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BOSTON -- Key players in the state's horse racing industry want to keep their hands on state fund that they say ignited a "very swift renaissance" and positioned the state's harness racing industry as a competitive player in the Northeast. Frank Antonacci, president of a racing stable in Connecticut, said the Massachusetts harness racing industry is an "overwhelming success story." For proof that the Race Horse Development Fund is a boon for horse racing, Antonacci said legislators should look to Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville. "There have been a lot of headlines regarding the validity of the fund and what the future of the fund should be and that horse racing is dying, is dead in Massachusetts," Antonacci said. "Though thoroughbred racing has come upon hard times, ... there's a much greater story of harness racing that's alive and well and burgeoning in the commonwealth of Massachusetts." The Harness Horseman Association of New England briefed lawmakers about the state's harness racing industry and the impact of the Race Horse Development Fund, which was created under the 2011 expanded gambling law and draws its revenues from wagering. The Senate proposed sweeping $15 million from the fund for programming and operations for the Department of Agricultural Resources and the Department of Conservation and Recreation in its fiscal 2018 budget. Right now, the fund fuels harness racing, also known as standardbred horse racing, at Plainridge Park Casino. The track saw a $10 million increase in live handle since 2014 and another $3 million increase from simulcasting, also known as live broadcasting, according to the United States Trotting Association. "Every metric from handle to the amount of horses in the state to the amount of racing days in the state, all of these have grown in multiples," Antonacci said. The fund is expected to grow when casinos open in Everett and Springfield and contribute a percentage of revenues like Plainridge Park Casino does. In harness racing, the horse is driven by a driver in a two-wheeled cart referred to as a race bike or a sulky. In thoroughbred racing, a jockey rides the horse in a saddle. Antonacci breeds both thoroughbred and standardbred horses at Lindy Farms in Enfield. "Right now with the infrastructure and the way things are in Massachusetts we made the decision our investment in the standardbred industry is where we want to be currently in Massachusetts," Antonacci said. According to Antonacci, the state's harness racing industry directly employs 621 workers. Massachusetts-based horse breeders are on the rise -- the total number of breeders in the state increased from 56 to 74 in 2017. The state's population of female breeding horses, called Broodmares, nearly doubled from 65 horses in 2016 to 111 horses in 2017. Antonacci said predictability in the gaming fund is important because a race horse is a five-year commitment for investors. If a breeder were to purchase a female horse at auction in November, that horse would be bred in April 2018. The horse would give birth in March 2019 after an 11-month gestation period, and the baby horse would not be ready to race until it is two years old in the summer and fall of 2021 and again at three years old in 2022. If the fund were to be split up or used for another purpose, it could topple the state's growing harness racing industry, Antonacci said. "It's dollars in, dollars out. It's pure economic supply and demand if there are less dollars to be had, we're going to look seriously at how we deploy our assets in Massachusetts. I think that's going to be lost jobs. I think you're going to be moving horses out of Massachusetts instead of in and I think you're going to see a contraction of the entire industry," Antonacci said. The harness racing industry is based in Northeast and exists primarily in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Ontario, Antonacci said. Plainridge Park will host the first Spirit of Massachusetts event July 28 which features a $250,000 open trot, the largest purse ever offered for a standardbred race in the state. The purse will triple the $81,000 Colonial Trot at Foxboro Park in 1995 and the $75,000 Beckwith Memorial at Plainridge in 2009, the United States Trotting Association said. The nation's largest horse track operator last week expressed interest in bringing thoroughbred racing back to Massachusetts. Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer at the Stronach Group, told the News Service that his company has talked with George Carney, the owner of a former dog racing track in Raynham, about a potential partnership or lease. "We're very, very early in preliminary discussions," said Ritvo, whose company is also a supplier of pari-mutuel wagering technology. "There's no plans other than to say we're interested in the Boston market." Stronach officials, who run Santa Anita Park, Pimlico Race Course and Gulfstream Park, have talked with Massachusetts Gaming Commission Executive Director Ed Bedrosian and Commissioner Gayle Cameron, Ritvo said. By Stephanie Murray Reprinted with permission of The Lowell Sun

