complete their NSW engagements, but on their return, they would be stood down for a period of 14 days and would not be permitted to enter any Victorian racetrack for that period. They initially thought their stables would be shut down for the same period, but they've now been advised they will be permitted to continue preparing their teams, but cannot attend any race track for a period of 14 days and must receive a medical certificate before resuming. The David Miles-trained Focus Stride (Art Major-Sparkling Stride (Christian Cullen) was a boilover winner in the $100,000 Colts and Geldings Gold Chalice Final for three-year-olds. Focus Stride, an impressive winner of the $100,000 Gold Chalice David Moran's Lochinvar Chief was beaten a head, finishing second to Tasty Delight (Bettors Delight-Gentle Audrey (Artsplace) in the $100,000 Group One Gold Crown Final for two year old colts and geldings; and Dave Farrar had made the journey north with The Kew Legend to contest the Gold Crown Consolation, finishing sixth. Although disappointed, the affected trainer-drivers are philosophical about their predicament. "If that's what it takes to do for us to continue racing, I'm more than happy with the decision," Miles said. David Miles after his Bathurst win HRV yesterday released a statement advising that licensees who fail to comply with the requirements face significant penalties, including disqualification. HRV Stewards advised all industry stakeholders, effective immediately: All Licensed persons whom have competed interstate must not attend race or trial meetings in Victoria for a period of 14 days from the date of competition, and must provide a medical clearance to HRV within that 14-day period; Trainers, who are subject to the above restriction, will not be permitted to present a horse to start in a race or trial during this 14-day period; All persons are advised that should they fail to comply with these requirements significant penalties, including periods of disqualification, may be imposed under Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR). AHRR 238 states: A person shall not fail to comply with any order, direction or requirement of the Controlling Body or the Stewards relating to harness racing or to the harness racing industry.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

It is testament to the sort of man Father Dan Cummings was that after decades of enormous success in harness racing that is rarely the first thing which comes to mind when you think of him. Father Dan went to see his big boss upstairs on Saturday afternoon, taking his last breath after a battle with cancer that eventually moved to his lungs. There was little shock in his death, it had been coming for 15 months, since he was diagnosed with the illness and decided to not go down the treatment path. “He wanted to enjoy what time he had left and he did,” said his brother Peter after “Danny” passed away aged 75. “He made the most of his last year but when he got back from the sales he started to get worse and struggled with his breathing at the end.” That Father Dan made the most of his final year is hardly surprising because that was how he lived his life. He entered the priesthood straight out of school and upon being ordained spent much of his working life in the Dunedin diocese (the church’s region). A priest can affect a lot of lives in that time, especially one as popular as Father Dan and he was also at the centre of one of New Zealand’s great tragedies, being the parish priest at Port Chalmers when David Gray shot and killed 13 people in the Aramoana massacre in 1990. “That was a pretty intense time for Danny, being the parish priest during something that bad,” says Peter. But away from a life of service, Father Dan was Danny to his family. Danny loved animals, a love he got from his mother Joan who set up Tuapeka Lodge in 1965. While that extended to harness racing it was originally focussed on rodeo, where Danny held the New Zealand record for bulldogging, which is when a rodeo rider jumps from a horse on to a steer or calf and wrestles it to the ground. This would suggest Danny was a bit of a hard bugger. “He loved the rodeo and was very good at it,” says Peter. But after Mum passed in 1977 Danny (the third of eight children), Peter and sister Julie (Davie) took over the stud with enormous success. “Danny was the breeding and horse expert, I was the farmer and Julie managed it and sometimes prepared the yearlings,” explains Peter. Tuapeka Lodge generally kept their yearlings to 10, selling almost all the colts and keeping the fillies. Dan would train some, including one of their flagship horses in Maureen’s Dream, but it was mainly the colts who made Tuapeka Lodge the respected nursery that went on to prepare 10 yearling sales toppers. Many of them traced back to unraced mare turned superstar broodmare Sakuntala. The family bought her in 1974 and she left 13 winners from 18 foals, including Tuapeka Star who numbered the 1979 Tatlow Stakes at Moonee Valley among her 22 Australian victories and she went on to leave the great Iraklis. “He was one of our favourites,” remembers Peter of the stallion who won the NZ Cup and Miracle Mile and over $1million. He was one of two NZ Cup winners from the Tuapeka breed, the other being Monkey King, even though he wasn’t bred on the farm he was from a mare who was. Sakuntala’s progeny or their progeny have resulted in over 30 horses to win more than $100,000. But good horses alone do not legends make and Father Dan was a harness racing legend. He was ahead of his time with his website and yearling pics and as a man who commanded respect without trying. Come sales time he would be sitting on his lawn chair outside the stables of the Tuapeka Lodge draft, a parish priest to an entire industry. “He could be hard when he needed to be. He was very demanding,” laughed Peter. “He liked things done the right way but we never had a cross word and neither did Julie with him. “But he loved the horses and really enjoyed his involvement with Southern Bred Southern Reared in recent years.” Tuapeka Lodge will continue, with younger family members keen to help Peter and Julie. “I think we have a lovely bunch of horses to take to the sales next year,” smiles Peter. And they will have somebody looking over them from above. A legend. ** Father Dan’s funeral can not be planned yet because of the current Covid-19 restrictions.   by Michael Guerin

Down Under winners with Carter Dalgety will be taking a break for a while because of the reduced number of harness racing meetings that are currently being held in North America due to Covid-19 restrictions.   Sprinter N picked up a win on Monday at Dover Downs.   The Down Under gelding clocked a nice mile in 1:50.4, for Trainer Dylan Davis and Driver Cory Callahan. The son of Mach Three continued on his successful career in the $9,000 Pace. It was his 33 rd career victory and took his stake earnings to a large $448,000.   Sprinter N holds a lifetime mark of 1:48.6. His Down Under career consisted of three Group race placings and was the winner of the Group 1 Golden Slipper at Gloucester Park.   Teo Enteo A scores a victory at Saratoga. Down Under pacer picked up another victory on Sunday in the state of New York. The 12yo clocked a time of 1:54.3 around the half mile (800m) track of Saratoga. Tracy Tarantino did the training along with Larry Stalbaum doing the driving and owning.   It was also the Ambro Oberative geldings 33 rd career victory and extended his stake earnings to $441,000. He was the winner at Group 2 level twice when racing Down Under and placed at Group level on nine occasions.   Monday 16th March   Dover Downs DE Sprinter N – Time: 1:50.4, Stake: $9,000   Miami Valley Raceway OH Onspeed N – Time: 1:54.2, Stake: $10,000     Wednesday 18th March   Saratoga Harness NY Nerve Of Steel N – Time: 1:55.3, Stake: $5,000 Never Say Never N – Time: 1:56.1, Stake: $4,000     Thursday 19th March   Saratoga Harness NY Bontz N – Time: 1:55.0, Stake: $15,000     Sunday 22nd March   Saratoga Harness NY Teo Enteo A – Time: 1:54.3, Stake: $8,030 Khun Ratha A – Time: 1:55.2, Stake: $10,700     Click here for previous weeks articles     by Carter Dalgety

THE Sydney Inter Dominion seems so far away in this climate, but one horse sure to be a major player is WA’s new pacing star Shockwave. Ryan Bell’s four-year-old continued his rise with a narrow, but outstanding free-for-all win at Gloucester Park last night. Shockwave started from the outside (gate eight), did all the work and had to parked outside leader and hot favourite Galactic Star, but still snatched victory. The 1min57.4sec mile rate for 2536m wasn’t blistering, but the closing three splits were: 28.8, 27.3 and 27.7sec. “I’m gutted the Queensland Winter Carnival is off, but obviously there’s a much bigger picture,” Bell said. “We’ll just stay here racing and keeping an eye on what’s happening on the eastern states. “The (Sydney) Inter Dominion is absolutely a target. He’s grown-up a lot since our Carnival (in January).” ____________________________________________________________________________________________ DON’T panic if you’re a Chicago Bull fan. Yes he was scratched from his highly-anticipated comeback run at Gloucester Park last Friday night, but trainer Gary Hall Sr said it was precautionary. “There was some filling, nothing serious, but we’ve come so far to get to this stage I wasn’t going to take any risk,” Hall Sr said. Chicago Bull hasn’t raced since his freak accident in Auckland in October, 2018 which left him with six fractured vertebrae. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ VICTORIAN trainer Mick Stanley just keeps unleashing exciting juveniles this season. Soho Lanikai, Soho Almasi and now Bar Room Banta have all looked outstanding. Bar Room Banta, a colt by A Rocknroll Dance out of Christian Cullen mare Jerada Ace, sparkled winning the Shakamaker Classic at Melton last night (Saturday). Stanley used gate two to lead and never looked in doubt, cruising away to win by 9.3m over the regally-bred debutante Keayang Kamikaze (Bettors Delight-Libertybelle Midfrew). The time was blistering, a 1min53.8sec mile rate for 1720m, including closing splits of 56.3 and 28.3sec. “We’ve got a fantastic crop and he’s right up with any of them,” Stanley said. ____________________________________________________________________________________________ IT’S hard to believe star trotting mare Red Hot Tooth went more than 14 months without a win. She’s been one of the best trotters in Victoria for about two years, but has kept bumping into stars like Tornado Valley in our best races. But trainer Kari Males found the perfect race, a drop back to her own sex in the Group 3 Carlotta’s Pride free-for-all for mares only at Melton last night. And Red Hot Tooth made the most of it, blowing her rivals away after doing all the work to win by 9.7m in a slick 1min56.2sec mile rate for 1720m. It was her first win since the George Gath at Shepparton on January 12, last year. Despite being winless since, she’s earned over $120,000 and run some fantastic races, including a second in the recent Group 1 Great Southern Star. Red Hot Tooth’s now won almost $440,000 with 20 wins and 26 placings from 73 starts.   by Adam Hamilton

The California Horse Racing Board conducted two separate meetings on Thursday, March 26, by teleconference. The public participated by dialing into the teleconference and/or listening through the audio webcast link on the CHRB website. Both meetings were chaired by Dr. Gregory Ferraro, joined for the first meeting by Vice Chair Oscar Gonzales and Commissioners Dennis Alfieri, Damascus Castellanos, Wendy Mitchell, and Alex Solis. Commissioner Mitchell did not participate in the second meeting. The audios of these two meetings are available on the CHRB Website (www.chrb.ca.gov) under the Webcast link. In brief, during the first, regular meeting: Chairman Ferraro opened the meeting by welcoming Commissioner Castellanos to his initial meeting as a member of the Board. Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Commissioner Castellanos on March 10. In two separate but related actions involving both emergency and permanent rules, the Board voted to re-establish the 48-hour restriction on the administration of medications or other substances to horses entered to race unless otherwise authorized by regulation. The change to the emergency regulation went into effect immediately, while the permanent rule was approved for 15-day public notice. The Board approved a regulatory amendment prohibiting the administration of the anti-bleeder medication furosemide to 2-year-olds. The amendment also reduces by half the level that can be administered to horses permitted to race with furosemide. The Board put over to the April 22 meeting further discussion of a regulatory amendment clarifying that racing veterinarians are under the direction of Official Veterinarians, allowing racing associations input, as requested by The Stronach Group. The Board approved for public notice an amendment to the rule governing penalties that makes veterinarians and other licensees who violate shock wave therapy regulations subject to the same penalties as trainers. The Board approved a regulatory amendment requiring individuals to hold an assistant trainer's license in good standing for one year as a qualification for a trainer's license. The Board approved a requirement for practicing veterinarians to use an electronic on-line form prescribed by the Board when submitting their required veterinarian reports to the Official Veterinarian. The Board approved a regulatory amendment requiring trainers to maintain treatment records of all medications they administer to horses in their care at facilities within the CHRB's jurisdiction. The Board authorized the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club to distribute $90,839 in race day charity proceeds to nine beneficiaries and another $13,744 to four beneficiaries. The Board designated the 2020 fair racing sessions in Pleasanton, Sacramento, Ferndale, and Fresno as a combined meet for pari-mutuel purposes. The Board approved an industry agreement.to use a designated portion of Advance Deposit Wagering revenue that would ordinarily go to horsemen's purses and racetrack commissions to be used to fund a California co-op marketing program. After the conclusion of the first, regular meeting, the Board reconvened the teleconference to hold a special meeting to address a single agenda item. The Board approved a change to the license application of Watch & Wager LLC, allowing harness racing at Cal Expo to switch race days from Fridays and Saturdays to Tuesdays and Wednesdays.   Reprinted with permission of The Paulick Report

« Article Archive
USA
Canada
Australia
New Zealand
Europe
Hanover, PA - Pick your catastrophe. We face a world health crisis worse than any we've seen for over a century. Meanwhile, the Governor of Pennsylvania is engaging in some state budget buccaneering that would, if the General Assembly permits it, destroy a two-century-old, native horse racing industry that brings $1.6 billion in economic impact and 20,000 jobs to the state. If this succeeds, what will happen in other states? And, finally, a long list of Thoroughbred and Standardbred industry participants face a reckoning that, looking at their conduct as alleged, you would think they never expected. This last situation is in the forefront of the minds of our Board of Directors as we work through our "annual meeting from home" this week and next. We all abhor the allegations in the indictments and criminal complaints, and we roundly condemn all conduct of the kind. At the USTA, however, there is an obligation to forego the luxury of performative outrage and, instead, to concentrate on what concrete steps our mandate requires us to take. Our record in dealing as an association with cheating and horse abuse is excellent. Now I write to call for concrete action that will move us forward in the right direction. In this editorial, I offer some recommendations. Others will join in, I hope, offering additions and corrections. At last, I hope, everyone of good will in harness racing will contribute time and money to the work that must be done. We can resolve to embrace change and to bear its cost, because we know that only then can our racing sport thrive in the modern era. The Narrative We love horses. This is our narrative, its beginning and its end, and it consists of countless stories of courage, hope, and love for horses that totally contradict the acts of a criminal few. Perhaps our very survival as a sport requires us now to make sure that the world learns about our true selves. When a horse puts its nose ahead of another horse's nose, evolution is at work. Taking the lead is part of a horse's social nature, so (unlike dog racing, for example) horse racing is entirely natural, and horses thrive on it. Horsepersons can tell inspiring stories of horses that found a way to win against unplanned-for adversity, just as we must overcome adversity now. Caring well for horses, and we do care well for them, involves trying to understand these beautiful creatures that cannot communicate with us in human terms. But those of us who employ their intelligence to understand and communicate in something like horse terms become better people for it. There are wonderful stories of lives that have been transformed, not merely economically, but in a deeper way, by the bond with the horse, an animal that evolved along an entirely different strand of the net of creation from humans. Horses can teach us things about courage and beauty, even love, that we would otherwise never learn. Some people do not know that our award-winning writers and photographers have been telling the story of harness racing in Hoof Beats since before the USTA was founded. But today the USTA has more powerful resources for telling the story of harness racing than it has ever had: our website is the most visited in harness racing and is closely watched by other breeds, and our social media presence is a serious force on the internet. Our Communications Department is unrivaled among breed associations, and our ability to put these resources to use is limited only by the cooperation of our membership. Finally, the USTA Board of Directors is meeting as I write, by means of a series of teleconferences, and advanced communications is under discussion. As the USTA and the membership find new and more effective ways to tell the true story of harness racing, we can correct the cultural narrative and propel our sport into its rightful place in the future. "The Feds" In the United States, the federal level provides the services that a central government should provide, while the states retain authority over every other matter. Federal prosecutions are usually the best way to address criminal activity occurring in multiple states. Although the conduct alleged took place in several states, the indictments and criminal complaints under discussion issue from the Southern District of New York, one of the most sophisticated offices within the United States Justice Department. We must not fall prey to the ignorant notion that there is any magical connection between the Justice Department and the Horseracing Integrity