Plainville, MA --- Even two tornado warnings and torrential rainfall in the middle of Tuesday’s (June 23) card could not dampen the harness racing horsemen’s spirits on the eve of Wednesday’s (June 24) grand opening ceremonies at the new $250 million Plainridge Park Casino. “It is tremendously exciting,” said track identifier Bob Lieberman, who has been involved in New England harness racing for 30 years. “We have been reborn, and that is the word for it.” Only two years ago, the prognosis for Massachusetts’ Standardbred breeding and racing industry was indeed terminal. After discovering serious improprieties in the way money was handled by a former track executive at what was then Plainridge Racecourse, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission ruled in August 2013 that then-owners were unsuitable to hold a gaming license. The ruling knocked the state’s only harness racing track out of competition for the lucrative license to own and operate Massachusetts’ future sole single slots machine facility. In the ensuing months Penn National Gaming Inc., the North American casino and racetrack magnate with now more than 20 properties, was also running into dead ends in Massachusetts. PNGI’s attempt to win the full destination resort casino license designated for the state’s western region was outbid by MGM, and then voters in the Town of Tewksbury rejected the corporation’s try to locate a slots parlor there. In what started as a relationship of convenience but has since blossomed into the perfect marriage, the former owners of Plainridge and executives of PNGI arranged that PNGI would pursue the slots license for the property and then buy the track if successful. When the MGC selected PNGI over two competitors in February 2014, the deal was sealed. Shovels went into the ground shortly thereafter, and although the state’s gambling legislation mandated a minimum investment of $125 million, PNGI has already put twice that into the project. On Wednesday (June 24), the glamorous and state-of-the-art Plainridge Park Casino opened its doors at 1 p.m. to an enthusiastic and large crowd. “The horsemen have been very cooperative since the outset,” said Chris McErlean, PNGI’s vice president of racing, who was on hand for the grand opening. “It’s been rough for them during the construction as they’ve had to endure a lot of inconveniences. The facility and the site came out well, but we have some clean-up projects on the front side and the backside that we’re going to be doing for the rest of this year and going into next year, so it’s a work in progress. Obviously, the horsemen knew this was do-or-die for them. They have been great about everything that has been asked of them and that bodes well for the relationship going forward.” The same 2011 expanded gambling law that authorized the state’s three resort casinos and one slots machine facility also established the Race Horse Development Fund, which will be fueled by a combined five percent of the four licensing fees totaling $175 million plus nine percent of the slots parlor revenue and .625 percent of the gross gaming revenue from the three future casinos. The RHDF designates 80 percent to purses, 16 percent to breeders and four percent to backstretch welfare and the total allotment will be split 75-25 percent between the state’s Thoroughbred industry and Standardbred industry. Harness horsemen are already seeing the benefits. Plainridge offered $38,300 in purses on Tuesday’s 10-race card. As recently as 2013, the average purse was $2,700 and last year they averaged $30,000 but were overpaid by $900,000. McErlean said that plans to upgrade the racing quality call for the eventual creation of a signature event and the restoration of the Bert Beckwith and Stan Bergstein series. “It’s been a bumpy, hilly road with a lot of downs but we finally got here,” said trainer/driver Jim Hardy, who has topped the Plainridge standings nine straight years. “People were losing their homes and farms and getting out of the business. There is light at the end of the tunnel.” That light is shining brightly. “We can already see the benefits of the new casino, absolutely. I’ve already picked up two new owners coming into the business and have new horses coming into the barn,” Hardy said. “I last bred a filly two years ago but now I have the incentive to breed more. We’ve already turned $3,000 claimers into $4,000 claimers and purses can only go up. It’s all positive.” Lisa Watson, the wife of driver Wallace Watson, is an owner, trainer and breeder who has been racing at Plainridge since it opened in 1999. Although the Watsons are based in Maine, where PNGI owns and operates Hollywood Casino and Raceway Bangor, many of their horses prefer the bigger five-eighths-mile track here. “Without this new casino a lot of people would have been forced out of the business. This is a blessing for us all,” she said. by Lynne Snierson, for ustrotting.com
