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The state Gaming Commission has once again voted to increase the share of a harness racing development fund that goes to Plainridge Park Casino. The casino, which runs harness racing during the spring and summer, will get 60 percent of the fund as opposed to the 55 percent it was receiving as the result of a 4-1 vote by the commission Thursday. When the casino first opened in 2015, it was only getting 25 percent and thoroughbred horse racing was getting 75 percent. But, the commission, based on the recommendation of a horse-racing committee, has been changing the split because there is virtually no thoroughbred racing in Massachusetts to share the fund since Suffolk Downs in Boston closed. The Plainville track operates more than 100 races per year. Eighty percent of the horse development fund is earmarked for purses — the winnings that go to horse owners and drivers. Plainridge contends the increased purses at its Route 1 track mean a higher quality of racing and owners reinvesting in the industry. Steve O’Toole of Plainridge said the 5 percent increase in Plainridge’s share “is obviously a good thing. It means purses will keep steady for the next year.” Revenue for the horse development fund comes from taxes on slot machines at Plainridge. The 49 percent tax is split by the state with 40 percent going toward local aid and 9 percent to the development fund. Plainridge has been paying more than $1 million a month into the fund from the 9 percent tax on slot machines. By Jim Hand Reprinted with permission of The Sun Chronicle

According to the new report, the harness racing track and slot machine parlor in Plainville owned and operated by Penn National Gaming, has helped to keep the state’s gamblers’ money from traveling out of Massachusetts. A recent survey of Massachusetts gamblers has shown that had the Plainridge Park Casino not opened, the lion’s share of money spent there since it opened in June 2015 would have been spent at gambling facilities located out of state. In a statement on Thursday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said the “Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts,” is a comprehensive, multi-year study conducted in 2016 by a team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, reports The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe reports that patrons of Plainridge Park Casino were asked by the research team about both their non-gambling and gambling spending habits during their casinos visits so that information could be gathered about money brought in by the casino. Information included how much of patron’s spending at the casino was “reallocated” in state from other services and goods and how much of it was “recaptured” from individuals who would have instead spent their money at casinos located beyond the borders of Massachusetts. The team reportedly estimated that 58.3 percent of all gambling spending by residents of Massachusetts was recaptured, while just 16.3 percent was reallocated. In the statement, a lead researcher on the team, Mark Melnik, said, “We were able to use the survey results to estimate that the majority of the money spent at PPC would have been spent out of state if gambling had never expanded in Massachusetts,” according to the news agency. Furthermore, the survey found that the year prior to the June 2015 opening of the Plainridge casino, nearly 90 percent of the patrons surveyed had frequented casinos in other states, with the majority having reportedly traveled to Rhode Island and Connecticut to gamble. Other results of the survey found that most of the patrons who gambled at the casino were older than the general population of the state, were likely to be white, with a higher education that many and an annual household income of between $50,000 and $100,000. Most patrons, the survey found, were from Massachusetts, with residents of Plainville and nearby communities accounting for 11.4 percent and 66.5 percent from other parts of the state. Of all of the casino’s attractions, slot machines are the most popular, with 87 percent of those surveyed saying they played them. A smaller percentage of the gamblers surveyed reportedly said they bet on horse races and played electronic table games at the casino. The Boston Globe reports that according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the results of the survey were shared by the researchers in order to help the commission understand better the economic effects of new gaming facilities. One of the team’s lead researchers, Rachel Volberg, who is also a professor of epidemiology at UMass Amherst, said in the statement, “The survey is a tool that allows us to collect data from patrons about where they come from and how much they spend, which is important for understanding the economic impacts of the casino.” While Enrique Zuniga, the Gaming Commissioner, said in the statement, “No other gaming commission in the country has this type of information at their fingertips to inform policy and make data-driven decisions,” according to The Boston Globe. Massachusetts finally enacted casino legislation in 2011, authorizing up to three resort-style casinos and one slots-only facility. After the license was approved in February 2014, ground was broken March 14th for the Plainridge Park Casino at the Plainridge Race Course. By K Morrison Reprinted with permission of World Casino News

