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July 17, 2019 - Champion Aubrion du Gers (9g Memphis du Rib-J’Arrive du Gers) was killed yesterday in a training accident at the harness racing training center of Jean Michel Bazire. Stablemate Cyrano du Pont succumbed to injuries in the same accident. Aubrion du Gers won 46 times in 73 career starts for earnings in excess of 2.5€ million. He won 16 straight at one point in 2018-19 before losing the final heat of the Elitloppet. The FR veteran trotteur will be greatly missed, and in many of the greatest International contests. He was to represent France in the 2019 Yonkers International Trot. Back to the racing scene, Sunday at Rojan was the 10th leg of the Trophee Vert series, this one raced on the turf over 3100 meters by 15 starters for the 45,000€ purse. 10/1 Aldo d’Argentre (9m Qualmio de Vandel-Isabelle de Yalda) scored timed in 1.15.7kr with owner/trainer E Lamy aboard. The winner scored his 28th victory in 104 career starts. Aldo d’Argentre 39/1 Aribo Mix (9g Reve des Vallees) took second for D. Cordeau and 38/1 Calsaka de Guez (7f Pomerol de Laumac) was third for Nicolas Bazire and trainer JMB. Viking Dream and Blues des Landiers completed the top five. Thomas H. Hicks  

Real estate mogul Jeff Gural is in the midst of a busy summer. His Meadowlands Racetrack just hosted the prestigious Meadowlands Pace on Saturday, and The Hambletonian — harness racing’s biggest day — is on tap for Aug. 3. On Friday, Gural will be on hand for a ribbon-cutting for the new FanDuel sportsbook at his Tioga Downs racino in New York State’s Finger Lakes region. But comments made by former New York Governor David Paterson on Monday at first would seem to put Gural in an awkward position. That’s because Paterson — just named as a vice president for Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Sands Corp. casino business — pitched the idea of having New York State move up its timeline to allow for quicker approval for adding a casino in New York City. But the sooner a New York City casino opens, the sooner it also will have sports betting on the menu, thereby siphoning off some gamblers who currently visit the Meadowlands to place their bets and watch the ballgames. It also would mean that Gural couldn’t get a second windfall from the Meadowlands Sports Complex — touted as a likely site in a failed 2016 referendum — opening a casino before New York put one in the region. On the other hand, Gural would make money on his Tioga Downs property, because such a change to the 2013 casino law can only happen once the four upstate New York commercial casinos are compensated. Gural told NJ Online Gambling that not only does he expect the state to accelerate the bidding process, “I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t happen.” New York’s two-phase casino plan The six-year-old law allowed for construction of four casinos in the upper part of the state — excluding New York City and its suburbs of Long Island as well as Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties. Only after the new casinos get up to six years to grow their product could the state issue three other licenses “downstate.” Gural said that as it stands, the state can’t even put out a Request For Proposals (RFP) until December 2023. He added that with bid submissions, reviews, and finally a vote of the New York State Gaming Commission — and then construction — no Big Apple casino would be open before 2025 at the earliest. “It would be foolish of the state to wait so long,” Gural said. “My guess is it makes the mose sense to start the process next year.” Just one problem: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose resistance to mobile sports betting foiled a bill in the legislature in Albany last month, sounded skeptical of an “early start” for downstate casinos in a interview with The Associated Press, saying, “I’m not a big fan of the gaming industry.” Gural, however, believes the sheer volume of revenue for the state will prove irresistible. A number of reports have suggested that MGM — which acquired Yonkers Raceway earlier this year — would be comfortable with a $500 million licensing fee to turn its Empire City property adjacent to the horse track from a slots parlor into a full-fledged casino. Paterson implied that same ballpark price for each of the three new licenses in his comments. “Imagine what the state could do with a billion and a half dollars,” Gural said. The heavy frontrunners for the licenses are Yonkers in Westchester County and Aqueduct, another racino that is located in Queens. Paterson suggested a casino close to LaGuardia or JFK airports in that same borough, but that presumably would raise the hackles of Aqueduct owner Genting. “You almost have to give licenses to Aqueduct and Yonkers, or you’d put them out of business,” Gural said. “The third one is complicated. You’d have to have a neighborhood that wants [a casino]— look at what happened with Amazon [in Long Island City in Queens].” A Bronx facility likely would just cannibalize much of Yonkers Raceway’s potential casino revenues, and Staten Island is relatively small and remote compare to the other boroughs. Brooklyn has numerous neighborhoods on the rise, presumably reducing the number of options there. Made in Manhattan? Of course, the biggest bang of all economically would come from a Manhattan casino. But as he has said previously, Gural is beyond just skeptical. “No politician I’ve ever spoken to thinks that would ever happen,” said the politically connected Gural, a progressive philosophically. “The hotels, the restaurants, the theaters — none of them want to compete with a casino. “And the politicians say they don’t want to make it too easy for people working in Manhattan to just go downstairs and gamble on a Friday night and then come home with no paycheck. They feel like that would be making it too easy to gamble.” Those concerns mirror Cuomo’s opposition to legalization of mobile sports betting, even though anyone with a smartphone can easily find unregulated offshore sportsbooks in a matter of seconds. Should Cuomo ever change his mind, Gural is well-covered on that front. He already has a deal in place with FanDuel to offer mobile sports betting whenever the state gets around to allowing it. Gural gets B&M sports betting in NY, too Speaking of FanDuel, the daily fantasy sports giant turned sports betting operator will run the sportsbook at Tioga Downs that is having its soft launch this week. Gural told NJ Online Gambling that this FanDuel sportsbook will be “much smaller” than the Meadowlands operation, where the Victory Sports Bar contains the main sportsbook. A smaller sportsbook can be found on the opposite side of the Meadowlands Racetrack, and the latter sounds like it will be a better comp to the Tioga Downs sportsbook. New York state law will keep anyone under 21 from even entering the sportsbook, even though — as in New Jersey — you can bet on the horse races at age 18. As for the New York standardbred horsemen, Gural said their purse supplements are not connected to the fortunes of the sportsbooks coming to the state. By John Brennan Reprinted with permission of njonlinegambling  