Plainville, MA---The Rohr Racing Stable and David Glazer made a wise investment when they claimed Betterlatethnnever for $30,000 on February 16 of this year because he has been paying them dividends ever since. This ATM machine rewarded them again when he won the $16,000 Open Handicap pacing feature at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (June 19) to notch his fourth consecutive harness racing victory. Betterlatethnnever (Kevin Switzer Jr.) left from post five, rambled right to the front in :26.1 and controlled the race from that point on. He led the short field of five to a :55.1 half and 1:22.3 three-quarters before turning on the jets to pull away by two at the top of the lane. From there under mild urging from Switzer, Betterlatethnnever stayed in command to win by an easy two-lengths in 1:50.4; just one-fifth off his lifetime mark. It was the ninth win of 2017 for Betterlatethnnever ($2.40) and seventh since his current connections claimed him. This 8-year-old gelded son of Western Terror is having a career year for trainer Heidi Rohr as he has now made $94,325 for his efforts. In the co-featured $14,000 conditioned pace, Cherokee Hiflyzane (Eddie Davis Jr.) overcame post seven and took the overland route to go from worst at the quarter to first at the wire in 1:53 flat. It was the fourth win of the year for Cherokee Hiflyzane ($25.00) and owners Roger Farrar II and Barrie Farrar, who also trained the winner. Kevin Switzer Jr. had a driving triple and Eddie Davis Jr. and Ron Cushing each doubled up. Trainer Heidi Rohr also sent two winners to visit the track photographer. Racing resumes on Tuesday (June 20) with post time at 4 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Plainville, MA--- Shesjustadelight N was one of the harness racing stars of Yonkers Bluechip Matchmaker Free-For-All series earlier this year after winning two legs and making the final. With a freshening month off, she's back and rolling with a second last week in the mares Open at Yonkers and now scoring a win in the $12,000 filly and mares Open Handicap at Plainridge Park on Tuesday afternoon (June 13). Shesjustadelight N (Ron Cushing) left best at the start and took a lead she would not relinquish. With the remainder of the scratch-shortened field in post-position order behind her, Shesjustadelight N flashed a quick :26.4 quarter, but then backed off the middle half to :58.2. As the pace slowed during that time, Better Said (Shawn Gray) rushed up on the outside and got within one-length of the leader around the final turn. But with a mere tap, Cushing alerted his mare it was time to go and she responded by gapping two lengths immediately. Then under mild urging down the lane, Shesjustadelight N cruised home to an easy two-length win in 1:52.3, which was a new seasonal mark. It was the third win in 11 starts this year for Shesjustadelight N ($2.60) and today's effort boosted her 2017 earnings to $99,640 for owners Kevin Sywyk and Ron Cushing. Heidi Gibbs trains the winner. Since being imported from New Zealand in August of 2016, Shesjustadelight N has won 15 of 23 starts (including a perfect 12 for 12 last year) and has made $180,640 as a result of her efforts. In the $10,000 distaff co-feature, Verry Well Pretty (Eddie Davis Jr.) put in an impressive performance, winning off a first-over trip and posting a new lifetime mark of 1:53.1. It was the fourth win in 10 starts for the 5-year-old daughter of Well Said who returned $15.80 to her backers. Verry Well Pretty is owned by William Phipps and is trained by Adam Gray. Plainridge Park's leading driver was at it again. Greg Merton won five more races on Tuesday, pushing his total for the meet to 73. He scored with Boston Bay ($41.80, 1:55.2), Toe Tag ($4.00, 1:56.3), Olivia's Z Tam ($15.40, 1:54.2), See To Believe ($2.60, 1:53.1) and UF Dragon's Hanover ($3.40, 1:54). Last year, Merton set a track record for most wins in a year by posting 229 victories. At his current rate of success, Merton could easily shatter that mark by the end of the meet as he is currently on pace for 292 wins. Live racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Thursday (June 15) with the first post set for 4 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Plainville, MA--- Breeding competitive Standardbreds in Massachusetts goes back to the 1800's when the Boston-based New England Trotting Horse Breeders Association backed and promoted it. And as a result of organizations like that, quality state-bred trotters and pacers have been breaking major records in the harness racing sport as far back as 1912 when Uhlan, who was foaled in Bedford, Massachusetts, trotted a world record mile in 