Last season's top pacers, a healthy mix of native New Englanders, along with stables returning from other parts of the country, make up the first draws of the 2015 season at Plainridge. Fans will be treated to a newly renovated racing and simulcasting area that becomes the first step of a new era for harness racing in New England at Plainridge Park Casino. Opening day at the Massachusetts track takes place this coming Wednesday (April 15) with a 4:00 P.M. post time. The nine race card is headlined by the return of Burkentine Hanover, the fastest pacer at Plainridge in 2014. Trained and driven by Jim Hardy, Burkentine Hanover is the likely morning line favorite in the $6,000 open event. Three challengers - Wheelaway, Western Victory and Trigger Finger - all notched multiple victories in the top class at Plainridge last season. Perennial training and driving leaders such as Hardy, Steve Nason and Mike Eaton might face challenges from a pair of Maine horsemen returning to action at Plainridge. Ron Cushing, currently the top conditioner at Scarborough Downs, makes his seasonal debut on Thursday as well as Kevin Switzer Jr., who was the top driver in the PineTreeState in 2014 scheduled to drive on both Wednesday and Thursday. Eddie Davis Jr. is also slated to drive on the meet's initial programs. Within the past few days several trainers from outside the six state region have arrived in the area, including Shawn Answeeney (New York), Bryce Fenn (Florida) and Scott Rollins (New Jersey). The spring schedule at Plainridge features racing on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at 4:00 P.M., and also on Sunday afternoons at 1:00 P.M. On June 24th Plainridge Park Casino, the state's first gaming facility, will open its doors to the public.
On Wednesday, April 9, the Plainridge Racecourse held their second round of qualifying races, and the six races went off without a hitch under partly cloudy skies as the temperature hovered around sixty. The results are as follows: Race one was won by owner, trainer, driver, Graham “ The Dragonman ” Lewis aboard Fantastic in 2:03.4. Dream On Darlin was the winner of the second race, owned by Jeff Kaylor and trained and driven by Joe Therrien, in a time of 2:04.3. Third race winner A J Sinister, is owned by Dean Malin with trainer, driver Steve Nason in the bike, in a time of 2:02.1, and Steve Nason came back again in race four with Yanother Round, for trainer, owner Irwin Rosenthal in a time of 2:01.3. Race five went to Manchine driven by the Plainridge Racecourse Jim Hardy , last years leading driver for owner Peter Goldberg and trainer, owner Brenda Provost in the quickest time of the qualifiers in 2:00.2 and repeated with another winner in the sixth race aboard Extreme Justice, for Bob Bogigian in a time of 2:01. Racing will start on Wednesday April 16, at 4 p.m., with Wednesday and Saturday post times at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday post time at 1:00 p.m., with the exception of April 20 ( Easter Sunday. ) There will be no racing that day. by Bob Lieberman, for Plainridge Raceway
Columbus, OH --- Four Massachusetts Sire Stakes finals for 3-year-olds were contested on Monday (Oct. 28) at Plainridge Racecourse. In the $18,240 final for 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers, Christine Catabia's Master Of Puppets took over the lead at the three-quarter pole and went on to a three length victory in a time of 1:57.1. Jim Hardy was in the bike for trainer David Crochere as the son of Ashlee's Big Guy-Happy Chelsea defeated Everybody Lies with Murphy's Cyclone third. The $17,600 final for 3-year-old colt and gelding trotters went to Glenn Harris' CBF Dart in 2:00, with a final quarter in :28.3. Trainer Ralph Andersen steered the RC Royalty-Tiaragenic gelding to a 2-3/4 length score over Race To Royalty. Welker picked up the show dough. In the $17,600 final for 3-year-old pacing fillies, KDK Standardbreds and Nelson Malin III's Lordy Miss Scarlet took advantage of a pocket trip to cross the wire first in a time of 1:56.4. Shane Taggart did the driving for trainer Kevin Switzer as the Shady Character-Movie Legend miss passed her stablemate Morrigan in the stretch for a one length victory. Snookie wound up third. The $16,960 3-year-old filly trot final was captured by Peter Goldberg and Michael Seidman's Mergatroid in a wire-to-wire, 2:00.4 score. Trainer Donna Marshall handed the lines to Jim Marshall III and he steered the Infinitif-Ornellaia lass to a 4-1/2 length triumph over Royalty Free with Eyes On Royalty third. Repritned with permission from www.ustrotting.com