Act which, if it ever were to see passage, would be governed by the Commerce Department. As Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (representing state authority), has pointed out: nobody needed a Horseracing Integrity bill to make these prosecutions happen. The laws that make the allegations in the indictments illegal, and the federal, state, and private agencies that built these cases already exist, and we should build on the existing system to prevent cheating and horse abuse, and to incentivize best practices in our sport. The serious problems that the Horseracing Integrity Act poses for harness racing have been explained elsewhere. Yes, we have problems of our own to solve, but instead of throwing this poorly-considered federal Hail Mary, instead of ignoring the states' established knowledge and experience in regulating horse racing, and instead of relying on some unspecifiable federal magic to solve our problems, our effort must be to support and extend the growing cooperation among state racing commissions. The state racing commissions themselves called for this over a year ago, by proposing a dedicated unit among key federal and state agencies to investigate racing matters and, where appropriate, to refer them for prosecution. This call was ignored by those proposing so-called racing integrity bills at the federal level, but individual state racing commissions are continuing nevertheless to strengthen their ties with state and federal enforcement agencies. An even more significant development is taking place. "Interstate compacts" provide a contractual structure that enhances cooperation among states regarding regulations and enforcement. This is not a new concept: for years an interstate licensing compact has existed, simplifying licensing for owners, trainers, drivers, jockeys, and other licensees across the country. In a similar but more important way, an interstate medication compact would bring about consistent medication regulation nationwide. (We don't use the word "uniform," because Standardbred and Thoroughbred medication rules can't be uniform. They must differ in a few areas because the two breeds have different performance models.) Interstate medication compacts are working their way through several state legislatures, and we may be approaching passage of a multi-breed medication compact in one of the leading racing states. If this happens, I believe that the other racing states will quickly follow suit. Reading legislative bills (and enacted statutes) can be extremely tedious for most people. But someone has to do it. And if you read the Horseracing Integrity draft bill, you will discover something very surprising: recognition in the bill's own language of the primacy and importance of interstate compacts and, by implication, state authority. It's almost as if the federalization special interests felt compelled to acknowledge that the states have already done all the work and already have all the know-how regarding medication regulation. Section 4(e) of the draft bill says that the whole federal house of cards collapses if, "after the expiration of five years following [the effective date of the Act]," an interstate compact is established. Amazingly, the draft then goes on, in subsection 4(e)(2), to recite important steps that we should take to develop an interstate medication compact. Let us not wait five years enduring some sort of expensive and pointless federal intermission before we do what should have been done in the first place: to fully establish the breed-specific medication compact that is presently evolving in the states. The Ethical Climate We can achieve a radically new regulatory process that will render extinct the criminal activity of a few horsepersons and veterinarians, and we can do it without having to purchase any expensive federal snake oil. The type of criminal activity under discussion was, in the past, often veiled by certain legal concepts and, to some extent, aided by a certain "don't ask don't tell" attitude within the industry. We now have the opportunity, maybe our last, to change this permanently. First, the days of turning a blind eye to suspicious activity are over. They never should have existed. I offer, as a good counterexample to horsepersons who failed, in the past, to report suspicious activity, the American bar. If a lawyer becomes aware of an ethical infraction and fails to report it, he or she becomes guilty in turn of another serious ethical infraction. In other words, the legal community has a self-policing system that can be expected to work much better than the "don't ask don't tell' system that we have tolerated in racing. In grade school, if you told on someone, you were a "rat." Unfortunately, this way of thinking persisted into adulthood among some horsepersons. It was never valid. We must police ourselves, because our obligation is not to be a "stand-up guy." Our obligation is to ensure the health and welfare of our horses, and to preserve the integrity of our industry. Second, we must recalibrate our internal affairs. No longer can we be excused for leaving investigation and enforcement up to our chronically underfunded racing commissions. But rather than pouring more of our money into the state commissions, we should develop private investigative capabilities that support the regulators' powers and we should demand the commissions' formalized cooperation with the investigations that must be carried out. Much of the investigative work that went into the current prosecutions was carried out not by the FBI, but rather by a private firm called "5 Stones intelligence" or "5Si." We have contracted with investigative firms in past years, but never did we make the sort of commitment that was made to 5Si. Maybe this should be the model going forward: use the power of private investigations wherever necessary to support the work of the racing commissions. Indeed, as Ed Martin pointed out, the current prosecution demonstrates the way to protect racing. No federal Hail Mary is necessary. Third, all licensees in racing should be required to consent to investigation by any racing authority, in any public or private place, at any time, and also to consent to all appropriate, effective corrective action pending a hearing. If you want to participate in our industry, this comes with the territory. I'm aware of a case in which a trainer was caught doing something blatantly wrong to a horse, behaved extremely guiltily when caught, and then influenced a veterinarian to lie about the matter. The USTA suspended this individual and never looked back, but the state racing commission did nothing about it, because it thought that its hands were tied. Let us untie the hands of the racing commissions and other racing authorities, including the USTA, which has always been a powerful investigative force in harness racing. Where are the large sums of money going to come from that will be needed for all of this? This is something that we will have to figure out, and now the discussion has begun. But I can tell you this: the funding we come up with to make effective the work of the state regulators is sure to be less than what the Horseracing Integrity Act would cost us. According to the testimony of a Thoroughbred witness before the Congressional subcommittee that is presently considering the Horseracing Integrity Act, the cost to the Standardbred industry would be about $13.8 million. Even if we had to put that much into the existing system to make it work effectively, at least we would know where the money was going. Conclusion and Invitation Times of peril are also times of opportunity. We're aware, we're outraged, we're worried. But we're also energized as perhaps never before. Now is our chance to do things that probably could not have been done before. The USTA will act. I invite industry stakeholders to join the USTA in developing a comprehensive template that will protect real integrity, support the health and welfare of our horses, and permit the beautiful narrative of horse racing to continue uninterrupted. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association
Following is a letter sent to U.S. Trotting Association President Russell Williams and his response to five prominent harness horsemen — George Segal, Marvin Katz, Steve Stewart, Myron Bell and Richard Alan Arnold — who called for action from the industry because it “owes a debt and profound obligation to two essential and dependent constituencies without whom our sport cannot exist: the Wagering Public and our beloved Standardbred Race horses.” Letter to Russell Williams from Segal, Katz, Stewart, Bell and Arnold March 19, 2020 Mr. Russell Williams President United States Trotting Association 6130 S. Sunbury Road Westerville, OH 43081-9309 Dear Mr. Williams: As Owners, Breeders and caretakers of Standardbred race horses, we owe a debt and profound obligation to two essential and dependent constituencies without whom our sport cannot exist: the Wagering Public and our beloved Standardbred Race horses. Both are totally dependent on the integrity and good faith adherence to the tenants of our sport by the vast majority of our sport’s participants who understand the need for honesty and humanity. In addition, both require exclusion of cheaters who violate them. Harness Racing has a devoted following to whom we all owe a duty of transparency and integrity. The work of a cheater doping horses in the shadows of the shed row is neither transparent nor honest. And worse, it is an unconscionable abuse of our noble charges. This chemical subterfuge, though apparently practiced by a distinct few undermines our sport