Plainville, Ma---The third leg of the 2-year-old divisions of the Massachusetts Sire Stakes (MASS) were held at Plainridge Park on Monday afternoon (Oct. 23) and record harness racing performances were put forth in two of the four races. In the $33,800 2-year-old filly trot, Bag O Chips (Sierra Kosmos-Heather Spur) overcame a break at the start to gain the lead before the half and eventually pull away to a nine-length victory in 1:57.3, which was a new track and stake record for the winner, besting the 1:57.4 mark that she set in the first leg on September 25. The time was also a new lifetime mark for Bag O Chips who was driven by Chris Lems for trainer George Ducharme. Ray Campbell of Belchertown, Massachusetts owns the filly. Then in the $34,800 2-year-old colt and gelding trot, Hashtagmadeyalook (Chapter Seven-Royalty Free) got a perfect two-hole trip behind Kinda Lucky Lindy (Lucky Chucky-Kinda Crazy Lindy) before taking the lead in the stretch and opening up a four-length margin of victory in 1:56.3, which smashed the stake record of 1:58.1 and bettered the track record of 1:57 formerly held by Muscles Jared. It was also a new lifetime mark for Hashtagmadeyalook who was driven by Chris Lems for trainer George Ducharme and owner Ray Campbell of Belchertown, Massachusetts. There was no record set in the $34,266 2-year-old filly pace but a good effort was turned in none the less by Rock Me Threetimes (Rock N Roll Heaven-Love Rocks) as she pulled first over against a game Delco Dusty (Jereme's Jet-Gypsy's Good Girl) and held off a fast closing Momma Don't Dance (Art Major-Mommy Robin Q) to win by a long-length in 1:54, which was a new lifetime mark for the winner. Rock Me Threetimes was driven by Shawn Gray for trainer Kevin Switzer. KDK Standardbreds of Harrington, Delaware owns the filly. Finally, the only betting event of the four MASS races was the $34,900 2-year-old colt and gelding pace and Latent Print (Camluck-Affluence) turned a garden-spot journey behind I'm A Clown (I'm Gorgeous-Lordy Miss Scarlet) into a strong stretch drive and a length victory that produced a new lifetime mark of 1:57. Latent Print ($10.00) is trained and driven by Scott Renz of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania who also co-owns the gelding with Holly Guastalli of Port Richey, Florida. The third leg of the Mass 3-year-old divisions will be raced on Monday (Oct. 30) with the finals of all age, genders and gaits to take place on Monday (Nov. 6).   By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

Plainville, MA---Despite a short harness racing field and a co-favorite's break, Winding Hill had his hooves-full capturing the $14,000 Open Handicap Trot at Plainridge Park on Thursday afternoon (Sept. 28). Guiltywithanexcuse (Jim Hardy) shot out to a four-length lead off the gate while rolling to the quarter in :28 flat. Winding Hill (Jimmy Whittemore) was trying to keep up and took almost a half-mile to do so. However once he did, Whittemore pulled Winding Hill and drew alongside Guiltywithanexcuse who refused to give any ground when he was challenged. The two battled boldly to the three-quarters in 1:26 when Guiltywithanexcuse started to show fatigue allowing Winding Hill to gain a length advantage by the head of the lane. From there he trotted home, holding off Buff (Steve Nason) as well as his fast closing stablemate Bloodstockshalltab (Nick Graffam) to win in 1:55.1. It was the eighth win of the year, third win in a row and second consecutive victory at Plainridge Park for Winding Hill ($4.20) who is owned by Diane Whittemore and trained by Dennis Whittemore. In the $10,000 conditioned trotting co-feature, Ostrich Blue Chip (Greg Merton) came in sharp off two New York Sire Stake starts and converted a perfect pocket trip behind a game Tuscanelle (Jim Hardy) into a gutsy deep-stretch drive to the wire and win by a neck in 1:54.2. Ostrich Blue Chip's fifth win of the year pushed her earnings total to $71,705 for owner the Fred Monteleone Stable LLC and trainer Frank Antonacci. The day's leading driver was Greg Merton with three wins on the card while trainer Monique Cohen added two wins to her seasonal total. Racing resumes at Plainridge Park on Friday (Sept. 29) with post time set at 2:30 p.m. By Tim Bojarski, for the Standardbred Owners of Massachusetts  

BOSTON -- Bettors wagered more than ever before at the state's lone slots parlor in July -- approaching $200 million -- helping Plainridge Park Casino post its second strongest month yet. Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, the only gambling facility to open under the state's six-year-old expanded gaming law, generated $15.5 million in gross gaming revenue in July from a record $194.6 million in wagers, according to the company's revenue report. The slots parlor, owned by Penn National Gaming, reported a payout percentage of 92.07 percent. Gross revenues were higher at Plainridge only during the first full month the facility was open, in July 2015. The state is entitled to nearly $6.2 million of Plainridge's July revenue in the form of state taxes intended for local aid and another nearly $1.4 million for the Race Horse Development Fund. That works out to a total tax or assessment hit of $7,566,627 according to the Gaming Commission. Plainridge is taxed on 49 percent of its gross gaming revenue, with 82 percent of the tax levy going to local aid and 18 percent to fund set up with the goal of supporting horse racing, an industry that is struggling in Massachusetts. While Thoroughbred racing is near its all-time low in Massachusetts, harness racing has experienced something of a revival, in part thanks to the track at Plainridge Park Casino. The standardbred track at the slots parlor has seen a $10 million increase in its live handle since 2014 and another $3 million increase from simulcasting, according to the United States Trotting Association. On July 28, the track hosted the Spirit of Massachusetts open trot which was the richest race in Massachusetts standardbred history -- a $250,000 purse awarded to winner JL Cruze, driver Andrew McCarthy and trainer Eric Ell. Since the slots parlor opened in late June 2015, gamblers have wagered more than $4.21 billion there and the state has collected more than $166 million in taxes and race horse assessments, according to data provided by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The commission has licensed full-scale restor casinos that are being built in Springfield and Everett. MGM Springfield is expected to open its doors in September 2018 and Wynn Boston Harbor casino in Everett in June 2019. With two casinos complementing the Plainville slots parlor, commission chairman Stephen Crosby has said Massachusetts can expect to collect about $300 million in annual gaming revenue. By Colin A. Young Reprinted with permission of the The Lowell Sun

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  

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