Shortly after the first race, a thunderstorm descends on Arlington International Racecourse, just north of Chicago. An hour before post time, families toting coolers had streamed into the track, paying $10 apiece for admission, less for kids and extra to reserve spots alongside the final stretch, a football field or so from the finish line and safe distance from the tawdry business of gambling, without which no one would be here. It is Renaissance Faire Family Day, with pretend jousting, pony rides, a petting zoo and more, alongside a sold-out picnicking area where a staggering amount of sandwiches, potato chips and bottled water, with an occasional birthday cake, were unpacked an hour ago in preparation for a day at the races. Now, this. As clouds approach, folks repack and scurry to the grandstand, but a dozen or so make it no farther than a large tent where draft beer costs $7.50 and Bloody Marys come in plastic cups. Men in drenched suits and ties appear through the deluge, not running but certainly hustling, and throw canvas covers over electronic terminals that gobble money from bettors. The tent’s frame and guy wires and stakes are made from metal, which shrieks and grinds in the wind as parts rub against each other. No reach is spared rain – it’s not clear whether it is blowing in from the side open to the track, through a billowing roof or both. “It’s not safe,” a guy dressed security-guard in navy blazer and grey slacks tells us, advising that everyone flee, through the deluge, to sturdier shelter. He offers free plastic garbage bags that can be turned into ponchos. They charge 50 cents for a pencil if you lack means to take notes from the race program, which contains records of horses, records of jockeys, records of trainers, selling prices, pedigrees, times in recent workouts, etc. Two betting terminals remain uncovered and beckoning while flat screens show races from tracks elsewhere with sunny skies. There is a rumor of half-price beer. How bad can this be? I head to the bar, where Kurt Kresmery, who owns an Elgin property management firm, is nursing a Coors Light. What, I ask, is a guy like you doing in a place like this? He tells me a story. A few years ago, stumped for a Father’s Day gift, a friend who was into horse racing suggested that Kresmery buy his dad a share in a racehorse. Such so-called fractional ownership of horses spreads risk and has become common in a sport where upkeep is expensive and returns uncertain. Thoroughbreds created a point of connection between father and son, neither of whom had been race fans, that endured to the end. Even today, his father gone, Kresmery owns part of a horse that is racing this afternoon at Ellis Park in Kentucky. Before it happens, a horse race can generate endless speculation, with determined bettors considering such esoterics as heat and humidity to help guess how a horse will perform on any given day. The action lasts a minute or two, and it takes four hours to run a program. There is plenty of time for conversation, and Kresmery recalls his dad enjoying afternoons at the track and occasional forays to off-track-betting parlors to watch horses that were partly his. In hospice, Kresmery recalls, his dad held his hands as if grasping reins, trying to mimic a jockey’s bounce when his son told him about an upcoming race. “He died the next day,” Kresmery says. It’s not the sort of tale one hears in video gambling joints. An industry in crisis If video slots are the crack cocaine of gambling, horseracing is Geritol, and that’s part of the challenge facing horse racing as the fan base shrinks and ages. There are just seven races today at Arlington, three short of a traditional 10-race program. “Look at this,” Kresmery says, pointing to a stat sheet for the fifth race, which will be contested for an $11,500 purse. “It’s nothing. Our horse ran third in Kentucky a few weeks ago and we got $10,000.” Even that, Kresmery maintains, isn’t enough to break even, at least for long. Purses are the heart of racing, which, at its core, is all business. Arlington is the state’s premier track, where the grounds are spotless, landscaping is immaculate and neither shorts nor athletic shoes are allowed in the Million Room restaurant, the fanciest of nine eateries. In 1981, Arlington became the first thoroughbred track in the world to offer a $1 million purse. With Bill Shoemaker aboard, John Henry won the inaugural Arlington Million and was named Eclipse Horse of the Year. They still run the Arlington Million each August, but it is a rare bright spot. Purses elsewhere are lower and crowds smaller, with statewide attendance at tracks dwindling from 3.9 million in 1995 to less than 909,000 last year.   Unlike slot players, horse bettors can spend hours analyzing races before laying down bets.   Locally, the amount bet last year at Capitol Teletrack in Springfield, one of two dozen off-track betting sites in Illinois, was less than half what was wagered at a Lucy’s Place gambling parlor with five video machines a few blocks away on Wabash Avenue. Racing at the state fair also has declined. In 2018, a quarter-million dollars was wagered during four days of harness racing at the fair. In 1995, $1.3 million was bet on 82 races run over six days.  Downward trends are statewide and national. Since 1990, when more than $1.25 billion was wagered on horses in Illinois, the amount bet on horses, or handle in racing’s parlance, has fallen to $573.5 million, including bets placed outside the state by gamblers who can watch races across the land via simulcast broadcasts. In 2018, just 11 percent of money wagered in Illinois on horses ran their races in the Land of Lincoln. The state is down to three tracks, two fewer than in 2015, when a pair of Chicago-area harness tracks shut down. That same year, an East Moline track that last held a live race in 1993 gave up after years of simulcasts, ending resurrection hopes. “The horse racing industry in this state is about to fall and crumble and deteriorate and go away – that’s just how drastic it is,” state Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan told state senators during a budget hearing last spring. It’s an industry worth saving, Sullivan argued. Since 2000, the number of state-issued licenses for occupations ranging from grooms to owners has shrunk from 11,000 to 4,000, but still, Sullivan testified, horse racing generates $1 billion a year in economic activity, considering grooms, blacksmiths, feed stores, veterinarians and scores of other jobs. “The jobs generated by this industry, they’re very real,” Sullivan told legislators. “Anything you can do to help them would be appreciated.” Legislators and Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered with an expansion of gambling that includes sports betting at tracks and the potential for racecourses to become full-fledged casinos. There’s a provision for a new standardbred track, despite closures in recent years. Fairmount Park in Collinsville could have as many as 900 video gambling machines and seats at blackjack tables and other table games. Arlington and Hawthorne Racecourse, both in the Chicago area, could each have as many as 1,200 spots for gamblers to make bets on machines, cards or other table games. By comparison, no existing casino has 1,100 video gambling terminals, according to the most recent report from the Illinois Gaming Board, and 317 table games operate in the state’s 10 casinos, most of which are operating fewer gambling machines than authorized. Video gambling has not previously been allowed at tracks, where millions of dollars in wagers are accepted on nothing but horse races.   Gamblers at Fairmount Park line up to risk money.   A share of the take from casino-style gambling at tracks would go toward purses to help the state’s racing industry, but there is a string: Tracks with casinos can’t abandon horse racing and might have to increase the number of races in exchange for slot machines and casino games. The law requires 700 races annually at Fairmount Park if the track wants video gambling and table games; last year, the track’s season lasted 36 days, with many dates including fewer than 10 races, and so the number of races might double. Arlington and Hawthorne together would need 174 thoroughbred racing dates each year if both tracks got casino gambling; last year, the tracks combined had 125 thoroughbred dates. Harness racing tracks, where comparatively stocky standardbreds pull wheeled carts called bikes, would have to have 100 race dates each year, a threshold already met by Hawthorne, which last year held 105 harness racing dates. Minimum race date provisions can be waived by the Illinois Racing Board if horse owner associations agree, the law says, so long as the integrity of the sport isn’t affected. The board also could waive race-date minimums if there aren’t enough horses or if purse levels aren’t sufficient. All this gambling at tracks would come in addition to six new standalone casinos authorized by state legislators, more video gambling terminals in bars and restaurants and more video gambling and table games at existing casinos that now don't have all the tables and video gambling terminals previously authorized. The law also includes provisions for online sports gambling.  “It’s a lot of money” The new law is the talk of the backstretch at Hawthorne the day after the governor signs the bill. It is, folks say, salvation. “You can just feel the mood of the people around here,” says trainer Steve Searle, whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather also trained horses. “We were about flat-lined. Seriously. It was as bad as it could get.” By definition, horses anchor the sport, but the number of Illinois-bred animals has plummeted, from nearly 4,500 foals born in 1985 to 300 last year. Lawmakers have adjusted by changing the definition of Illinois horses eligible to compete in races limited to animals born and bred here. A 2018 law made possible by artificial insemination removed a requirement that standardbreds in races limited to Illinois-conceived-and-foaled livestock must come from mares that were impregnated in Illinois and that gave birth within the state. “They got a little creative with the born and bred,” observes trainer Angie Coleman, who’s made her living with racehorses for seven years. Before that, she lived in downtown Chicago. She once sold cars and also has worked for a credit card company. The backstretch, she says, is a more welcoming environment for women than other places she’s worked where men were in charge. “I had those kinds of challenges when I had a real job, but not here,” she says. Plenty of kids – the track provides housing for workers and families – and women inhabit the backstretch. Drivers wear overalls, some in need of washing, instead of silks and are of normal shape and size. Weight doesn’t much matter in harness racing, where bikes bear the load. A three-legged black cat named Trifecta roams the barns. If folks who earn their livings from racehorses don’t care about animals, someone forgot to tell trainer Rob Rittof, who found the cat in a parking lot with a mangled paw and took it to a vet. “It’s a community back there,” says Jim Miller, Hawthorne publicist and race analyst. “You’d be surprised to see the school bus roll up every morning.”  It’s a grueling schedule. Races start at 7:30 p.m. and can last until midnight, but horses don’t sleep late and need to be brushed and fed and exercised and treated for any medical issues. The track provides the stage, backstretch folks put on the play. They don’t appear rich as they prep horses for races, water down ones fresh from the track and watch races unfold on 25-inch box televisions from an era before flat screens. “The labor side, the horse owners, need to have a chance to make money on it, or at least break even,” says David McCaffrey, executive director of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. Racinos in Indiana, Kentucky and other states have sucked jobs directly from the Illinois horseracing industry, McCaffrey says. Last year, purses at Illinois racetracks totaled $34.5 million. Slots and casino games, McCaffrey figures, could boost purses by $20 million at each of the two Chicago-area tracks. “It’s a lot of money,” he says. “It’s going to be a terrific boon.”   Horse racing is a family affair at Arlington International Racecourse.   While hopes are high for more foals and bigger purses and more races, no one seems to know whether the expected surge of slots at tracks will create more horse bettors. Playing horses is as easy or difficult as you want to make it. While some go by names or odds alone, the serious horse player can spend hours studying racing forms, videos of past performances and weather forecasts. A horse might appear a dog, but wait a minute: He broke late from the starting gate and was bumped in his last race but still gained ground at the end, plus he’s got a new owner and trainer with a reputation for turning also-rans into contenders. Never worn blinkers before? Hmm. And he does better on a synthetic surface than natural dirt. You can hit the “play” button on a video gambling machine every few seconds, but racing runs on a more relaxed schedule, with starts every 30 minutes. Small-time bettors can spend an afternoon at the track and lose less than $50. “It’s a thought process, but that’s the beauty of it, by the way,” McCaffrey says. No one seems to know whether casinos at Illinois tracks will create horse bettors. In Ohio, the handle has gone down since the state legalized racinos to subsidize racing. The Buckeye State’s first racino opened in 2012. In 2014, $166.8 million was wagered at Ohio race tracks; last year, with seven racinos in full swing, the handle dropped to $150.8 million. Death hurts Past efforts to bolster racing in Illinois haven’t met with universal acclaim. “I was probably the only guy who was completely against simulcasting,” says Clark Fairley, a standardbred trainer at Hawthorne who remembers when tracks began broadcasting races from afar to increase betting pools and revenue, with off-track betting parlors opening so gamblers no longer needed to visit tracks like Sportsman’s Park. The Cicero venue closed in 2002, shortly after War Emblem won the Illinois Derby there, then captured the Kentucky Derby as an improbable 20-1 longshot. A TV screen can’t match live racing, Fairley says, and horse racing needs fans at tracks. While he doesn’t like simulcasts, Fairley is a fan of casinos at tracks, which he calls a game changer. “It’s a business for us,” Fairley says. “We need to make a living.” Image is to blame for part of horse racing’s woes, according to a 2011 report commissioned by The Jockey Club. Fewer than 25 percent of the public had a positive impression of horse racing, according to the report, and just 46 percent of fans who attended at least three races annually said they’d tell others to follow the sport. By contrast, 55 percent of poker players said they’d recommend the game to friends; more than 80 percent of football and baseball fans said they’d promote their preferred sport to other people. Attitudes are reflected in the handle, which peaked, nationally, in 2003. “Racing has a serious brand problem, a diluted product and insufficient distribution,” McKinsey and Co., the consulting firm that authored the study, reported. The 2011 nationwide study, which predicted that the amount wagered on horse racing would drop 25 percent by 2021, proved overly dire. Nationally, the handle has stabilized at slightly less than $11 billion wagered each year, according to a follow-up study by McKinsey that was released last year, with the number of races dropping but purses increasing. The best and biggest tracks have made progress, with the number of races and wagers increasing, but those gains have been offset by trouble at smaller venues, where handles have gone down and the number of races has dipped. The number of horses continues to drop, the consultant reported last year, resulting in an average field of 7.7 horses for races, not good from the perspective of fans who want more contestants. Myriad issues account for the sport’s shaky health. Bettors are disheartened by the rise of computers and near-instantaneous wagering – odds change depending on amounts bet, and when well-financed interests from who-knows-where throw big money at races less than a minute before post time, what seemed a shrewd call on a longshot can suddenly become an even-odds bet. Tracks, also, have caused consternation among the most loyal racing fans by taking, some might say skimming, from winners who don’t collect the full amount on successful bets. Instead, tracks take a percentage of winning wagers to help cover overhead, a proposition that goes over as well at a racetrack as it would at a video gambling parlor that paid out $1.90 when the ticket says you won $2. Animal welfare, long a concern, has mushroomed with tragedies at Santa Anita Park, a California track where 30 horses have died since December, prompting calls to ban racing. The Jockey Club says equine deaths, calculated on a per-thousand-start basis, have declined since 2009, when the organization began publishing racetrack death statistics. Reporting is voluntary, and while almost every track provides numbers to allow a national perspective, most tracks don’t allow the Jockey Club to publish statistics showing the number of deaths at their venues. Hawthorne, which allows the club to post statistics, stands out in the 2018 report, recording a higher death rate of thoroughbreds – the track hosts both thoroughbred and harness racing – than any track that voluntarily reports save Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Miller says the track allows The Jockey Club to publish details because transparency is important. “We understand that, if something does happen, if there’s an injury, a death, we want to look into it, we want to understand why and we don’t want to hide it,” he says. Thoroughbreds go down more frequently than standardbreds, and there have been no tragedies during the current harness racing season, Miller said. While numbers from the Illinois Racing Board, which regulates horse racing, show that Hawthorne has had more deaths per 1,000 starts than the state’s other two tracks in eight of the past 11 years, Miller says Hawthorne considers last year’s numbers an anomaly. Death hurts, McCaffrey says. Before becoming director of the thoroughbred horsemen’s association, McCaffrey trained standardbreds. “You do it because you love the animal – that’s the basis for entering into the sport,” he says. Enzo The Baker was McCaffrey’s star. At two years old, the horse named after a character in The Godfather never finished out of the money in nine races, winning seven times, placing once and showing once. It all ended in 2008 at Maywood Park, a harness track near Chicago that closed four years ago. While warming up, Enzo The Baker collapsed prior to a race, victim of a heart defect. “You see this perfectly healthy horse, the next minute, he was on the ground, dead,” McCaffrey says. “It affected me. I was never the same trainer afterward.”     By Bruce Rushton Reprinted with permission of The Illinios Times