and requires those honest participants who are in the vast majority standing up and saying enough. Although, the wagering public and our racehorses are both essential to our sport, there is one very important difference. The public can vote with their pocketbooks by moving away from the sport if they are displeased. But our beloved race horses cannot choose to leave if they are abused. For those of us who breed, raise, train, race and care for these magnificent animals, know that horses love to interact and develop relationships with humans who treat them well; and these noble beasts excel at performing in the manner they were bred to do. Those loveable characteristics of the racehorse makes it criminal to abuse these wonderful creatures or stand silent when others are doing so. The recent indictments of 29 members of the Horse Racing Industry by the Department of Justice was both shocking and depressingly disappointing. Common sense tells us these 29 individuals who were indicted are unlikely to be the only participants in our sport who may be responsibly charged with violating laws protecting our wonderful racehorses and the Betting Public. A crisis is upon us and make no mistake, the general public is watching. Two very different newspapers, the Washington Post and the (Louisville) Courier Journal, each published sobering editorials regarding Horse Racing and the doping indictments: “Horse Racing Has Outlived Its Time” Washington Post, March 13, 2020 “Horse Racing Doping Scheme Leaves No Option” Courier – Journal, March 10, 2020 In response to these clarion calls the time for action is now. It is time to stand up for our great sport and to protect our race horses from potential harm by the unscrupulous who would destroy and abuse both for potential gain. In this time of crisis the undersigned call for the following concrete steps to be taken immediately: 1. For the U.S.T.A. to actively and publicly condemn the type of activity alleged in the DOJ indictments and proactively work with other industry groups to propose and obtain comprehensive regulation to prevent the mistreatment of our horses through doping and other unethical activity. 2. For the U.S.T.A. to reinstate its Tip Hotline for persons of integrity to report suspected cheating – SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING. 3. For U.S.T.A. to form an industry committee to investigate the extent of the doping problem in our sport, including, if necessary, hiring private investigators and provide its findings to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. 4. For all of us to commit to the betting public, our race horses and each other to speak up – disassociate ourselves from cheaters and to shun those who we know are dirty trainers and vets or owners who associate with them. In many ways 2019 was one of the greatest years in our sport’s history. But recent developments make it clear either the vast majority of us who love this sport and these magnificent creatures we call race horses, stand up for what is right or, the pride we now feel for being involved in this noble and enjoyable venture may turn to the shame we will bear for being associated with an enterprise that expired through our neglect. Yours very truly, George Segal       Marvin Katz       Steve Stewart       Myron Bell       Richard Alan Arnold cc: U.S.T.A. Board of Directors Williams’ response to Segal, Katz, Stewart, Bell and Arnold   March 30, 2020 Dear George, Marvin, Steve, Myron, and Richard: Your timely and eloquent letter is most welcome. I respectfully refer you to an item that was recently posted on the USTA website (http://ustrottingnews.com/the-way-forward-some-initial-steps/). In it, I offer some recommendations and invite all harness racing stakeholders to join the effort to preserve all that is best about our sport. Your letter, representing the views of some of our industry’s leaders, is the first contribution to that effort, and sets the perfect tone for the industry conversation that we must have. Most of your concerns are answered in detail in the website post. The Tip Hotline is being restarted as you recommend. As my website post makes clear, a major investment in investigative capability and sweeping changes to the regulatory process will be needed. Given the magnitude of this, I’m glad to report that we already have a committee in place to handle these matters. It is the Executive Committee of the USTA Board of Directors, and it represents all harness racing interests. In my quarter-century on the USTA board, we have never had such a skilled, cooperative, and active board and executive committee as we have today. I cannot thank you enough for your letter. Please expect to be called upon to assist with and contribute to our work. Very sincerely, Russell Williams President, U.S. Trotting Association
The Maryland Standardbred Race Fund Advisory Committee would like to notify all harness racing owners and trainers that the spring stakes scheduled at Rosecroft in April and May will be rescheduled in the fall when Rosecroft reopens. The affected dates are: April 14 – 4 & 5 year old MSS Open Pace and the 4 & 5 year old Open Trot April 26 – MSS Prelim 1 all 3 year old divisions May 10 – MSS Prelim 2 all 3 year old divisions May 24 – MSS All 3 year old Finals If you have any questions please contact Cheri Stambaugh, Administrator at 410-775-0152 or cell 240-285-0326    
Columbus, OH - To assist harness racing horsemen during the current circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Trotting Association has created a resource center of valuable information for industry participants. Contents COVID-19 Information and Facts President’s COVID-19 Guidelines Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) – Coronavirus Resource Page United Horse Coalition – Coronavirus Resource Page Federal Government Information Internal Revenue Service Small Business Administration (SBA) – Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EID Loans) Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – Keep America Connected – Phone and Internet Service State Government Information (alphabetical by state) Horsemen’s Association Information (alphabetical by state)   COVID-19 Information and Facts Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) –   https://www.cdc.gov/ President’s COVID-19 Guidelines – www.coronavirus.gov Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) – Coronavirus Resource Page The Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) published a Coronavirus resource page on its website featuring items to help horse owners navigate this disease pandemic.  http://equinediseasecc.org/coronavirus-resources United Horse Coalition – Coronavirus Resource Page The UHC website has a dedicated tab for COVID-19 information including: COVID-19 Info for Humans and Horses; Safety Net Programs for Owners; Biosecurity and Disinfecting Protocols; Financial Relief Options; and Planning for Horse Care. In addition, there is a State Specific Resources Page that includes: 1) Unemployment Information and 2) State Specific COVID-19 Information for each individual state. https://unitedhorsecoalition.org/covid-19-resources/#toggle-id-56 https://www.npr.org/2020/03/26/821457551/whats-inside-the-senate-s-2-trillion-coronavirus-aid-package   Federal Government Information National Public Radio’s (NPR) summary of federal legislation (media) – https://www.npr.org/2020/03/26/821457551/whats-inside-the-senate-s-2-trillion-coronavirus-aid-package Text of Senate Bill – S3548 – https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3548/text (hundreds of pages)   Summary of the 3 Phases of COVID-19 Legislation (Prepared by USTA Lobbyists – The Ingram Group) Congressional leaders reached a deal to pass a nearly $2 trillion “stimulus” package. This legislation represents “Phase 3” of the legislative response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, is an outline all three pieces of legislation starting with the most recent, being Phase 3. Many of these provisions may be of interest to you or your individual affiliate members which are small businesses. There is already talk of a “Phase 4” bill but it is likely several weeks away. It is highly recommended that you should check with your accounting professional for tax provisions. The “Phase 3”- The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES”) Phase 3, the CARES Act, will inject approximately $2T into the economy, providing tax rebates, expanded unemployment benefits, and a slew of business tax-relief provisions aimed at providing direct relief for individuals, families, and businesses. Title 1: Small business interruption loans Provides 8 weeks of 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If employers maintain their payrolls, the portion of the loan used to cover payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities would be forgiven. To qualify businesses must employee 500 people or fewer or meet the applicable Small Business Administration (SBA) size standard for the industry. Also, most self-employed individuals and nonprofits qualify. The loan is capped at the lower of 250% of the employer’s average monthly payroll or $10 million. The link is https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance. Authorizes $25 million for SBA to provide grants to associations representing resource partners to establish an online platform that consolidates resources across multiple Federal agencies and a training program to educate small business counselors on those resources to ensure counselors are directing small businesses appropriately. Expands eligibility for entities suffering economic harm due to COVID-19 to access SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), while also giving SBA more flexibility to process and disperse small dollar loans. The bill would allow businesses that apply for an EIDL expedited access to capital through an Emergency Grant—an advance of $10,000 within three days to maintain payroll, provide paid sick leave, and to service other debt obligations. Title 2: Unemployment Insurance Provisions: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a Fact Sheet for employers as well as a model notice employers may use to notify employees about these laws. The DOL is expected to issue regulations in April 2020. Individual Provisions:    Recovery Checks: $1,200 to individual Americans making less than $75,000 annually, and $2,400 for eligible married couples making less than $150,000 combined, with an additional $500 for every child. The amount would be reduced by $5 for every $100 that a person earns over $75,000, so Americans earning more than $99,000 will get nothing. Income levels, marital status, and number of children would be based on 2019 tax returns, if filed, or their 2018 return as an alternative.      