1:58. Today the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts mission is much the same as their predecessors and the work of the group is helping the quality of the horses that come out of the state to just keep getting better. The goal of the Massachusetts breeding program is to promote agriculture and open space, improve the breed and provide economic growth and ancillary jobs to everyone involved. And on the strength of two very important bills, the current Massachusetts Sire Stake program has become one of the fastest growing programs of its type in North America. The first was the resident mare legislation of 2001 that stated all mares bred out of state who reside in Massachusetts would give birth to Massachusetts-eligible foals. The second was the 2011 Race Horse Development Fund legislation that directs proceeds from expanded gaming in the state to the horse breeding and racing industries. That combination of laws has since produced some of the best harness racing the state of Massachusetts has ever seen. But more importantly, it has breathed new life into what was a rather stagnant breeding program and made it very attractive to individuals currently racing in many jurisdictions outside of the Bay State. The Massachusetts Sire Stake program is run quite differently from any other in the industry. Rather than have the stallion stand in the state, only the mare need reside in Massachusetts for the full breeding season. It gives the breeder the flexibility to breed to any top stallion in North America and bring the mare to Massachusetts to foal. So as long as the mare is registered with the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts and a statement of where she will be residing in Massachusetts prior to December 1 is on file and the mare remains in the state until foaling, the foal will be eligible to the Massachusetts Sire Stakes program. The foal will also be eligible to the sire stake program where the stallion is standing, so having it eligible to two different stake programs simultaneously brings extra equity to the breeding. Massachusetts-eligibles have been performing successfully in other sire stakes programs and the duplicity of eligibility has driven up prices of these horses at the sales. So you can race your horse in the New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania stakes and then bring it to Massachusetts in October and have even more earnings opportunities. Since expanded gaming at Plainridge Park started generating money for the breeding program the Massachusetts Sire Stakes offering has gone from a total of $206,396 in 2014 to $1.2 million in 2016, Massachusetts breeders have gone from 56 to 72, the number of resident broodmares has risen from 40 to 111 and there are now 40 working Standardbred farms serving the needs of all these horses and people as a result of it. There have been many competitive race horses bred in Massachusetts in recent years, but the two most notable are definitely Royalty For Life and Wings Of Royalty. Royalty For Life (R C Royalty-Bourbon 'N Grits 1:51.3, $1,620,166) was bred by Alfred Ross of South Dartmouth, Massachusetts and has made headlines worldwide. At two Royalty For Life won four legs of the New York Sire Stakes and earned $129,063 for his efforts and he went on to finish second in the Breeders Crown his sophomore year as well. At three, he raced exclusively on the Grand Circuit and won the $1.2 million Hambletonian. And he did it old-school; winning two heats on the same day as the classic stake returned to its traditional format in 2013, the first time since 1997. Royalty For Life was a truly New England affair as the horse was foaled in Belchertown, Massachusetts and was owned by Alfred Ross of South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Raymond Campbell of Belchertown, Massachusetts and Paul Fontaine of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Plus his trainer George Ducharme is from Norfolk, Massachusetts. Wings Of Royalty (R C Royalty-Sparkling Cider 1:51.4, $603,784) was bred by Raymond Campbell Jr. of Belchertown, Massachusetts and starred in two different sire stakes programs. At two, Wings Of Royalty raced exclusively in the New York program, winning two legs and finishing second in the final to bank $122,702 in Empire State earnings. At three he made $181,223 in New York Sire Stakes and also competed on the Grand Circuit in the Hambletonian, Zweig, Empire Breeders Classic and an elimination of the Yonkers Trot. But then he earned another $40,900 in the Massachusetts Sire Stakes. He raced in three eliminations and the final at Plainridge Park and won all four starts. And in the process he became the fastest 3-year-old trotting colt ever in the Massachusetts Sire Stakes and set the Plainridge Park track record for the same age, gait and gender while winning in 1:54.4 on September 28, 2015. Now 5-years-old, Wings of Royalty is racing Open competition and recently set a new all-time track trotting record at Tioga Downs of 1:53.2 on Saturday (May 13). With the success Plainridge Park has been having on the gaming floor and two more stand-alone casinos coming online in Massachusetts in the next two years, additional funding will further enhance the Massachusetts Sire Stakes program as provided in the language of the Race Horse Development Fund. And that could make the horses foaled in Massachusetts next year the most valuable crop yet.   By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Breeders of Massachusetts  

