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Plainville, MA, April 14, 2014 -- Penn National Gaming, Inc. (Nasdaq: PENN) (the "Company" or "Penn National") announced today that it will host Opening Day of the Massachusetts Standardbred harness racing season at Plainridge Racecourse on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 3:30 pm ET. "Today is more than the start of another harness racing season - it is the beginning of a bright future for the Massachusetts equine industry," said Chris McErlean, Vice President of Racing for Penn National. "With the opening of Plainridge Park Casino in little over a year, harness racing is here to stay and thrive in the Commonwealth. That's good news for our current employees, the hundreds more that will soon be joining them, and the thousands of families throughout Massachusetts whose livelihoods depend on the industry. We are very proud and excited to be here today and are thankful to the community and the Commonwealth." Plainridge Racecourse employees, horsemen, and local community officials will be in attendance for a brief ceremony and remarks to commemorate the day. Penn National held a groundbreaking ceremony for Plainridge Park Casino on March 14, 2014. Construction of the gaming facility will occur concurrently with the live racing season. The company expects minimal impact on the live racing season that takes place on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout the year. About Plainridge Park Casino Plainridge Park Casino will include a fully integrated 106,000 square foot racing and gaming facility featuring live harness racing and simulcasting with 1,250 slot machines, an upscale casual dining restaurant, the first-ever Doug Flutie Sports Bar, four-venue food court, harness concourse bar, multi-purpose banquet room, entertainment lounge and casino bar, 1,620 structured and surface parking spaces, 26,000 square foot grandstand with box and reserved seats, and 13,000 square foot clubhouse with box seats. About Penn National Gaming Penn National Gaming, through its subsidiaries, owns, operates or has ownership interests in gaming and racing facilities with a focus on slot machine entertainment. The Company presently operates twenty-seven facilities in eighteen jurisdictions, including Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and Ontario. In aggregate, Penn National's operated facilities feature approximately 31,000 gaming machines, 800 table games and 2,900 hotel rooms. From Penn National Gaming Publicity Department

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

With heavy rains and high winds forecast for southeastern Massachusetts, Plainridge Racecourse has postponed the qualifying session originally scheduled for Tuesday April 8th. Those qualifiers will instead be held on Wednesday April 9th.   Post time for the qualifying card remains at 1:00 P.M., and the entry box will now close at 10:00 A.M. on Tuesday April 8th.   The Plainridge racing office will be open both Monday and Tuesday mornings for any horsemen needing more information.   From the Plainridge Race Office

The second qualifying session of the 2014 season will be held at Plainridge Racecourse on Tuesday April 8th. Post time for the qualifiers will be at 1:00 P.M., and the entry box will close at 10:00 A.M. on Monday April 7th. For the upcoming qualifying session, and throughout the 2014 season, Plainridge Racecourse will offer trainers the option to declare their horses via the U.S.T.A.'s new online entry system. Those trainers wishing to utilize this option must contact the U.S.T.A. and set up a member services account. Plainridge Racecourse and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission remind all horsemen that anyone entering the backstretch, which includes the barn area, the racetrack, and the paddock area, must have a 2014 M.G.C. license. Also, before any horse can participate in the qualifiers its owner, trainer and driver must be licensed by the M.G.C. The M.G.C. office at Plainridge is open for licensing on Monday through Friday from 9:30 A.M.-4:30 P.M.   Trainers should also note that the M.G.C. has released its reference manual for the 2014 Plainridge meet. It can be downloaded at   The 2014 live opener will take place on Wednesday April 16th and will be drawn on Saturday April 12th.   From the Plainridge Racecourse racing office

