Hugh Mitchell, a veteran racing executive from Western Fair Raceway in Ontario, was elected president of Harness Tracks of America on Monday (February 18) at HTA’s sixth annual joint meeting with Thoroughbred Racing Associations. Mitchell replaces Brock Milstein, chairman of Northfield Park in Ohio.
Jim Boese of Harrington Raceway in Delaware was elected as senior vice-president by the HTA member tracks.
Don R. Codey, Jr. of Freehold Raceway, Charles Lockhart of Dover Downs, John Marshall of The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, and Jason Settlemoir of Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs were also elected as vice-presidents.
Chris McErlean of Penn National Gaming was elected treasurer, taking over for the retiring longtime HTA treasurer and Messenger Award winner W.E. “Hap” Hansen.
Rose Mary Williams of MTR Gaming became the first woman named to the HTA Executive Committee.
Stanley F. Bergstein will continue to serve HTA as its executive vice-president.
HTA welcomed two new members into the organization. Running Aces, the new harness track in Minnesota, has joined as well as Hollywood Slots, operating at Bangor Raceway in Maine.
In the morning session on Monday, HTA members heard a presentation from Jonathan Strauss, president of Virtual Media Group, about a virtual racing product to be offered to tracks.
“Interactive media is everywhere in our daily life,” Strauss said. “It’s not just teenagers, but members of the X and Y generations.”
He said that virtual racing has been introduced in both the United Kingdom and Australia.
“Handle on virtual racing doesn’t take away from live handle, but is incremental handle,” emphasized Strauss. He said that the firm’s only product now is based on Thoroughbred racing but he expects to have a virtual harness racing product next fall.
Attendees at the HTA meeting had many questions for Strauss on the practical application of virtual racing.
Other presentations at the morning session covered the HTA/USTA Member Perks program, racing security, and using ideas from European tracks to showcase major racing events.
Sessions resume on Tuesday morning. That evening HTA hosts its Night of Champions and Nova Awards Dinner which honors the champion horses and distinguished individuals in the sport.
The conference at the Renaissance Vinoy in St. Petersburg continues through Wednesday.
Dean A. Hoffman