People who earn their livelihoods working with horses in eastern Will County, Chicago, are hoping recent gaming-expansion legislation will revive the struggling harness racing industry. “It’s a good business,” said Kim Roth, 51, of Crete, a horse trainer and owner. “Obviously, it’s dwindled. Hopefully (the legislation) will turn things around. It’s going to help everything.” “Everything” involves thousands of jobs directly and indirectly related to harness racing, according to an industry trade group. There are investors who own horses, men and women who breed and train the animals and drivers who man the carts known as sulkies. The trade involves veterinarians who care for animals, blacksmiths who shoe them, farmers who grow hay, occupations related to the transport of horses and entry-level jobs of mucking stables and grooming horses. Roth works out of Sawgrass Training Center near Crete, where trainers and riders take horses around a half-mile limestone track. Because of economics, there are far fewer horses bred in Illinois today than in past years. “Our breeding industry has collapsed,” Roth said. “That’s going to have to be completely rebuilt.” To put it in perspective, there were 124 standardbred horses foaled in Illinois in 2018, according to the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. During harness racing’s peak in the 1980s, there were more than 2,000 horses foaled each year in the state, the group said. Trainer Kim Roth, 51, of Crete, works with Ashlee's Fine, a 2-year-old standardbred Illinois horse she is training, on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "Our breeding industry has collapsed, " she said of the decline in the number of horses bred in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) “The purses have got so low, people can’t afford to pay their training bills,” Roth said. Nelson Willis, 75, of Crete, has worked in the business for 62 years, starting as a horse groomer when he was 13 years old. “You’ve got to learn how to take care of a horse before you learn how to train one,” he said. Willis said he trains “22 or 23” horses at Sawgrass and employs five people. Previously, he said, he had a dozen people working for him when he trained 55 horses at Balmoral Park near Crete. “I’ve seen the best of times and right now it’s the worst it’s ever been in this state,” Willis said. “So many people have left here.” For years, track owners, breeders and others in the trade pleaded with legislators to allow gaming positions at racetracks. Illinois was losing out to Ohio, Indiana and other states that drew more competitors and spectators, they said. Trainer Nelson Willis, 75, of Beecher, holds onto a horse halter outside a barn on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "I've seen the best of times and right now it's the worst it's ever been in this state," Willis said of the harness racing industry in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) After years of efforts, the General Assembly recently passed and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a measure to expand gaming. The major changes allow casinos in Chicago, the south suburbs and four other areas; legalizes sports betting; permits video gaming terminals at racetracks and other large venues; and designates a new racetrack for the south suburbs. Tinley Park officials have said a developer is interested in building the racetrack on the site of the former state mental health facility northwest of Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street. The historic approval happened seven years after lawmakers passed a measure to expand gaming and address losses in the horse racing industry. Former Gov. Pat Quinn vetoedthe 2012 measure. “That left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” said Roger Welch, 55, of Beecher. “That was the biggest letdown. One person with a veto single-handedly stopped Illinois horse racing in its tracks.” Welch is a fourth-generation horseman who was inducted into the Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. He has bred world-champion horses, such as Fox Valley Anabell, a horse owned by the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. The harness racing industry in Illinois has rapidly declined in the past five years, Welch said. “There’s no market to sell (horses) in Illinois,” Welch said. “I hope it’s not too late” to bring back the industry. Welch said he remembers when he was a child and visited Sportsman’s Park near Cicero. Crowds were so big, people paid for parking and admission, he said. Attendance dwindled as years passed, despite free admission and parking. Welch said he still lives in Beecher but spends the horse-racing season in Indiana, working mostly at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Anderson, northeast of Indianapolis. Since 2016, Hawthorne Race Course on the border of Cicero and Stickney has been the Chicago area’s only track with harness racing. Hawthorne also hosts thoroughbred racing. Balmoral ended its harness-racing tradition after the 2015 season and became a show-jumping venue in 2017. Maywood Park near Melrose Park also closed in 2015. Sportsman’s Park hosted its last horse race in 2002 and was demolished in 2009. Other harness racing tracks were Washington Park Race Track in Homewood and Aurora Downs Racetrack. Fire destroyed Washington Park in 1977, and Aurora Downs went out of business in 1976. During a 99-day peak stretch in the summer of 1979, Sportsman’s averaged daily attendance of 13,136 patrons who wagered a daily average of $1.6 million, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2017. Back then, harness racing outdrew thoroughbred racing at Arlington Park. Thoroughbreds — the types of horses raced at the Kentucky Derby — are larger but more delicate animals, Roth said. “Standardbred horses are tougher,” she said. Breeding stallions and mares for thoroughbred racing also is more expensive. Harness racers turned to Amish farmers for standardbred workhorses, Welch said. “Amish breeders were breeding every buggy mare they had,” he said. Thoroughbred racing has jockeys; standardbred racing has drivers. Several factors contributed to the decline of harness racing in Illinois, including the introduction of riverboat casinos in the 1990s. In 1995, state lawmakers introduced “purse recapture,” a provision designed to help racetracks when live simulcasts of out-of-state races were introduced. Recapture awarded track owners a share of money that otherwise would have been allotted to purses. The lower purses in Illinois drove many horsemen and horses to races in other states. The decline in racing quality further diminished attendance. “It was a chain reaction,” Roth said. The new legislation ends purse recapture after nearly 25 years. “Purse recapture was the killer,” Welch said. “The racetracks kept recapturing the money and the wagering dollars were less and less every year.” The Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association estimates that harness racing-related jobs stand at about 20,000 in Illinois, down from a peak of more than 60,000 two decades ago. The new legislation will create jobs indirectly related to harness racing, including racetrack positions such as tellers, bartenders, servers, marketers and accountants, the IHHA said. “The ripple effect of our industry on the Illinois economy is wide and difficult to grasp sometimes,” IHHA President Marty Engel said in a statement. “It was one of our missions to make sure that our economic impact was understood as valuable.” Blacksmith Jimmy Halvorson, 35, of Crete, shoes a horse on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "A lot of people left. Now there's a lot of talk that they want to come home," he said of harness racing-related jobs in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) Jimmy Halvorson, 35, of Crete, is a blacksmith who shoes horses at Sawgrass and other training centers. “It seemed like we had a dying business here,” Halvorson said. “A lot of people left. Now there’s a lot of talk they that want to come home.” Despite track closures, declining attendance and job losses in the industry, horsemen and women are optimistic that the new legislation will create growth within a few years. “I’m excited,” Welch said. “I think it’s going to be real promising.” Welch and others believe breeders, buyers and workers will return to Illinois as the harness racing industry is re-established. “This is going to get our breeding business going again,” Roth said.  By TED SLOWIK  Reprinted with permission of The Chicago Tribune