Columbus, OH --- The USTA's online entry program, which has been in the beta testing phase during the past month, is scheduled to go live on April 7. When the platform kicks off officially on Monday, nine racetracks are signed up and ready to start taking online entries. The nine tracks are Balmoral Park, Dover Downs, Harrington Raceway, Maywood Park, The Meadows, Plainridge Racecourse, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Northfield Park, and Yonkers Raceway. "We are ready to go with nine tracks and about 40 trainers that have been part of the testing period," said USTA Director of Registry and Member Services T.C. Lane. "But this is going to grow rapidly as new racetracks and trainers are being added every day." During the beta testing period that began on March 17, more than 700 horses were entered electronically by nearly 40 trainers, including Ron Burke who entered more than 130 during the trial. Of the tracks participating, Dover Downs accepted 269 online entries as of April 1. "It's going to be a big help for stakes especially," said Burke, the 2013 Trainer of the Year. "But for the everyday racehorses, it's still going to be a tremendous advantage." The USTA has produced an informative video that describes the benefits of online entries and serves as a tutorial for trainers on how to use the platform. The video can be viewed here. With the USTA's new, online entry program, harness racing becomes the first of the racing breeds in North America to have the capability to enter horses electronically. It allows trainers to enter their horses via the internet from computers or mobile devices days ahead of the current system. The online entry project was spearheaded by Lane and Sherry Antion-Mohr, USTA director of information technology. "Trainers can now map out their racing schedules at their own leisure, a week or more in advance," said Lane. "It also makes things much easier for race secretaries at the tracks." Trainers can start to enter horses electronically as soon as the condition sheet is made available from the race office, typically seven to 10 days before the races. by Dan Leary, for the USTA

It might be April Fools' Day today, but on a beautiful near 50 degree day at the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, MA, the trotters and pacers in the five qualifying races were not fooling around, they meant business.   In the first race, the winner was All Natural, a 7 yr. old pacing mare owned, trained and driven by Frederick Ward Jr.,ME. who went wire to wire over a perfect racing surface in a quick 1:57.1.   The second race was won by Rhudaur Hanover, 4 yr. old bay pacing mare for owners Glenn Harris MA and Ralph Andersen MA driven by Ralph Andersen in 2:01.2.   The third race was won by Easy Sport, 7 yr. old bay pacing gelding, for owner & trainer Irwin Rosenthal, driven by Steve Nason in 2:01.2.   The fourth race was won by Minx, 7 yr. old bay pacing mare, owned by Graham Lewis, MA & Stacey Jacobs, MA, trained and driven by Graham Lewis in a time of 1:59.4   The fifth race was won by Pembroke Lil, a 9 yr. old pacing mare, owned by John Coffey, MA & William Lewis, RI, driven by Cornelius Bonetti in 1:59.3   Qualifying continues on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 1:00 p.m.   Racing will start on Wednesday April 16, 2014, at 4:00 p.m., with Wednesdays and Saturdays at 4:00 p.m. and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. with the exception of April 20, 2014. ( Easter Sunday ) There will be no racing that day.   by Bob Lieberman, for Plainridge Racecourse

Plainville, MA --- A new era in Massachusetts harness racing begins in mid-April when Plainridge Racecourse kicks off its 2014 season. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently awarded Penn National Gaming, the operator of Plainridge Racecourse, the state’s first expanded gaming license. The 2014 live opener will take place on Wednesday (April 16) with a first post at 4 p.m. Plainridge will also offer live racing on Saturday (April 19), again with a 4 p.m. post. Though Plainridge will be dark on Sunday (April 20) for the Easter holiday, the track will add Sunday afternoons to its live racing schedule the following week (April 27). Sunday afternoon post time will be at 1 p.m. Live racing will then continue on the Wednesday-Saturday-Sunday schedule for the balance of the 2014 meet, which runs through Dec. 6. Pre-meet qualifying races are scheduled for Tuesday (April 1) and Tuesday (April 8). Post time for the qualifying sessions will be at 1 p.m. and the entry box will close at 10 a.m. on Monday. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission reminds all horsemen that as of April 1 anyone entering the Plainridge backstretch, which includes the barn area, the racetrack and the paddock area, must have a current MGC license. Also, before any horse can participate in the qualifiers its owner, trainer and driver must be licensed by the MGC. The MGC office at Plainridge is open for licensing on Monday-Friday from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Trainers should also note that the MGC has released its reference manual for 2014. It can be downloaded at this link. Submitted by Plainridge Racecourse