The New England Amateur Harness Drivers Club with membership totaling 26, that competes weekly at the Plainridge Racecourse, Plainville, MA just completed their 2016 harness racing season on Monday, November 28, 2016 on an extremely high-note. The club held 36 races with purses totaling $166,000.00 and averaged $4,628. The last two races of the season highlighted the year by having the lower class race for $15,000 and the higher class racing for $20,000. Those total figures show an increase of 56% in total purses and an increase of 35% in the number of races. Club President Bill Abdelnour, a dedicated harness horse owner, trainer, and driver summed up the year this way, " The club had such a rewarding season that they continued to donate to the charities of the previous years and were able to add a few more new charities to help benefit them. It`s such a real good feeling to watch the drivers put on such a professional effort in their races." A big thanks goes out to The Penn/National Management Team for all their help, a special thank you goes out to Plainridge Racecourse General Manager Stephen O`Toole, the great condition races that Race Secretary Paul Verrette made available, Track Announcer Len Calderone, the Presiding Judge and his associate judges, and therest of the Penn/National Staff. The leading point getters for the clubwere: First Place Winner: Dan Tuccillo of Prospect, CT 172 points Second Place: Eric Davis of Hartly, DE 166 points Third Place: Jim Tomaso of Rehoboth, MA 140 points We wish all harness racing fans, who come tothe track to watch and bet the races, a wonderful holiday season and most importantly a happy and very healthy new year. We looked forward to seeing you next year on April 10, 2017 ......... " When the starter calls the pacers " By Bob Lieberman      

Columbus, OH --- While most harness racing participants in the sport are focusing on what is transpiring in The Garden State prior to the Breeders Crown, George Ducharme and Chris Lems were hard at work in The Bay State. The fruits of their labors were rewarded, as the duo collected all four $75,000 Massachusetts Sire Stakes trotting contests on Monday (Oct. 24) at Plainridge Park. “We have had some good days before back here at home, but never a day quite like that,” Ducharme said. “With the infusion of the slots money into purses it has really helped us. The sire stakes races were only worth about half that last year. Even the overnights have gone up from $6,000 to $12,000 and it really helps out. There are a lot of people here that were just hanging on, waiting for this. Of course you will have some other people bringing horses in, but it’s good to see the people that stuck with it getting a little bit of money in their pocket.” Ducharme and Lems joined forces to meet in the winner’s circle with Onangelwings (Archangel-Anotherpennyplease) in the 2-year-old filly trot, Muscles Jared (Muscle Massive-Tetiana) in the 2-year-old colt and gelding trot, Do What You Dream (Conway Hall-Ksenia) in the 3-year-old colt and gelding trot and Royal Right (RC Royalty-Contrarian) in the 3-year-old filly trot. “A lot of my owners like to breed and race their own horses in their home state,” Ducharme said. “Our horses fit very well in these events and we always support racing here.” While the names, speed records and other stakes accomplishments may not jump off the pages of these state champions, there is one in the bunch that nearly punched Ducharme’s ticket to this weekend’s Breeders Crown events in Muscles Jared. Bred by Al Libfeld, the gelding is owned by Alfred Ross. In addition to his newly acquired crown, Muscles Jared has the distinction of coming first-over during Walner’s world record performance (1:51.3) in a $56,000 division of the International Stallion Stakes on Oct. 6 in Lexington. Steered by John Campbell on that day, the gelding came home fifth directly behind Breeders Crown elimination victor Sortie after an adventurous trip over the Red Mile oval. “He was second in his first race down in Lexington,” Ducharme said. “And I was happy how the horse performed in that race against Walner. He was first-over and then was used about three times. We thought about taking him to the Breeders Crown, but brought him here (Plainridge) instead to give him a little bit easier race and have a good chance to win rather