Special rules for use of retirement funds: Allows the withdrawal of $100,000 from retirement accounts to pay for coronavirus-related purposes without the 10% early withdrawal penalty.    Tax Filing Deadline Delay/ Extension: The April 15 deadline for filing federal income tax returns and making payments is extended to July 15, 2020.    Charitable contributions: Corporations may deduct up to 25% of taxable income for charitable contributions in 2020, and there is no cap on individuals.    Student Loans: President Trump has suspended federally-held student loan payments for 60 days with no penalty. Employers can provide student loan repayment benefits to employees on a tax-free basis, up to $5,250. Business Provisions: Employee retention credit for employers: Employers subject to closure or partially suspended operations can qualify for a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid   to employees from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020. To qualify, a business must have been partially or fully suspended due to a local COVID-19 shut-down order or have had gross receipts decline by more than 50% from the same quarter last year. The credit is capped at $10,000 per employee, including health benefits. For employers with fewer than 100 employees, all employees count toward the credit, but for employers with more than 100 employees, only those not working because of the COVID-19 crisis count. Delay of payment of employer payroll taxes: Payroll taxes may be deferred with half due by December 31, 2021 and the other half due by December 31, 2022. Modifications for net operating losses (NOLs): NOLs for the last three years can be carried back five years on amended prior years’ tax returns. Pass-through entities may also take advantage of this provision. Modification of limitation on business interest: Changes the amount businesses are allowed to deduct on their tax returns from 30% to 50% for 2019 and 2020. Qualified improvement property: Allows businesses, especially in the hospitality industry, to immediately write off the cost of improving a facility instead of having to depreciate it over the 39-year life of the building. “Phase 2”- H.R. 6201, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act Among its many provisions, this $104 billion bill guarantees free coronavirus testing, provides emergency paid leave, and strengthens food security initiatives across a broad range of additional investments, including ensuring that children who depend on free and reduced-priced meals have access to food during school and childcare closures. H.R. 6201 also provides businesses with tax credits for qualified sick and family leave wages paid to employees.   Paid Sick Leave Emergency paid leave requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to give 14 days off (two weeks) at the employee’s regular pay if employee gets COVID-19, is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine related to COVID-19, or has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine to due COVID-19 concerns. The amount of paid sick leave per employee is limited to $511 per day and $5,110 total. The Act also requires employers to provide employees with 14 days off at two-thirds the employee’s regular pay to care for someone in quarantine or care for a child whose school is closed because of coronavirus precautions. Paid Family Leave Employees qualify for paid family leave if they are unable to work due to a need to care for a child whose school or place of care has closed because of a “public health emergency.” The first ten days of family leave may be unpaid, but after the first ten days, employers must provide employees with no less than two-thirds of an individual’s average monthly earnings for at least 30 days with 12 weeks of job-protected leave. Exemptions and Tax Credits There are exemptions for employers of 50 or fewer. Employers are entitled to a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified sick leave wages paid each calendar quarter to cover the costs. H.R. 6201 also provides for refundable tax credits against the self-employment tax. “Phase 1”- H.R.6074, the Coronavirus Supplemental This first bill provided the initial $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.  H.R. 6074 was signed by POTUS and became law on March 6, 2020. A title-by-title summary is available here, and bill text here. —————————————————————————————————————————————- Internal Revenue Service – Treasury, IRS and Labor announced a plan to implement Coronavirus-related paid leave for workers and tax credits for small and midsize businesses to swiftly recover the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave . https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USIRS/bulletins/2826044?reqfrom=share U.S. Small Business Administration – Economic Injury Disaster Loans – https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Account/Register1 The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has made Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EID Loan) available for qualifying businesses that have suffered economic injury as a result of the epidemic.  Funds from an EID loan may be used by small businesses to pay fixed debts , payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The terms of an EID loan are determined by the SBA on a case-by-case basis. FCC – Keep America Connected – Phone and Internet Services Keep Americans Connected Pledge – https://www.fcc.gov/keep-americans-connected In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC has announced the Keep Americans Connected Initiative to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity. So far, more than 550 companies and associations have signed the pledge to Keep Americans Connected.  See the list on their website. The pledge: Not to terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic’ Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances pandemic; Open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.   State Government Information (alphabetical by state) State – Small Business Information and Websites: Delaware – https://business.delaware.gov/coronavirus/ Indiana – https://www.nfib.com/indiana/ Florida – https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/florida-offers-loans-to-small-business-to-offset-coronavirus-impacts/2210126/ (media).  www.FloridaDisaster.BIZ – Application period ends May 8. Maryland – https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2020/03/19/coronavirus-small-business-financial-help-latest/ (media) with link to federal SBA website. Minnesota – https://www.twincities.com/2020/03/23/coronavirus-immediate-relief-available-for-small-businesses-in-minnesota/ New Jersey – https://www.njeda.com/about/Public-Information/Coronavirus-Information New York – https://esd.ny.gov/small-business-loan-resources Ohio – https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/home/resources-for-economic-support Pennsylvania – https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/   Rent Eviction and Utility Shutoff Information by State and Municipalities A detailed list of state and municipal, as well as federal, information on moratoriums on rent evictions and utility shutoffs. https://evictionlab.org/covid-eviction-policies/   Horsemen’s Association Information (alphabetical by state) California – California Harness Horsemen’s Association   Delaware – Delaware SOA – www.dsoaonline.com The Delaware Standardbred Owners Association, who serves Delaware horsemen and women, will utilize their website (link above), Facebook page (Delaware Standardbred Owners Association) and weekly television/internet show “Post Time” with host Heather Vitale to communicate with members.  Post Time airs on WBOC-TV on Sunday mornings at 11:30 a.m. EST.  Show archives can be found on PostTimeShow YouTube channel.   Florida – Florida SBOA Iowa – Iowa Harness Horse Association   Illinois – Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association   Indiana – Indiana Standardbred Association   Kentucky – Kentucky Harness Horsemen’s Association   Maine – Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association   Massachusetts – SOA of Massachusetts   Michigan – Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association   New Jersey – SBOA of New Jersey SBOA of NJ – Employee Acquisition Assistance If you are in a position where you are shorthanded and need help during this critical time, the SBOANJ would like to help you. Please contact us at info@sboanj.com or call 732-462-2357 to let us know what type of employees you are in search of. We will gladly post positions needed on our website with any contact information you would like to give and help you get the word out.   