HINSDALE, Ill. - The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA) applauds the signing of gaming legislation by Governor Pritzker today. The legislation will revolutionize and reinvigorate horse racing in Illinois leading to the creation of thousands of new agriculture jobs. "We've been working on this legislation for what seems like forever," said IHHA Executive Director Tony Somone. "Our team has never lost sight of the working men and women who earn their living in Illinois horse racing. We continued to work until literally the last minutes to make sure that horsemen would have the ability to prosper into the future because of this gaming package. A new day is dawning for our industry." Illinois horsemen have fought for years for casino-style gaming at racetracks which has been used by other horse racing states to boost purses and revive the breeding industry. Over the years, Illinois harness racing - once a premier harness destination in the United States - has been decimated as horsemen moved their farms and employees to other states that offered more opportunity because of slot machines at racetracks. "Because of this bill, I can stay in Illinois to raise my family," said IHHA Board Member and harness racing driver and trainer Juan Franco. Not only will horsemen see their purse winnings grow with the introduction of casino games at racetracks, the widely despised and unfair practice of purse recapture will end with the passage of this legislation. Furthermore, horsemen will have guaranteed live racing opportunities that will enable them to call Illinois home all year long. "The passing of this Legislation in Illinois is game changing for horseman," said IHHA Board Member Angie Coleman. "It's going to put us back on the map as a major player in harness racing in North America. It will attract the top horses, drivers, trainers, grooms and breeders which in turn equates to jobs in Illinois." Securing added money specifically for Illinois-bred horses will also rejuvenate horse breeding which is one of the linchpins of horse racing's economic impact in agriculture. "We're going to see a resurgence in Standardbred breeding," said IHHA Board Member Ed Teefy. "It will take a few years to get the numbers up because there's a lot that goes into a breeding farm and the industry will be hungry for employees to work at those farms." In 2018 there were 124 Standardbred horses foaled. That's down from a peak of more than 2,000 foals in the 1980's. From foaling to the racetrack, a racehorse directly impacts numerous different jobs such as breeders and their farm help, grooms, trainers, and drivers. They indirectly employ many more like blacksmiths, veterinarians, hay and grain farmers and dealers, and truck and trailer dealers. Jobs at the racetrack like tellers, bartenders, servers, marketing and accounting people, and the track crews will all exist and prosper because of this legislation.   "The ripple effect of our industry on Illinois economy is wide and difficult to grasp sometimes," said IHHA President Marty Engel. "It was one of our missions to make sure that our economic impact was understood as valuable." Another achievement of the legislation is language that will allow for a new Standardbred only racino to be opened somewhere in the Chicago region. Currently, Standardbred racing only happens at Hawthorne Racetrack which splits it's time between Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing. The Illinois State fairs at Springfield and DuQuoin and the County fairs up and down the state, long a staple of the industry, will see a significant increase in purses as this legislation has earmarked purse dollars specifically for Illinois Conceived and Foaled races. County Fairs are the training ground for many horses and aspiring horsemen and the boost to purses means that more young people will see the opportunities to make a living. This will lead to more horses being bred and eventually racing and creating more demand for agricultural services like veterinarians and blacksmiths, as well as agriculture products like grain and hay. "This gaming bill is going to have a tremendous impact on horseracing which has an immense impact on agriculture across the state," said Somone. The IHHA also extends their sincerest gratitude to former Governor Jim Edgar for his longtime dedication to horse racing in Illinois. His knowledge of the industry and his experience in Illinois government were vital to the passage of fair legislation that included horse racing.   Mack Communications 540 W. 35th St. Suite 201 Chicago, IL 60616 312-940-3638 www.mackcommunications.com      