than hoping to finish fourth or fifth. It was easier on him, but it was not easy as Andy Miller brought one (Big Man Ev, second) and (Frank) Antonacci brought one (French Moni, fourth). “He’s done for the year now. He’s the kind of horse we think needs to be turned out to give him some time to grow into his frame. When we bring him back next year though, he will be staked to everything, because we think once he grows he will be able to keep up and compete with those horses. We’ll wait on the Breeders Crown this year and point towards next year.” Muscles Jared embarks on his vacation with $150,856 in the bank and a resume of 11-5-2-0. He was also fourth in the $252,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship behind Breeders Crown participants Giveitgasango and Moonshiner Hanover. Ducharme also holds out optimism the Massachusetts program will be on the upswing yet again in 2017. “I don’t have my finger on the pulse quite as much as I used to now that I stable most of the time in New York,” he said. “But it is my understanding the state is looking to revisit the amount of revenue Standardbred horsemen receive at the end of the year. Horsemen in Massachusetts receive nine percent, but up until this year Standardbred horsemen received 25 percent of that while Thoroughbreds received 75 percent. Suffolk closed two years ago and there has been no Thoroughbred racing, so this year their percentage was changed to 55 percent. “The state plans on reviewing how the extra money for the Standardbreds is used to improve the communities rather than seeing other people come in just for increased purses. Hopefully, they will approve more money coming to Standardbreds and our stakes will be worth even more next year.” For complete results of the Massachusetts Sires Stakes finals, click here. by Kim French, USTA Internet News Editor 

Maybe it was the familiar surroundings of his home track or maybe it was the luck of the draw but whatever it was turned out to be right for "Baystate Bob" Kenney when he hustled Just Like Lloyd home first in 1:56.1 in the harness racing Eastern Region Billings Trot at Plainridge Park on the late summer afternoon of Friday, Sept.16. "It was racing luck and it turned out to be a real good horse race with three of us across the wire at the finish," Kenney said. According to Kenney he rushed his horse away from the gate but he ranged up alongside Bob" the Headhunter" Hechkoff with Trotalot as they headed toward the first quarter with Just Like Lloyd on the limb. However at the point, a bobble by "Hurricane Hannah" Miller's Jacks To Open who was behind Trotalot allowed Kenney to move his trotter down along the pylons. "Once there I got a solid two-hole journey until we headed for home," Kenney related. "And as we straightened in the stretch I moved to the outside and Hannah (Miller) went down the inside and all three of us were side by side when we hit the finish line and I was surely happy that Just Like Lloyd was a head better than the other two." Since the former business executive has retired earlier this year he has driven more winners thus far this season than amount of drives he had in any singular year since he began his amateur driver career in 2000. Kenney's victory today was his eighth in just 21 trips to post and in all of his previous seasons "Baystate Bob" had racked up only four winners, albeit from a very minimal amount of starts annually. Just Like Lloyd is owned by Di Stefano and Son Stable and trained by John Di Stefano. He paid $14.20 for win. By John Manzi for the Billings Amateur Series 

In the first race on the Monday harness racing card of August 29 at Plainridge Park in Massachusetts, if one was to wager on a horse because they liked its name, it's a good bet they'd have wagered on Trotalot, an accomplished 9-year old altered son of SJ's Photo. And for those game individuals who did, they would be raking in the profits because Trotalot won the trotting contest in the eastern region of the CKG Billings Amateur Driving Series. Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff, an executive recruiter by trade, was at the controls when Trotalot took the lead from the pole position and led the field throughout winning the race in a time of 1:56.4. But that triumph didn't come easy especially when Just Like Lloyd and driver"Bay State Bob" Kenney came calling at the end of the mile. Trotalot and Just Like Lloyd matched stride for stride in the deep stretch but Hechkoff's charge prevailed, albeit by a long neck. "I heard Bob's (Kenney) trotter coming at us and gaining slowly but thankfully they ran out of racetrack," Hechkoff said. Third place went to Shelikescandy in rein to "Buffalo Bob" Davis. Trotalot paid $4.00 for win which was the trotter's fifth victoryof the season and 23rd of the gelding's career. He's owned by RBH Ventures and Kyle Spagnola and trained by Spagnola. For Hechkoff, it marked his 10th seasonal driving victory and 87th of his amateur career. Next Billings action will be in the Midwest region over the five-eighths mile track at Scioto Downs in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, September 3rd. John Manzi