New York –        HHA of Central New York          Saratoga Harness Horsemen’s Association   SOA of New York   Western New York HHA —————————————————————————————————————————————- Ohio – Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association OHHA Update – 3/27/20 OHHA Specific Relief: O.H.H.H.I.T. Health Plan Credits: The Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association and Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Health Insurance  (O.H.H.H.I.T.) Trustees as administrators of the Harness Horsemen’s Health Insurance Trust would like to announce financial relief for all Harness Horsemen’s Health Insurance Plan Participants. As-of the date of the first Order cancelling racing (March 20, 2020), each Self-Pay Plan Participant will automatically receive a credit for two months of health insurance plan premiums at their existing coverage level.  For example, if a horseman has paid their April premium costs for family coverage, they will receive a credit for their May and June family coverage premiums.  If the April family coverage premium has not been paid, the credit will apply to family coverage for their April and May premium costs.  There is no need to do anything to receive the credit.  It will automatically be applied to all self-pay coverage classes.  Note that if there are changes in coverage to a higher level of coverage (i.e., single to family coverage) during the credit time-period, the credit for the lower level of coverage will apply and the difference between the higher and lower premium cost will have to be paid. In addition, during this time, existing Breeding Farm Employees and Racetrack Grooms that are employed and active in the Plan, will continue to receive their premium costs covered.  Separation for or from any covered employer will be handled as-per the Plan’s rules.  The Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association will provide updates regarding financial relief initiatives as they take place via www.ohha.com and social media outlets.  For immediate updates, please subscribe to the OHHA Emergency and Informational Text Blast system by texting “OHHA” to 1-888-808-1507. Government Updates: Ohio General Assembly Update • The next Senate session is scheduled for March 25 at 1:30 PM • The House has scheduled sessions for March 24, 25, 26, 31 and April 1 and 2 all at 1:00 PM • Legislation is not expected to go through the usual committee process, but rather it will be handled procedurally through the Rules committee. • UPDATE 3.25.20 the Ohio Senate and House voted to pass HB 197 with an emergency amendment to address coronavirus concerns. The summary of the amendment can be found at, https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-status?id=GA133-HB-197 As Passed Ohio H.B. 197 Overview COVID-19 Relief: 1. K-12 Education · Testing & Accountability – The bill eliminates state-mandated K-12 student assessments for the 2019-20 school year. It eliminates Ohio’s school district and school building report cards for the 2019-20 school year, prohibits ODE from assigning letter grades to buildings or districts, prohibits rankings based on report card data and creates “safe harbor” for schools and districts to ensure data from the 2019-20 school year will have no effect in determining sanctions or penalties. The proposal directs ODE to seek a waiver from federal testing requirements. · Jon Peterson Special Needs/Autism Scholarships – Allows for services to be provided to students by electronic delivery method or telehealth. This change is necessary for services to continue while schools are closed. · EdChoice Scholarship – The bill freezes the 2019-20 performance-based EdChoice building eligibility list at 517 buildings for the 2020-21 school year. The language allows siblings of current voucher students to participate. Under continuing law, the EdChoice application portal will open for 60 days beginning April 1, 2020, to process income-based EdChoice vouchers, renewals of existing performance-based vouchers, and new students attending the 517 buildings already on the list. The bill expressly prohibits expansion of the building list to 1,227 buildings. · Student Meals – For school districts that are providing meals to students who are home while schools are closed, this language gives the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture the authority to provide an exemption from “food processing” requirements so those entities can focus on providing food to children that depend on these services. · Distance Learning – For the 2019-20 school year, permits districts and schools to make up through distance learning any number of days or hours necessary due to COVID-19-related closures. They may amend an existing plan or adopt one to make up those days or hours. Current law limits make up through distance learning to not more than three days. · Teacher Evaluations and Licenses – For current teachers, the bill provides flexibility for teacher evaluations that were due to be completed during the 2019- 20 school year and removes the value-added component from the evaluation. For new teachers unable to take the final licensure test due to testing center closures, the bill provides them with a provisional teaching license for the 2020-21 school year if they have graduated from college, and have successfully completed student teaching and a background check. 2.  2020 Primary Election – The primary election in-person voting was cancelled due to the public health crisis. Ohioans that were eligible to vote on March 17, 2020, will be able to cast their ballot by mail on or before April 28, 2020. Those Ohioans that cast their ballot early will have their vote count. The Ohio Secretary of State will mail all voters a postcard informing them on how they will be able to request their ballot by mail from their local county Board of Elections. The board will send them their ballot and a postage paid return envelope. 3. Tax Year 2019 & 2020 Changes · Ohio’s tax filing deadline will be the same as the federal filing deadline, July 15 · The legislation incorporates into Ohio law recent changes to the Internal Revenue Code or other federal law taking effect after March 30, 2018. The language also assures continued compliance with the streamlined sales tax compact in respect to sales of prescription incontinence products for Medicaid recipients. · Other changes include Work From Home-related issues. As more of the workforce begins to Work from Home, questions have arisen regarding which municipal corporations may tax an employee’s income. This addresses concerns of businesses regarding the “20-day rule” in municipal income tax by not requiring employers to withhold for employees’ home municipalities for the duration of an employee working remotely, but rather to continue to withhold for the employee’s traditional workplace. Also, without this change, once an employee has worked in a municipality for more than 20 days, that municipality may start taxing part of the employer’s own income. 4. Rainy Day Fund – Permits the DeWine administration, prior to the end of the fiscal year (June 30), to seek State Controlling Board approval to transfer funds from the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund to the state’s General Revenue Fund, if necessary, in order to end the fiscal year with a balanced budget. Approval for this transfer would be needed from at least two Controlling Board members from the House and two from the Senate in order for the request to be approved. Currently, there is $2.7 billion in the Rainy Day Fund. 5. Local Governments · Open Meetings – Grants members of a public body permissive authority to hold, attend and take public actions in public meetings by video conference, teleconference and any other available electronic means, provided certain requirements are met. The public body would be required to provide public access to a meeting held in this manner and ensure the public can observe and hear the discussions and deliberations. The public body would still have to provide proper meeting notice and have a quorum. Under the proposal, a “public body” has the same meaning as defined in ORC 121.22 and includes counties, townships, municipalities at the local level, as well as boards, commissions and other state- level entities. · Clean Water – Access to clean water in homes is critical when dealing with the COVID-19 emergency. This language would provide the Director of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency authority to direct public water systems to not disconnect, and to restore service to homes that have had their water shut off for nonpayment. Many of the utilities have voluntarily taken this step, and the PUCO has ordered public utilities to do so. · Auditor of State – Requested by the Auditor of State, this language allows the Auditor of State to waive certain criteria on a case-by-case basis to conduct an agreed-upon procedure audit of eligible subdivisions. · Access to County Offices – The bill generally requires the offices of a county recorder, county auditor and the title office of a clerk of court of common pleas, and a county map office, to remain open to land professionals and automobile, watercraft, all-terrain and mobile home dealers for property searches and title processing. · Local Vacancies – Provides a county central committee of political party additional forty-five days to fill vacancy from the date the vacancy was required to be filled during the period of the emergency declared by Executive Order 2020- 01D, issued March 9, 2020. Federal Information • Final CARES Act $2 Trillion Relief Coronavirus package  https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6819239-FINAL-FINAL-CARES-ACT.html on3-25-20 by a 96-0 vote.  