Chester, PA — Most of the better 2-year-olds at this time are beginning their pari-mutuel harness racing careers, but a Tuesday morning (June 25) freshman qualifying session at Harrah’s Philadelphia still unveiled a few winners, mostly first-time, worth looking for in the near future. There were two divisions of males and two of females on the trotting side, and the fastest winner, the Sebastian K S–Carla filly Knockdown Dragout, set the North American season’s record for her group while winning in 1:57.1 for driver David Miller, trainer Andrew Harris, and The Stable Knockdown Group. This young miss showed tremendous front-end speed, both in her previous 1:58.3 qualifying win at Mohawk and in this event. Fastest winner in four sets of 2-year-old pacing males was the Somebeachsomewhere–Rockaroundthetrack gelding Ruthless Hanover, who won in his second a.m. session in 1:55.1. David Miller guided him to a wire-to-wire victory, coming home in :28.1 for the brother team of trainer Tom Cancelliere and owner John Cancelliere. Somebeachsomewhere also sired the fastest filly pacing winner among three sections in Beyond Ecstasy, who came from behind first-over to win in 1:55.4, with her own back half :55.4 and her own last panel :27.4. Beyond Ecstasy is out of Fashion Ecstasy, making her a full sister to the $1.5 million winner Filibuster Hanover, and she showed a big late kick in this second outing for driver Tim Tetrick, trainer Jim Campbell, and owners Jeffrey and Michael Snyder and Four Friends Racing Stable. David Miller handled four of the victorious 2-year-olds, including both winning trotting fillies, to lead the drivers of the day, while Jim Campbell was the only trainer to record a pair of victories. Somebeachsomewhere sired four of the seven pacing winners in the morning session. PHHA/Harrah's Philadelphia

YONKERS, N.Y. – Champion trotter Gimpanzee will bring his undefeated record to Yonkers Raceway Tuesday evening (June 25) in a division of the New York Sire Stakes for harness racing 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings. The Dan Patch Award winning 2-year-old of 2018 will take to the track in a non-wagering split of the NYSS at approximately 6:10 p.m. Gimpanzee went 9-for-9 as a freshman, capturing victories in NYSS at Monticello, Tioga, Saratoga, Vernon, and two legs at Yonkers before scoring a 1:56.3 win in the $225,000 NYSS Final at the Hilltop September 22. The Chapter Seven son then posted consecutive 1:54.4 victories in the Breeders’ Crown Elimination and $600,000 Final at Pocono Downs October 19 and 27, respectively, to take divisional honors and give trainer Marcus Melander his first Breeders’ Crown win. “We turned him out after the Breeders’ Crown for a month, roughly. We brought him in early December and started training him,” Melander said. “He filled out very, very good. He didn’t grow so much, he’s not the biggest horse, but he filled out really nice. He definitely showed some speed now this year as well. He’s been having a lot of qualifiers and just one start so far, but I think he’s developed good.” Despite his impressive record on the racetrack and his Champion title, Gimpanzee keeps a low profile at Melander’s farm. However, one of Gimpanzee’s greatest assets is understanding when it’s time to race. “He’s very lazy. He’s like a 10-year-old gelding, he’s been like that his whole life,” Melander said. “He has no hurry at all. He’s a very nice horse to be around, but when he trains, you don’t think that he’s undefeated in 10 starts and made almost $700,000. You don’t feel that when you train him at home, but then he’s a totally different horse when he goes to the track. “When we train him down, he always feels good, he’s just lazy. But as soon as you bring him to the Meadowlands to train or qualify, he really knows what’s going on,” Melander continued. “I think that’s a good personality to have. He doesn’t get too excited at home, he does his work and he knows when it’s time to race.” Gimpanzee returned to the track April 27 in a Meadowlands trial, finishing fifth while individually timed in 1:58.3. He returned May 4 to win a qualifier in 1:55 and Melander pointed Gimpanzee to his first target, the Empire Breeders’ Classic eliminations at Vernon Downs. However, after only nine trotters declared for the $215,200 stakes, the race went straight to the final and Melander was forced to qualify Gimpanzee again May 18. “I just want to race him, but when he went to the Empire Breeders’ Classic, there was no eliminations needed for that race,” Melander said. “I didn’t plan that; I planned that he was going to race in there, so I maybe should have raced him at Vernon the week before in the Sire Stakes. Then the Sire Stakes went to Monticello and Buffalo and I didn’t want to bring him there.”  After tuning up in another qualifier in 1:53.0 with a :27.1 final quarter, Gimpanzee traveled to Vernon for the Empire Breeders’ Classic. He relaxed in third 3 ¾ lengths behind Mt Viktor early before driver Brian Sears mounted a first-over challenge nearing the half. Gimpanzee inched closer to Mr Viktor around the final turn and took the lead straightening away. With Sears motionless in the bike, Gimpanzee extended his advantage to 3 ¼ lengths to win in 1:54.0 at odds of 1-20. “It was good. He had qualified good going into that race, but you don’t know; it’s horse racing,” Melander said. “He was very good that day. He raced off the pace and he won easily. Brian was happy with him and it was a good first start. “For him, (the trip) doesn’t matter, honestly,” Melander continued. “He loves his work, it doesn’t matter where he comes from. Of course, on those bigger tracks, it doesn’t matter where you come from, but those half-miles, it’s easier if you go to the lead.” Gimpanzee’s Empire Breeders’ Classic win extended the colt’s undefeated streak to 10 and boosted his earnings to $695,730 for Courant Inc. and S R F Stable. With Courant owning Melander’s other two top Hambletonian hopefuls, Greenshoe and Green Manalishi, who each won eliminations of the Beal at Pocono Downs June 22, Melander doesn’t feel extra pressure to keep Gimpanzee’s record perfect. “My other horses are really good. Greenshoe is super-fast, he’s maybe a better horse, or at least faster than (Gimpanzee),” Melander said. “We try to keep them apart as much as we can here in the beginning. They’ll race each other in a lot of races later in the fall, but if we can keep them separated in the beginning, that’s great. “If I raced (Gimpanzee) in New York all year, he’d probably stay undefeated, but I’m not going to do that because he is more than just a New York Sire Stakes horse,” Melander continued. “But we wanted to start him out there in the New York circuit and we’re going to race him against those other colts late summer. Maybe start with one race before the ‘Hambo’ and then we have all of those other races all fall.” The deciding factor in Melander’s choice to bring Gimpanzee to Yonkers Tuesday was NYSS points. The colt hasn’t started in any NYSS events yet this year after bypassing legs at Vernon, Monticello, and Buffalo and needs victories in the series to get into the rich Sire Stakes final this fall.  “It’s really important for Gimpanzee to get some points for the New York final in September,” Melander said. “They go for a lot of money and we haven’t raced in any Sire Stakes so far, so we need some points. Yonkers is a track he goes around very good, so that’s why we’re racing him there.” Gimpanzee tuned up with a 1:53.4 qualifier at the Meadowlands June 15. He will start from post six with Brian Sears in the bike and will face five rivals in his $54,833 spit of the NYSS Tuesday evening: Chip Chip Conway, Cavill Hanover, Kredit Karma, Big Money Honey, and Lucky Weekend. Melander is confident. “I don’t see why I shouldn’t be,” he said. “It’s horses that he beat before and should beat again. Of course, he got the six hole all the way out, but for him, it’s a field he should beat. I’m confident. He’s been training good since the qualifier. If everything is right and he doesn’t make a break or anything, he should have a good start in there.” Tuesday’s 12-race wagering card includes two other divisions of the NYSS. First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. For entries to the races, click here. By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (June 22, 2019) – Caesars Entertainment harness racing properties – Indiana Grand Racing & Casino, Harrah's Hoosier Park, Harrah's Philadelphia, and Harrah's Louisiana Downs – hosted the first ever $35,000 Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge sponsored by John Deere and Cowpokes Saturday, June 22. Dean Ehrgott of Camby, Ind., who participated at Indiana Grand, was the top player, winning the $20,000 first prize by the margin of 40 cents over second place finisher Paul Napoli, who participated at Harrah’s Philadelphia and earned $10,000 in the contest. Ehrgott, a former Standardbred owner in the state of Indiana, credited his friends, Greg Gass and Deniz Sidkey, for helping him get to the top of the leaderboard. He was visible in the top 10 standings throughout the contest and was able to select Chief Red Bull in the final race offered to complete the challenge with a bankroll of $129.00 and take home the top prize. Napoli had an accumulated total of $128.60 in second place while Frederick Nielsen, also of Harrah’s Philadelphia, finished third with a balance of $127.00 to earn the $1,500 third place prize. Erghott’s second entry finished fourth with a $107.80 tally. Places four through 10 received $500 each. “I got lucky and hit three races that paid pretty good at Philly (Harrah’s Philadelphia),” said Ehrgott. “I’m a harness guy, so going into the last race, I got help from my Thoroughbred guy and I selected the one (Chief Red Bull). He finished second and paid $3.40, which was just enough to move me into the lead.” Ehrgott was associated with Standardbred racing for decades before he sold his last horse in 2016. His most noted winner was Radar Contact, the Indiana sired mare who earned nearly $1 million during her career and won 34 races. He still stays connected to racing through playing in handicapping contests across the nation with Gass and Sidkey. “We play a lot in these types of contests,” added Ehrgott. “We play in the Santa Anita Breeders Cup $10,000 Challenge every year. We have a lot of fun traveling around.” In addition to his $20,000 top prize, Ehrgott will also receive a seat in the 2020 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas. And, if he should win the 2020 NHC, Ehrgott would earn a $1 million bonus provided by the Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge. Players in the Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge made selections from all four racetracks involved in the contest. A total of 20 races were provided, 12 of which were mandatory for each player. Also, each player had to use one race from each track, making it a unique format as they played both Thoroughbred and Standardbred races during the four-hour challenge. All four racetracks had at least one player in the top ten. “This was a great way to expose more of our Louisiana Downs customers to the Caesars Entertainment family of racetracks and do so in a very rewarding way,” said Eric Halstrom, vice president of operations at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs. Jon Schuster, vice president and general manager of racing at Indiana Grand, echoed Halstrom’s comments regarding the contest. “We were glad to see so many players come in from other states to play in this contest at our facility,” said Schuster. “It was great exposure for our racing program and hats off to so many people from all of our racing properties that spent endless hours making this contest work. And, to have the winner right here at our track, that was an added bonus.” In addition to the four racetracks involved in the contest, players were also able to compete at the three Winner’s Circle Off Track Betting facilities in Indiana located at Indianapolis, Clarksville, and New Haven. A total of 145 entries were included in the contest. “It sure was an exciting finish for the Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge and it came down to the wire,” said Rick Moore, vice president and general manager of racing at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. “Only 40 cents separated the winner and the second-place finisher. It was a tough competition throughout.” Tammy Knox