Pompano Beach, FL...September 26, 2013...Pompano Park is set to kick off their 50th anniversary pari-mutuel season on Saturday, October 5. John Yinger, Director of Racing, said that this season will feature new wagering options for the fans, as well as several new faces stiffening the competition, a new lighting system and a bump in purses. "We are going to offer a Pick-5 wager to kick things off on the wagering side--this to go along with our popular Pick-3 and Pick-4 bets. Of course, we'll have our usual wide array of other wagers on the menu, too," he said. Some of the new stables expected to heighten the level of competition include those of Jim Hardy, Chris Lems, Dave Stratton, Bruce Clarke, Jimmy Whittemore and Greg Wright. Yinger continued, "With our returning stables of great horsemen like Mike Deters, Wally Hennessey, Jim McDonald, Bruce Ranger, Joe Pavia, Jr. and Rick Plano, just to name a few, the racing will, no doubt, be at it's highest plateau in our 50 year history and we hope the harness community of fans will take notice. "We expect that the addition of Sunday racing, beginning in mid-November, will also get some serious notice from the fans." Pompano will also host a non-wagering program this Saturday, September 28, featuring Florida breds in Sunshine State Stakes competition. The Saturday matinee program has a post time of 11:30 and features many two year-olds beginning their racing careers. Also, the three year-old divisions have drawn some very powerful performers including a renewed rivalry between last season's top two juvenile pacing colt performers, Goldstar Thumper and Hillybilly. Goldstar Thumper, a son of Rock On, was bred and is owned and trained by Tom Audley. "Thumper" was last year's champion in his division, pinning a narrow defeat on arch-rival Hillybilly. He will be making his initial start of the year and will have the driving services of Bob Williams, Jr. Hillybilly, a son of N Aboriginal trained by Marc Aubin for breeder and owner Amanta Standardbreds, is already the author of a 1:52.1 mark this year and will have Bruce Ranger in the bike. The sophomore pacing event for the fillies pits two exceptionally talented fillies against each other--Seven Arias and Tashia. Seven Arias, trained by Mark Friedman for owner by Laura Newbery, was last season's champ, winning the crown of Super Night at Pompano with a splendid 1:55 mile for then trainer-driver Deshawn Minor. She has had but three starts this semester and has a 0-1-2 scorecard but comes into the action off of a sharp 1:58-:58 qualifying win over a track labeled as "good" after drenching rains. Tashia, owned by Jay Sears along with trainer Kim Sears, is on a roll, having secured five straight wins coming into this action. After a winless 2012 season, Tashia has won eight times this year with her last win in a lifetime best 1:55. Stall allocations for the 2013-2014 season have also been announced and are available at the following web site: www.pompano-park.isleofcapricasinos.com. Click on the "racing" tab, then go to "horsemen" and stall allocations are posted at the top. by John Berry for Pompano Park
The chase is on at Plainridge Racecourse as the top five drivers are just a whisker apart at the meets early stage.
Plainridge Racourse went to post on Monday, (April) 15) for its 15th harness racing opener.
Duces were wild Thursday (Nov. 15) as Plainridge Racecourse nears the end of its 2012 harness racing meeting.
As Plainridge Racecourse closes in on the 2012 harness racing season, so does leading driver Jim Hardy but with an eye on the finish line.
Live harness racing returns to Plainridge Racecourse Thursday (Nov. 1) after last Monday's cancellation due to the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.
Two harness racing drivers injured in a mishap at Plainridge Racecourse Thursday afternoon (October 18) have been released from an area hospital.
Two $5,100 Massachusetts Sire stake harness racing events were in the spotlight Thursday (October 10_ at Plainridge Racecourse.
With 16 race dates left at Plainridge, Jim Hardy is on his way again to both another driving and training title. All season long Hardy has been the front runner in wins (102), while Steve Nason and Mike Eaton have been in pursuit. He holds a 26 win lead over Nason and Eaton who trail with 76 and 72 wins.
Three of the top harness racing drivers at Plainridge fared well in Monday's (July 30) nine-race card.
Speed showed the way Monday (July 9) at Plainridge Racecourse as Steve Nason scored a driving triple. Nason who is chasing Jim Hardy for the driving title this harness raciing season, had wins with TameThe Dame in the opener (1:55.1);Oragami Artist in the fourth (1:54); and Juarez in the eighth (1:54.4).
Harness racing drivers - Jim Hardy and John Hogan were in the Plainridge Racecourse spotlight Tuesday (May 15).