PLAINVILLE — The state Gaming Commission endorsed a plan Thursday to send more money from a racehorse development fund to the harness racing track at Plainridge Park Casino. The move is expected to speed up the revival of harness racing at Plainridge, which has been underway since the facility got slot machines last year. The commission voted 3-2 to approve a move by the state Horse Racing Committee to give Plainridge 55 percent of the fund of about $15 million. The change was made retroactive to Jan. 1. Plainridge was receiving 25 percent of the fund, with thoroughbred racing getting 75 percent under a system approved before Suffolk Downs closed to thoroughbred racing. Plainridge now runs more than 100 races per year, with plans to increase to 125. Horsemen at Suffolk only hold six races a year, down from 90 at the track a few years ago. All five commissioners said they agreed Plainridge should get more money because the vast majority of races are held there. The only disagreement was whether to make the new percentages retroactive. Commissioner Gayle Cameron argued the change in the percentage would have taken effect in January, but was delayed because the Horse Racing Committee was short two members. It could not vote until the vacancies were filled, she said. She said Plainridge should have been getting more money all year. The commission’s legal council, Catherine Blue, said the situation could be rectified by reducing payments to thoroughbred breeders for three months. But, commission members Bruce Stebbins and Lloyd MacDonald said that would be unfair to the breeders. Chairman Stephen Crosby and member Enrique Zuniga disagreed, saying it was Plainridge that had been hurt by the delay in the new percentages. Crosby said the thoroughbred industry got a “windfall” from the delay in filling the vacancies at the committee. Attorney Peter Goldberg, representing standardbred horse owners at Plainridge, said the new arrangement is fair because the state’s racing landscape has changed, and Plainridge is now dominant. He also said standardbred owners and breeders need the extra money now. The situation at Plainridge has changed from “running on fumes,” before slot machines were introduced last year, to healthy now, but Plainridge still has some of the smallest purses in the region, he said. The horse fund comes from a 9 percent tax on slot machine revenue at Plainridge. About 80 percent of the fund goes toward higher purses while 16 percent goes to breeders and the balance to help pay for health insurance. Since Suffolk Downs has almost no races, its share of the purse money has been “sitting around” doing nothing, Goldberg said. He said the unused money is an inviting target for the Legislature, and there were two proposals last budget session to dip into it for non-racing items. That extra money should go to Plainridge immediately to continue the process of rebuilding the harness racing industry, he said. Goldberg and Cameron said the split between the thoroughbred and standardbred industries will continued to get reviewed every fall with more changes possible. By Jim Hand Reprinted with permission of The Sun Chronicle    

Joe Therian has been in the horse racing business all his life, but the industry got so bad in Massachusetts he moved to Saratoga, N.Y., in 2003. There, he saw the positive impact slot machine revenue had in reviving harness horse racing, a sport many thought was dying. Now, the Foxboro native is back in Massachusetts and seeing the same revival at the racetrack at Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, which opened with 1,250 slot machines a year ago Friday. Therian said he moved back to the area because he missed home, but the trainer, driver, blacksmith said he had only two horses in his stable. Now that slot machine money is being pumped into the horse-racing industry in Massachusetts, his stable is at eight horses. Investors have not only bought six new horses since March, they are on the lookout for more. Some of those investors had been out of the business for years because it was not profitable, he said. “It was very tough to make a living,” he said. “The difference now is like night and day.” The constant fear horseman had that Plainridge was about to go out of business is also gone. Therian said farms that board horses and suppliers who sell feed and equipment are also seeing a revival. It’s all about money. Nine percent of slot machine revenue goes into a horse racing development fund. As of May, that amounted to $13.8 million. Fifty-five percent of that goes toward purses at Plainridge. Therian said the infusion of cash means horse owners, drivers and suppliers can now make a living in the sport they