MILTON, May 18, 2019 - Harness racing driver Doug McNair kicked off his weekend in style by winning six-races on Friday night at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The Guelph, Ontario resident drove in 10 of the 11 races contested and found the winner's circle in more than half of his appearances. McNair's most notable victory of his six came behind six-year-old pacing mare Seaswift Joy N ($2.90) in the $30,000 Fillies & Mares Preferred Handicap. It was the second win in as many starts locally for the Tony Alagna trainee. The regular visits to the winner's circle for McNair began in the second-race with three-year-old pacing filly Sports Flix ($11.60), who is trained by Gregg McNair. The father-son duo teamed up to win the fourth-race with sophomore pacing filly Swift Ally ($6.30). McNair's victory with Swift Ally started a stretch of three-consecutive wins in the middle of the card, as he picked up victories with six-year-old pacer Santanna Tony ($27.60) for trainer Pat Shepherd and three-year-old pacing filly Deb ($7.20) for trainer James 'Friday' Dean. Following his fifth win of the night with Seaswift Joy N in the ninth-race, McNair collected his sixth and final victory with Rod Boyd trained four-year-old pacing mare Dragon Lady Art ($4.90) in the tenth-race. McNair now has 54 wins and earnings of just under $900,000 in 439 starts this season. Fans will have an opportunity to meet McNair and fellow driver James MacDonald ahead of Saturday evening's races. The duo will be on hand near the main entrance to meet and sign autographs for fans from 5:30-6:15 p.m. McNair and MacDonald will both be competing at the upcoming World Driving Championship in Sweden. A special presentation of McNair's driving colours for the championship will take place during Saturday evening's card. Post time at Woodbine Mohawk Park is 6:45 p.m.   Mark McKelvie        

ANDERSON, Ind.-May 17, 2019- Caesars Entertainment horse racing properties - Indiana Grand Racing & Casino, Harrah's Hoosier Park, Harrah's Philadelphia, and Harrah's Louisiana Downs - announced today the first-ever Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge. The Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge will offer horseplayers from around the country the unique opportunity to handicap both Thoroughbred and Standardbred races for a top prize of $20,000, a seat at the $3,000,000 estimated National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), and an additional $1 million cash prize if the winner of the Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge also captures the NHC victory. This one-day challenge will be hosted on Saturday, June 22. The Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge - sponsored by John Deere and Cowpokes - will be hosted at the four Caesars Racing properties: Harrah's Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, LA; Indiana Grand Racing and Casino in Shelbyville, IN; Harrah's Hoosier Park in Anderson, IN; and Harrah's Philadelphia in Chester, PA. Players can also participate at the tracks' Off-Track Betting properties: Harrah's Louisiana Downs Mound OTB in Tallulah, LA; VooDoo BBQ & Grill and Winner's Circle OTB in New Haven, IN; Winner's Circle Pub, Grille & OTB in Indianapolis, IN; and Winner's Circle OTB in Clarksville, IN. Participants must be 21 or over. Entry into the Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge requires a $150 fee due upon check-in on the day of the challenge. Reservations will begin on [Friday, May 17, 2019] and the challenge will be capped at 400 entries. Players are encouraged to sign up quickly as the entries will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Contestants will be limited to two entries per person. The entry fee will include dining offerings at each location, race day simulcast programs and tip sheets. The first-place winner in the Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge will walk away with $20,000, a seat at the $3,000,000 estimated National Horseplayers Championship, and a chance at an additional $1 million cash prize in the event of a double victory. First-place winner must be eligible to participate in the NHC in order to receive the NHC seat. For more information about the National Horseplayers Championship, visit www.nhctour.com. The $1 million prize will be awarded either as an annuity that pays $25,000 per year for forty years without interest or as a discounted lump sum payment of $550,000, which represents the approximate present value of the annuity. Second place will be awarded $10,000 while the third-place winner will take home $1,500. There will be additional cash prizes for fourth through tenth place. The format for the challenge will require contestants to make 12 $2 win and place fictional wagers on the designated challenge races. Contestants must place a win and place wager on one horse in 12 mandatory races out of 20 available from Harrah's Louisiana Downs, Harrah's Philadelphia, Indiana Grand, and Harrah's Hoosier Park. At least one race per track must be included on each entry to be eligible for the challenge. The wagers must be placed at a designated challenge location. All wagers are fictional; no money is paid on challenge wagers. The challenge time frame is 4:15 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. (EST). Reservations for the Caesars Rewards Handicapping Challenge can be made by calling (866) 357-1731. Official rules and more information about the host sites are available at:   - www.caesars.com/indiana-grand   -www.caesars.com/harrahs-hoosier-park   -www.caesars.com/harrahs-philly   -www.caesars.com/harrahs-louisiana-downs   In addition, the challenge coordinators can be reached by calling Tammy Knox at (317) 421-8979 or Rose Flood at (765) 609-4813.   Media Contacts   Emily Gaskin Phone: (765) 609-4620 egaskin@caesars.com   Tammy Knox Phone: (317) 421-8979 tknox2@caesars.com   Kiersten Flint Phone: (765) 609-4606 kflint@caesars.com     Emily Ratcliff | Race Marketing Manager and Commentator

Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment is seeking local New Jersey charities interested in having a night at harness racing for a good cause in the first annual Charity Handicapping Contest, scheduled for Saturday, May 25, 2019. The Charity Handicapping Contest is a free handicapping contest open to 501C3 organizations. The Contest offers a $15,000 total donation/prize pool, with all ten charities receiving a donation. Prizes will be awarded as follows: 1st Place: $5,000, 2nd Place: $3,000, 3rd Place: $2,000, 4th Place: $1,500, 5th Place: $1,000, 6th-10th: $500. For the Charity Handicapping Contest, organizations will select one (1) horse in each of the 10 designated Meadowlands live races. The organizations will amass a mythical bankroll if their selection officially finishes first, second or third in the designated race. Official $2 WPS (Win, Place, Show) payoffs will be added to the mythical bankroll. Official race results will serve as the order of finish. The organization that accumulates the highest mythical bankroll is the winner. "We wanted to do something to give back to our community, and recognize these organizations that work tirelessly to help those in need," said Jason Settlemoir, COO and GM of Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment. "We have seen the positive impact Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack has had with their Charity Cup and wanted to have a similar impact in our area." Participating organizations will also have the opportunity to make winner's circle presentations and be featured on the track's jumbotron. Interested not-for-profit organizations must apply to participate by emailing Rachel Ryan at raryan@playmeadowlands.com by Friday, May 10th. The email must include: 1. Charity/Non-Profit Name 2. 501C3 letter 3. Charity/Non-Profit Mission 4. Website URL & Social Links 5. Charity Representative/s that will be onsite for the contest on May 25, 2019 If more than ten organizations apply, ten will be selected via a random drawing. Selected organizations will be notified by Tuesday, May 14th. For more details email Rachel Ryan at Raryan@playmeadowlands.com Rachel Ryan

Maine is taking steps to push forward with sports betting legalization as legislators will have to review as many as three sports betting bills. Gaming experts say that the state could legalize sports betting as early as next year. As sport betting legalization takes off throughout the US, lawmakers in Maine think the state should get a slice of the action. Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, who acts as a sponsor of one of the proposals, said the reason why they want to legalize sports betting is pretty obvious – the practice is now in full swing in many states and they are reaping a number of benefits. The bill LD1348 sponsored by Evangelos is modelled on New Jersey and would permit individuals over 21 to place bets on both professional and amateur sports at casinos, off-track betting parlors and racetracks. They will also be allowed to wager online. A $30,000 license fee will be imposed, and sports gambling revenue will be taxed 25 percent. Under the proposal, almost all of the revenue will go towards primary education. The second bill presented in full will set a minimum age limit of 18 years. However, 18-year-olds will only be allowed to do it in off-track betting parlors and brick-in-mortar harness racetracks. Sponsored by Rep. Dustin White, the LD1515 proposal will impose a modest $5,000 licensing fee. The largest portion of the income derived from an 18 percent tax would go to the state’s harness racing industry while a portion would be given to primary education and college scholarships. Maine Legislature to Debate Sports Betting   LAWMAKERS DISAGREE ON SOME ASPECTS However, it remains unclear how the state is going to organize its sports betting industry. Lawmakers can’t seem to agree on a single path in terms of the gaming taxes the state should impose, as well as how the revenue generated should be used. There is currently no reliable estimation on the extent of the underground gambling market in Maine and hence there is a question market as to whether a legalized sports betting market will have a significant impact. Some experts have suggested that lawmakers in Maine take a cautious approach and lower their estimates of what they expect a legalized sports betting market to generate. Maine will also have to put in place measures to address a potential increase in problem gambling. Sen. Louis Luchini, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, said the negative effects of gambling expansion cannot be ignored. Luchini, who is also drafting his own sports betting proposal, said gambling bills are always shrouded with controversy. All parties should take the time to study the proposals in order to come up with responsible gambling measures. To date, only two bills seeking to regulate sports betting have been presented in full in Maine, but there are three other proposals still in the works. By Landon Wheeler Reprinted with permission of Legal Gambling and The Law

Melbourne Cup-winning horse trainer Darren Weir and two other men have been arrested in police raids at Weir's Victorian properties. Victoria Police said the raids were part of a Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit investigation into alleged corruption in racing. In a statement, police said the men were arrested for questioning as part of an investigation into suspected offences including obtaining financial advantage by deception, engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome, use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes, attempting to obtain financial advantage by deception. A 26-year-old man and a 38-year-old man were also arrested. Weir, 48, is widely regarded as Australia's leading horse trainer and trained the 2015 Melbourne Cup-winning horse Prince of Penzance, which jockey Michelle Payne rode to victory. At the end of last year, harness racing in New Zealand was rocked by allegations of race-fixing. It's believed that a number of high profile figures in harness racing were the target of raids around the country. Most of those accused have been granted name suppression and are due to appear in court this year. In a statement, Racing Victoria's general manager of integrity, Jamie Stier, said the police raids were linked to an investigation by the racing body. "Racing Victoria's Integrity Services team has been conducting an investigation into the activities of licensed persons in the Warrnambool and Ballarat areas," he said. "During the course of our investigation we sought the support of Victoria Police's Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit." Mr Stier said members of Racing Victoria's integrity team joined police on the raids at the properties. "Racing Victoria is committed to maintaining the highest integrity standards in our sport and, where appropriate, we will continue to work with Victoria Police on those investigations." Police said a firearm and "what is believed to be a conducted energy device" were also seized. Weir has a high-tech training facility at Miners Rest and a beach stable in Warrnambool. Police searched a truck at the trainer's Miners Rest property this morning, going through its cab and the vehicle's exterior. Victoria's Racing Minister, Martin Pakula, said he was aware of the police investigation and did not want to say anything to prejudice its outcome. "I would simply say as a racing fan and as the Racing Minister, integrity in our sport is incredibly important and any allegation of a breach of the rules of racing is extremely disappointing," he said. "It is important to note that this is another demonstration that our racing integrity unit within Racing Victoria will pursue any matter without fear or favour, and that is clearly what they have done." Reprinted with permission of Radio New Zealand

MGM Resorts International and its real estate arm, MGM Growth Properties, have finalized their $850 million purchase of the Empire City Casino and its 97 acres of developable land in Yonkers, New York, just 15 miles north of Manhattan’s Times Square. The purchase gives MGM — which opened its $960 million MGM Springfield resort casino in August — a fourth property in the Northeast. MGM bought out its partner and took control of the Borgata in Atlantic City and opened MGM National Harbor in Maryland, both in 2016. MGM Springfield President and CEO Michael Mathis said MGM’s operation in Yonkers will help it market MGM Springfield, especially through MGM’s M life rewards program. “The Empire City Casino acquisition in Yonkers is designed to tap into the underserved NY market, which will complement the MGM Springfield market. MGM’s unmatched East Coast presence in major markets allows for significant cross marketing and customer loyalty programming that offer us a clear competitive edge. We are well positioned to be a leader in the Northeast’s multi-billion dollar gaming market," Mathis wrote in an email. The New York Gaming Commission approved the deal Monday, as well as MGM’s permission to run harness racing at the 120-year-old track. Continued racing is a requirement under Empire City Casino’s license to run slot machines. “We are pleased to welcome the 1,200 employees at Empire City Casino to the MGM Resorts family,” said Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts, in a news release. “With this new addition to the MGM Resorts portfolio, we have now gained a foothold in the high-density New York City region and we look forward to leveraging the MGM platform to maximize value in this evolving marketplace.” Tribal Winds: East Windsor casino project has new name, new push from Foxwoods and Mohegan to compete with MGM Springfield This comes as the Connecticut legislature is asked to pass legislation allowing casino expansion to East Windsor. MGM bought the property from the Rooney family, owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers and owners of Yonkers Raceway since 1972. The Empire City Casino opened in 2006. “What’s incredibly exciting is the amount of opportunity MGM Resorts will bring to the employees at Empire City, as well as Westchester County, the city of Yonkers, and the State of New York,” said Timothy J. Rooney, president and CEO of Empire City Casino, in a news release. “With destinations throughout the world, from resorts to casinos to entertainment, MGM has a tried-and-true formula for success. ... the potential for growth at Empire City has absolutely no boundaries.” Over the years, MGM has told investors it plans to leverage the marketing power of its East Coast casinos, offering package deals and cross promotions to get visitors moving among the casinos and looking to MGM’s Vegas properties for longer vacations. MGM is also in the final stages of buying Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in Ohio for $1 billion. Empire City Casino is 125 miles and a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Springfield. Empire City doesn’t have state permission to run table games. It offers slot-machine-like electronic games at 5,200 video-lottery terminals operated by the state lottery. MGM Resorts said will pay an additional $50 million to the Rooneys if Empire City is awarded a license for live table games by the end of 2022 and if MGM Resorts gets the license by the end of 2024. But New York has a moratorium on new casino development until 2023. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the news website Lohud.com that he is aware that MGM would like to get a full casino with table games in Yonkers, but didn’t indicate he would look to make any changes to the time frame. “I know it’s a topic of conversation, but I have no opinion or intention of making any changes at this time," Cuomo said. "It’s an evolving field, there’s no doubt about that.” The website USBets said MGM might relocate the required harness racing meet to Belmont Park, a thoroughbred track and home of the Belmont Stakes, to free up space for development at the Yonkers track. By Jim Kinney Reprinted with permission of the MassLive.com site