House vote Hospitals and Healthcare • $150 billion for the healthcare system • Includes funding for hospitals, treatment, and the Strategic National Stockpile to raise supplies of ventilators, masks, and other needed equipment • $100 billion will go to hospitals and the health system • $1 billion will go to the Indian Health Service Stimulus Checks • $250 billion for one direct payment to individuals and families • Payments are expected to go out within 3 weeks • Those earning $75,000 or less will receive a $1,200 check • Married couples earning $150,000 or less will receive a check for $2,400 • Additional $500 check per child aged 16 or under • Payment scales down for individuals earning above $75,000 • No payment for individuals making over $99,000 and couples with no children earning $198,000 Business Loans • Existing Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans: Provides $17 billion for the SBA to cover the next six months of loan payments due on existing SBA 7(a) loans, Certified Development Company loans, and microloans. • SBA Disaster Loans: Provides $10 billion for the SBA to provide economic injury disaster loans to small businesses until December 31, 2020. While casinos and any gaming or racing business that derives more than a third of their annual gross income from gambling and racing are not normally eligible for such loans, the OHHA is working to clarify the applicability of the CARES Act to horsemen. • SBA Interruption Loans: Provides $349 billion for the SBA to provide “interruption loans” to small businesses, self-employed individuals, 501(c)(3) organizations, and veterans organizations, provided they have less than 500 employees or they meet SBA small business size standards (whichever is greater), with broadened eligibility for some franchises and businesses that provide food and accommodation services. • SBA Express Loans: Temporarily increases the maximum loan amount for an SBA Express loan from $350,000 to $1 million. • $150 billion for state and local governments to respond to coronavirus.  Stops President Trump, top government officials, and members of Congress and their families from getting loans or investments from the Treasury stimulus programs. • Treasury stimulus programs include a special loan facility to enable banks and other lenders to extend low interest loans to eligible mid-sized US Businesses, states, tribes, and local governments suffering from the impact.  Interest expenses on the loans is tax deductible. • Businesses that eliminate more than 10% of their workforce are not eligible for aid under the Bill until September 2020. Employers must retain or rehire at least 90% of workers and restore compensation and benefits. • $454 billion to provide loans to distressed companies, loan guarantees, and other Federal Reserve Lending programs to support businesses.  Gaming businesses are eligible or relief under this program as long as they are not receiving other economic relief • $50 billion of that will go to passenger airlines • Trump administration agreed to an oversight board and inspector general position to review how the money is spent • Republicans failed in attempt to cap unemployment at 100% of a workers wages that they received while previously employed Tourism Grants for Economic Revitalization •  Community Development Block Grants: Provides $5 billion in grants to states and local governments to mitigate economic disruptions in impacted industries, including making direct grants to tourism businesses impacted by COVID-19. •  Economic Development Agency Grants: Provides $1.5 billion to state and local governments for economic injuries to impacted industries, including grants to support economic revitalization of tourism businesses impacted by COVID-19. • Student Loans • All student loans, borrowed within the last 10 years and held by the federal government, will undergo an automatic payment suspension until September 30, 2020 • Individuals can choose to keep paying • Interest will not accrue during this period • Wage garnishment due to lack of payment will be suspended • Payment count will still continue to go up by one each month Tax Provisions / IRS  Temporary Universal charitable tax deduction. A temporary universal charitable tax deduction for donations of up to $300 to both itemizers and nonitemizers. (Lankford language to increase the cap was not agreed to. • Temporary suspension of charitable contribution limits. The charitable tax deduction claimed by a taxpayer each tax year is generally limited to no more than 50% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI), unless a taxpayer gives only cash, in which case the limit increases to 60% of AGI. The bill will temporarily suspend these limitations on the charitable tax deduction per taxpayer in 2020. • Carryback of net operating losses.  Carryback losses from 2018, 2019, and 2020 to offset 100 percent of taxable income in the last five years, generating funds for gaming businesses. • Deferral of Social Security Taxes: Gaming employers may defer their share of Social Security tax payments on employee wages otherwise due for the remainder of 2020. This allows half to be paid by December 31, 2021 and the other half by the end of 2022. • Increase on Business Interest Deduction: For 2019 and 2020 tax years, gaming businesses can deduct interest expense up to 50 percent of their adjusted taxable income (EBITDA: earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), up from 30 percent of such income previously. • Qualified Improvement Property Fix: Gaming businesses will be able to immediately write-off building improvement • Refundable Credits for Prior Year Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT): Accelerates the ability for corporations to recover AMT credits, allowing a refund claim now to obtain additional cash flow. Extending Benefits: Provides enhancements to existing state unemployment insurance programs, including: • Allowing furloughed workers to receive unemployment insurance benefits • Waiving the seven-day waiting period for regular unemployment insurance • Extending the duration of unemployment insurance benefits • Promoting short-time compensation benefits for workers forced to cut hours • The U.S. and Canada have decided to suspend all non-essential travel during the two countries during the pandemic, while ensuring that trade between the countries is not disrupted.  https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/18/canada-us-plan-to-close-border-to-non-essential-travel-135373 Columbus Information Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the City of Columbus is suspending all in person bill payment and permitting services for the Department of Public Utilities, Building and Zoning Services, Recreation and Parks, and Department of Public Service at the 111 Front Street Coleman Government Center and Jerry Hammond Building at 1111 East Broad Street until further notice. Department of Public Utilities payment options: • Use drop boxes at 111 Front Street or in front of the Public Utilities Complex along Twin Rivers Drive (910 Dublin Road) • On line portal:   https://schedulepayment.com/Columbus • Payment by phone or billing questions can be directed to the Customer Service Center 7 am – 3 pm:  614-645-8276 • Western Union locations in Kroger stores:  https://www.westernunion.com/us/en/pay-bills.html Additional information can be found via the resources below: • Daily press conferences at 2:00 PM: http://www.ohiochannel.org/live/governor-mike-dewine • Dept. of Health coronavirus updates: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/ • Secretary of State’s updates on voting/press releases: https://www.ohiosos.gov/coronafacts/ • Request Absentee Ballots:  https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/voters/absentee-ballot/#gref • Mental Health coronavirus-related resources: https://mha.ohio.gov/Health-Professionals/About-Mental-Health-and-Addiction-Treatment/Emergency-Preparedness/Coronavirus • Ohio Department of Education Information for School and Districts: http://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Student-Supports/Coronavirus • Workforce Development: https://workforce.