love. Minimum purses, or winnings, for horse owners, used to be $2,000. They are now $3,200, he said. Purses for the open class, or top-of-the-line horses, are up from $4,500 to $10,000. According to Plainridge, the average racing day handle, or amount bet by customers, is up 28 percent over last year, going from $132,746 to $170,275, a difference of $37,529 per day. The number of days of racing is now at 115 for 2016, up from 105 days last year. Purses have increased 35 percent. “If it wasn’t for the slots, we wouldn’t be here. It’s like soup and sandwhich or horse and buggy. They go together,” said William Abdelnour of the Harness Horsemen’s Association of New England. Racing General Manager Steve O’Toole, who has worked in the industry since high school, said the casino is also bringing in more customers to the track. He said slots players get curious about the horse races, and walk over to the nearby track. Plainridge has developed simplified programs describing the horses and drivers in terms newcomers can understand, he said. The programs uses a star system similiar to movie reviews to rate horses and drivers. The influx of money from the slots is also attracting a higher quality of horse to Plainridge, and that in turn draws in more customers. Therian said dedicated horse racing fans follow the top horses around the country. When one comes to Plainridge, the fans turn out. O’Toole said horse owners are not only buying more horses, but they are trading up for faster horses because they can make more money with the higher purses. Meanwhile, top-notch drivers from other tracks are also coming to Plainridge to race on Mondays and Tuesday, when most other tracks don’t have live racing, O’Toole said. “That adds to the variety and competition,” he said. Therian said the atmosphere at Plainridge has changed dramatically. Facilities have been upgraded, and there is a new optimism. To add to the good feelings, parents are bringing their children to the track in the morning to watch the horses work out. “We’re getting a chance to put on a show,” he said. By Jim Hand Reprinted with permission of thesunchronicle.com site  

There's an old adage that states "you can't keep a good man down". Applying those same sentiments to the recently completed Billings Trot at Plainridge Park on Labor Day(Sept. 7) it needs adjustment to "you can't keep a good woman down", referring to "Hurricane Hannah" Miller's victory there with Jacks To Open. "I was having stomach and kidney problems and I was in the hospital for a few days. I'm glad to be back and I'm feeling much better," Miller said referring to missing two NAADA Series drives at Freehold Raceway on Saturday. The Billings point leader, Miller picked up where she left off and notched her 23rd seasonal triumph with a gate to wire victory behind Jacks To Open over Plainridge Park's five eighths mile oval. Taking advantage of the pole position in the six-horse field Miller fired the veteran Conway Hall gelding to the lead and they were comfortable in the :28.1 first split. From there, Jacks To Open raced virtually unchallenged for the remainder of the mile and in the lane the trotter opened up daylight on the field and cruised home an easy five length winner in a time of 1:57.2. Although shadowed throughout by Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff, his charge,Berkshire, couldn't stay with the winner as the field headed for paydirt and finished second. Northern Nandi garnered the show dough for Tony "the Capo" Verruso aboard. Owned by his driver and the Nick Surick Stable, Jacks To Open paid $3.40 for win and notched his sixth seasonal victory. Miller, who had a five hour drive from her home in New Jersey to compete, now has a .443 UDR on the strength of 23 wins, 16 seconds and 12 thirds in 81 trips to post. Extremely happy to have Hannah back in action her boyfriend Nick Surick added: "We're off to Chicago for some stake races on Saturday night (Sept 12) followed by Billings races in Canada, Sunday (Sept 13) at Flamboro, (Downs)and Monday (Sept. 14) at Mohawk Racetrack. John Manzi  

Plainridge Park honored harness racing driver Shane Taggart, who recently notched his 1,500th career victory, before the start of the program on Monday. Taggart, who is among the leading drivers at Plainridge, was joined by his wife Amy, daughters Hannah and Madison, along with members of the local harness racing community for the presentation of a banner commemorating the achievement. On the track, Calvin B remained undefeated in his appearances at the Massachusetts track. With Kevin Switzer handling the reins, the heavily favored gelding cruised to a 1:51.2 victory in the open event. It was part of a driving double for the veteran Switzer.   Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Wednesday afternoon.   Fans and horsemen alike are reminded that post time switches to 2:30 P.M. for the months of September and October .    