Contestants have until 6:45pm tomorrow, Friday, January 4 to register and make their selections in the always popular harness racing Meadowlands Winter Meet Survival Challenge powered by 123Racing. The grand prize is $1,000 & 2019 WHHC Spot The second-place prize is $500 & 2019 WHHC Spot The third-place prize is $250 & 2019 WHHC Spot Most winners prize is $250 Trackmaster will provide Platinum Past Performances for each night of the contest. The game covers the Meadowlands' Winter Meet and concludes on March 30, 2019. The winner is determined by the highest total bankroll at the end of the Challenge based on a $2 "across the board" wager [win, place and show] on selections for three designated races each program. However, to continue in the game, entrants have to "survive" by finishing in-the-money [first through third] with at least one of their selections each day. Failing to do so or not making selections knocks the player out of the game. To aid in the player's survival a "lucky horseshoe" is given. The lucky horseshoe is a "free pass" given to all Challenge participants that allows the player to survive if he does not make selections for a race card or all three of his selections fail to hit the board. The free contest is open to legal residents of the United States and Canada 18 years and older, and all selections must be made through the format provided on the Survival Challenge website page. No selections will be accepted by phone, fax, e-mail or any other means. Trackmaster Platinum Past performances for the three designated races will be provided through the game board. To login or to register as a first time player, visit www.survival-challenge.com.  

JULY 13, 2018 - Woodbine Mohawk Park was flooded with two-year-old pacing colts and geldings on Friday evening as 68 of the harness racing youngsters went postward in seven Ontario Sire Stakes Grassroots divisions. Driver Bob McClure kicked things off in the $19,150 first division, employing a come-from-behind strategy with B Stoney who paced under the wire three and three-quarter lengths the best in 1:54. Fan favourite Kenny Joe finished second and Century Farroh was third. "He has lots of go, he just needs some experience," said McClure of B Stoney, whose time would stand up as the fastest of the Grassroots divisions. "He's kind of goofy, but he was significantly smarter from his first start to this week." McClure piloted the Sunfire Blue Chip son to the win for trainer Murray Brethour of Sunderland and his partners, breeder Doug Millard of Woodstock and Barry McClennan of Cavan, Ontario. In B Stoney's first start, a July 1 two-year-old race at Georgian Downs, the Elora resident engineered a fourth-place result with the youngster. B Stoney Both McClure and Brethour would return to the winner's circle with a second Grassroots winner, McClure in the fourth division and Brethour in the sixth. Aboard Sauble Play in the $19,500 fourth division, McClure also opted for come-from-behind tactics, getting the Shadow Play gelding home to a one-half length victory over Balder Son in 1:55.2. Favourite DA Delightful was another length back in third. "He seems to have very high speed," said McClure of the gelding, who paced home in :27.1. "I think he'll keep improving." Tara, Ontario resident Larry Hall trains Sauble Play and shares ownership of the homebred with his wife Marilyn through their Sauble Hill Farms. A half-brother to $206,548 winner Sauble Claire, Sauble Play now has one win, one fourth and one fifth in his first three career starts. Sauble Play Brethour returned to the winner's circle with Machdavid, who hung on for a neck victory after carving out most of the fractions in the sixth division. Sylvain Filion drove the Mach Three son to the 1:55.1 victory for Brethour and breeders Jeff and Lori Thomson of Chesley, Ontario. Boys Turn settled for second and Carlisimo sprinted into third. Machdavid Like McClure and Brethour, Filion also picked up a pair of Grassroots wins. The Milton, Ontario resident guided Battle Strong to a commanding five and one-quarter length victory in the second division, stopping the teletimer at 1:55.2. Ballparkfrank finished second and Come On Barney was third. Tony O'Sullivan of Cambridge, Ontario trains Battle Strong for Hutt Racing Stable of Paoli, Pennsylvania, who also bred the son of Betterthancheddar at their Winbak Farm of Chesapeake City, Maryland. Battle Strong In between McClure, Brethour and Filion's first and second victories, Mo Bettor captured the third division with a late sprint that saw him reach the wire in 1:55.1, one and one-half lengths ahead of Ys Sunshine and Big Kiz. Guelph resident Anthony MacDonald drove the Bettors Delight son to his second lifetime victory for trainer Kevin McMaster and owners Thestable Mo Bettor Group of Guelph and breeder Karry Howard of Wardsville, Ontario. "He's a medium-sized horse that's filled out well, and you know, he's ahead of the curve right now because it's early in the season," said MacDonald. "He's been good from Day 1, he never wore a boot or anything like that and he's really turned into a nice little colt. "We're probably going to aim him toward the (Aug. 6) Battle of Waterloo," MacDonald continued. "He wears a 56-inch hopple, I think, and no boots or nothing like that so he's built for a half, I think he'll excel on a half." Mo Bettor The other divisions went to Sports Hero and Keystone Concrete. Fan favourite Sports Hero led from gate-to-wire in the fifth split, laying down a 1:55.2 effort for driver Jonathan Drury of Guelph. Twin B Jays recovered from interference to be second and Mittnite Delight was third. Blake MacIntosh of Cambridge trains Sportswriter son Sports Hero for his partners in the 3 Hero Stables of Cambridge, the 30 Plus Stable of Trenton and Touch Stone Farms of Guelph, Ontario. A half-brother to 2012 3-year-old pacing filly Super Final champion Mach A Wish ($601,975), Sports Hero was a $60,000 purchase from last fall's Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. Sports Hero In the last division Keystone Concrete took command early and never looked back, cruising home to a two and one-quarter length victory in 1:54.3. Chiefs Beach followed the pacesetter into second and Ok Kudo closed well for third. Oakville resident Rick Zeron piloted the Bettors Delight colt to the win for trainer Rob Fellows and owners Yolanda Fellows of Rockwood, Arpad Szabo of Bradford, Ontario and Blair Corbeil of Beaumont, Alberta. The partners acquired the colt for $18,000 at the 2017 Harrisburg Yearling Sale. Keystone Concrete The two-year-old pacing colts will make their second Grassroots start on July 23 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Ontario Sires Stakes action returns to the Campbellville oval on Monday, July 16 with four Gold Series divisions for the two-year-old trotting colts and geldings. The trotters will make their Ontario Sires Stakes debuts in Races 2, 3, 6 and 9, with the evening's first race going behind the starting gate at 7:30 pm. OSS Program Information For rules, notices, Program changes, up-to-date point standings, race replays, and more, visit: www.ontariosiresstakes.com Ontario Racing

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