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/workforce/ • Child Care Information for Providers: http://jfs.ohio.gov/cdc/CoronavirusAndChildcare/ • Ohio Department of Insurance Bulletins: https://insurance.ohio.gov/wps/portal/ gov/odi/about-us/bulletins/ • Supplemental guidance on screening for employees and employers: https://associationdatabase.com/aws/OLA/asset_manager/get_file/433958?ver=1. • City of Columbus Coronavirus Resources: https://www.columbus.gov/covid19resources/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery • Health Policy Institute of Ohio Coronavirus Guide: https://www.healthpolicyohio.org/coronavirus-covid-19-in-ohio/ • Phone: For any questions you have about COVID-19, please call 1 (833) 4- ASK-ODH from the hours of 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. • If you want to volunteer to help-mail:  together@governor.ohio.gov with your name, contact information, and how you can help. • THE FOLLOWING ORDERS HAVE BEEN ISSUED IN RESPONSE TO THE CORONA VIRUS, EITHER BY GOVERNOR DEWINE, OR BY THE OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: • Executive and Public Health Orders: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/ gov/covid-19/home/public-health-orders/public-health-orders • 03/19/20 Executive Order 2020-05D Telehealth • 03/17/20 Executive Order 2020-04D Temporary Pandemic Child Care • 03/17/20 Executive Order 2020-03D Unemployment • 03/14/20 Executive Order 2020-02D Emergency Amendment Rule • 03/14/20 Executive Order 2020-01D Declaring a State of Emergency • 03/25/20 Director’s Order to Close Facilities Providing Child Care Services • 03/22/20 Director’s Order to Stay at Home • 03/21/20 Order to Certain Entertainment Venues • 03/21/20 Order to Prohibit Adult Day Support or Vocational Habilitation Services in a Congregate Setting • 03/21/20 Order to Close Facilities Providing Older Adult Day Care Services and Senior Centers • 03/20/20 Order to Cease Business Operation at Hair Salons, Day Spas, Nail Salons, (More) • 03/17/20 Order non-essential surgery • 03/17/20 Order to Close Polling locations • 03/17/20 Order to Limit and/or Prohibit Mass Gatherings in the State of Ohio (Amended) • 03/17/20 ODH Director’s Order Closure of the Polling Locations • 03/16/20 Director’s Journal Entry on Updated COVID-19 Reporting Requirements • 03/15/20 Health Director Order Limit Food, Alcohol Sales to Carry Out Delivery Only • 03/15/20 Health Director Order Limit Access Jails and Detention Facilities • 03/14/20 Order the Closure of All K-12 School in the State of Ohio • 03/14/20 Health Screening for Admission to State Operated Psychiatric Hospitals or to DYS Facilities • 03/14/20 Order to Limit and/or Prohibit Mass Gatherings in the State of Ohio • 03/17/20 Order to Limit Access to Ohio’s Nursing Homes and Similar Facilities (Amended) • 03/14/20 Order to Limit Access to Ohio’s Nursing Homes and Similar Facilities Resources for Businesses and Workers: ENHANCED UNEMPLOYMENT AID FOR OHIOANS: • The Governor will issue an executive order, which will grant the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) with the authority to accept and grant requests for unemployment compensation suspending the normal 1-week waiting period. • This order will also give relief to applicants who are not offered paid leave through their job, as well as those who have been quarantined by a medical professional, their employer, or whose employers must temporarily close. Those who apply for unemployment under these circumstances will be exempt from the requirement that they be actively seeking work. Learn more at Unemployment.Ohio.gov or JFS.Ohio.gov/Coronavirus. ONE-TIME LIQUOR BUYBACK: • The Ohio Department of Commerce will immediately begin offering a one-time liquor buyback option to support bars and restaurants. This will especially aid those establishments that have stocked up on high-proof liquor ahead of the St. Patrick’s Day holiday for which they now have no use, due to their closure to in-house patrons. • Bars and restaurants wishing to take advantage of this opportunity should return their unopened, high- proof liquor products (obtained within the past 30 days) to the agency where they purchased the product. This opportunity is also extended to those with temporary (F2) permits for events scheduled between March 12 and April 6, 2020. If a business has questions about this program, they should reach out directly to the Liquor Enterprise Service Center (LESC) at 1(877)812-0013 or by emailing OhioLiquorInfo@Com.Ohio.gov. SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES & NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS: • The Ohio Development Services Agency submitted an application to qualify Ohio for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. Ohio’s request for small businesses to receive economic disaster relief loans has been approved.  This program provides low-interest loans up to $2 million in order to help businesses overcome the temporary loss of revenue during the state of emergency. • Non-profit organizations in Ohio will also be eligible for low-interest loans through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. • To complete the state’s application, businesses impacted by the current public health crisis should immediately send their contact information to BusinessHelp@Development.Ohio.gov. Additional information on the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program is available at SBA.gov/Disaster. BUREAU OF WORKERS COMPENSATION: · The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is announcing that insurance premium installment payments due for March, April and May for the current policy year may be deferred until June 1, 2020. At that time the matter will be reconsidered. Additionally, BWC will not cancel coverage or assess penalties for amounts not paid because of COVID-19. For more information, attached is a FAQ sheet or you can visit www.BWC.Ohio.Gov Pennsylvania        Meadows Standardbred Owners Association Meadows Standardbred Owners Association Update –   03/27/2020 PA General Assembly: • The Senate session is scheduled for April 6, 7 and 8 at 11:00 AM • The House has scheduled session for April 6 at 1:00 PM Federal Information: • Senate passed coronavirus package and if passed in the House on Friday, March 27, Treasury is proposing emergency funds to be direct deposited by April 6 or checks to be received within 3 weeks: $1,200 Individual (income under $100,000) $2,400 Couples $   500 per child under age 17 (Minimum payments of $600 for those with no federal tax liability, and aid would be phased down at adjusted gross income thresholds)   https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/25/whats-in-stimulus-package-coronavirus-149282 • Canada-U.S. border to closed to nonessential travel on Friday night https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/19/canada-us-border-closing-coronavirus-137433 Additional Information: • PA Dep’t. of Health coronavirus updates: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx • Phone: for any questions you have about coronavirus: call 1-877-724-3258 • LIVE daily briefings from the PA Department of Health:  www.governor.pa.gov/live/ or watch on Facebook •  Governor Wolf is expected to sign a measure postponing the state’s presidential primary from April 28 to June 2. For Businesses and Workers: • Governor Wolf: Economic Injury Disaster Loans available to Small Businesses facing losses related to Coronavirus  https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/gov-wolf-economic-injury-disaster-loans-available-to-small-businesses-and-non-profits-facing-losses-related-to-covid-19/ • Unemployment Compensation for Pennsylvanians –   www.uc.pa.gov/pages/covid19.aspx          Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association – Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association Update – (03-26-20) Pennsylvania COVID-19 Resources Pennsylvania Department of Health COVID-19 Dedicated Website: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx PA COVID-19 Daily Report:   https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Diseases%20and%20Conditions/COVID-19%20Situation%20Reports/20200324nCoVSituationReportExt.pdf PA COVID-19 Daily Press Conference Stream (3:00 p.m. EST):   https://pacast.com/live/doh or https://www.governor.pa.gov/live/ PA Case Map:   https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#CasesinPennsylvania PA Stay At Home Order:   https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/?fbclid=iwar22jtpidu7weyoljqvlamjvtxygc76bnouq3mdkpfbjs5nvc6ff2pufnjg#StayatHomeOrder PA Information for Travelers:   https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Travelers.aspx PA COVID-19 FAQs:   https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/FAQs.aspx Questions about COVID-19 in Pennsylvania? 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) PA Department of Labor & Industry:   https://www.uc.pa.gov/COVID-19/Pages/default.aspx PA Department of Revenue:   https://www.revenue.pa.gov/Pages/AlertDetails.aspx PENNDOT:   https://www.penndot.gov/pages/coronavirus.aspx PA Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs:   https://www.ddap.pa.gov/Get%20Help%20Now/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx PA Department of Community and Economic Development:   https://dced.pa.gov/resources/ PA Department of Banking and Securities:   https://www.dobs.pa.gov/Businesses/COVID-19%20Information%20and%20Guidance/Pages/default.aspx CDC COVID-19 Testing Guidelines & Symptom Self-Checker:   https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html PHHA Partner Tracks The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono Updates:   https://mohegansunpocono.com/updates.html Harrah’s Philadelphia Updates:    https://www.caesars.com/corporate/coronavirus-guest-information Luzerne County (Pocono):   https://www.luzernecounty.org/1263/Luzerne-County-COVID-19-Response Delaware County (Harrah’s):   https://www.delcopa.gov/ich/resources/coronavirus.html PHHA Health Coverage Information – 3/24/20 The PHHA has transitioned to working remotely but are still available for assistance by calling the PHHA office at 610.874.5200.  Moving forward, the PHHA will not be billing any of its members for their April health premium. If a member has paid ahead, those monies will remain on their account as a credit. Additionally, the PHHA is encouraging all members to take advantage of MDLIVE, a free service through Independence Blue Cross in which a doctor can be accessed remotely.  https://www.mdlive.com/   Virginia – Virginia Harness Horsemen’s Association   Wisconsin – Wisconsin Harness Horsemen’s Association Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association
Loader
Loader
Loader
Loader

Additional Articles