BOSTON — In its first full month of operation, Plainridge Park Casino generated $18.1 million in gross gaming revenue, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced Monday. The state's first and only slots parlor at a harness racing track in Plainville is expected to generate about $200 million in revenues in its first year of operation. With a tax rate of 49 percent on gaming revenue, the July profits generated about $8.9 million for local aid and a horse racing development fund. If the $18.1 million haul in July was repeated every month of the year, the track would just beat the expected $200 million in annual gross gaming revenue by about $17.8 million. The Plainville complex is the first foray into expanded gambling in Massachusetts legalized in November 2011, throwing open its doors June 24 for around-the-clock electronic gaming. Plainridge has 1,250 slot machines and electronic table games and the machines are calibrated to "have a minimum theoretical payout of 80 percent over the cycle of the game," according to the commission. In July, the payout was 90 percent as patrons put a total of $181.6 million into the machines. The tax revenue from the slots parlor is split between local aid, which receives 82 percent, and the race horse development fund, which finances purses - the winnings distributed among horses that compete in Bay State races. There is a rift in the state's horse racing industry about how best to secure a future for the sport, as Suffolk Downs - the only thoroughbred track in Massachusetts - plans to hold only three racing days this year. Some in the industry have argued that the state should hold out for more racing days than Suffolk Downs has offered this year. The total estimated gross gaming revenues of $200 million over 12 months would generate $98 million in tax dollars. The Gaming Commission will report the revenues each month on about the 15th of the month. The commission has also licensed casinos in Springfield and Everett, while a proposed casino in Brockton is the lone commercial venture vying for the last remaining possible casino license. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is seeking its own casino in Taunton, but would first need federal approval for the tribe's first federal land-in-trust reservation. Plainridge hauled in $6.15 million in its first week of operation. By Andy Metzger Reprinted with permission of The Herald News website  

Golf is in the air, amongst the horsemen at Plainridge Park in Plainville, MA. and available for the horsemen of New England is a charity golf tournament with the all the profits to go directly to the local food bank/pantry and also a contribution to a scholarship directly related to the horse racing industry. It will be held on Friday, October 9, 2015 @ 10:00 a.m. at the Wentworth Hills Golf Club in Plainville, MA. The event will be a Florida Style shot gun affair, costing $100.00 per person, which includes: coffee anddonuts for starters, golf, cart, lunch, along with all the fun you are going to have. Hole Sponsorship`s are $50.00, and there will also be a raffle and putting contest. Set up your own foursome and enjoy the day intermingling with the owners, trainers, drivers, grooms, horse equipment suppliers, Plainridge Park employees, and harness racing fans, who will enjoy a day on the links with the harness people who they enjoy watching. Photos will be taken.  For more info contact Bob Lieberman at: lieberman1121@verizon.net. By the way, the slot parlor is only 10 minutes away. If interested make the check out for your foursome for $400.00, addressed to : ” New England Amateur Harness Drivers Club “  or N.E.A.H.D.C. “  and mail it to: Bob Lieberman 60 Neponset St. Norwood, Mass. 02062. List all the player`s names on an attached piece of paper and the check must accompany your entry form, to reserve your team`s spot. Annmarie Mancini, Lenny Calderone, Bill Abdelnour, Bob Lieberman  

Thursday afternoon's harness racing card at Plainridge Park has been postponed due to logistical difficulties related to the opening of Massachusetts' first casino. Plainridge Park Casino opened its doors for the first time on Wednesday morning, and shortly thereafter mammoth traffic delays surrounded the facility. With similar crowds expected on day two, Plainridge management and the Harness Horsemen's Association of New England have agreed to postpone the card originally for Thursday until Monday morning at 11:00 A.M. "The response to our casino opening Wednesday was both gratifying and overwhelming, " said Plainridge Director of Racing Steve O'Toole. "With the support of our horsemen and the racing commission We felt it would be in the best interests of all involved to cancel live racing for tomorrow. We also will adjust post times next week to help us work out some logistical items during the holiday week. We appreciate the understanding of our horsemen with this situation which should be seen as a positive as everyone associated with Plainridge Park Casino benefits from this successful opening." Plainridge will also adjust post times for its Wednesday July 1st and Thursday July 2nd cards to 11:00 A.M. Trainers should note that the card that had originally been offered for this Monday will be moved to Wednesday, and that card will be drawn this Friday, June 26th. Plainridge Park    

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

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