Construction begins on the first racino in Massachusetts, with a groundbreaking ceremony for the new slots parlor at Penn Gaming's Plainridge Racecourse on Friday. State leaders, community members, and gaming officials came together at the Plainville harness racing track to welcome in a new era of gambling. It was with  gold-plated shovels that dozens of people helped break ground  at what will soon be the new Plainridge Park Casino, complete with more than 1,200 slot machines. It's a $225 million project featuring a full entertainment center, revolving around the newest main attraction: the slots.  Massachusetts projects over $400 million in new gaming tax revenue in the first 5 years, not counting spin-off business. "We have 42 cross marketing agreements that are in place with area businesses so that we can work in tandem with places like the Wrenthem Village Outlets, Patriot Place, the Comcast Center, and others to make sure that a rising tide lifts all boats in the community," said Eric Schippers, VP of Public Affairs for license holder Penn National Gaming.  The project boasts nearly 600 new jobs plus an additional 1,000 temporary constructions jobs, some of which have already begun. "What this is all about... is jobs, and economic development, and revenue to the commonwealth...we're now, so to speak, off to the races!" said Steve Crosby, Chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission Supporters say benefits should also trickle down to the harness racing industry, which has been the anchor business at Plainridge Park since 1999. "I think this is a great opportunity for harness racing here in Massachusetts to have somewhat of a rebirth - a renaissance if you will," said Bill Abdelnour, President of the New England Amateur Harness Drivers Club.  And as for the people who already come for the harness racing... they're welcoming the slots with open arms. "I think its a win-win for everybody, entertainment wise, economically because you got jobs coming, I just think its a great thing," said Peter Torilli, who came to the track today to bet on some races.  Penn National hopes to have construction on the slots completed within a year. "A large part of the legislative intent of this whole gaming act was to help repatriate those millions of dollars that are flooding across the border every day on buses going down south," said Schippers. By Steve Wolf with files from Plainridge Racecourse

PLAINVILLE, Mass. — Never let it be said that grass could grow under the feet of Penn National Gaming. Today they announced that they will have a ground-breaking ceremony this Friday to begin construct of the new casino at Plainridge Raceway. It was just last month that Penn National Gaming was awarded the state's first expanded gambling license by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission The company says the slots parlor — to be called the Plainridge Park Casino — will create about 500 permanent jobs and 1,000 temporary construction jobs. When finished, the facility is slated to have 1,250 slot machines along with harness racing and simulcasting. It will also up to four restaurants, include the first Doug Flutie sports bar. by Steve Wolf, for  

PLAINVILLE, MA: Royalty For Life, the colt who cruised to victory in last August's Hambletonian, the harness racing equivalent of the Kentucky Derby, returned to Plainridge Racecourse this weekend to prepare and train for the 2014 racing season. Trainer George Ducharme said he was "thrilled to have the horse back home to prepare him for the start of his four-year-old season which is just around the corner."   "We are honored that Royalty For Life will be getting ready for his 2014 campaign here at Plainridge Racecourse," said Chris McErlean, Vice President of Racing for Penn National Gaming, parent company of Plainridge Racecourse. "His string of victories last year are a remarkable testament to the potential that exists in the Massachusetts harness racing industry which is why we are so happy to have him back and also why we are so happy to be moving forward on our exciting plans here in Plainville," McErlean added.   Just a week before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) awarded the Commonwealth's sole Category Two expanded gaming license to Penn National's Plainridge Park Casino project, Royalty For Life was named the 2013 Three Year Old Trotter of the Year by the United States Harness Writer's Association. The colt, owned by Al Ross of Dartmouth, was born in Belchertown at the farm of breeder Raymond "Chip" Campbell and trained by Norfolk resident George Ducharme in Plainville. After winning the Hambletonian last year, Royalty for Life also won the Canadian Trotting Classic, Canada's premier harness racing event.   "Thanks to the MGC, Royalty For Life's return to Plainridge Racecourse will be just one of many new good news stories that the future holds for harness racing here in the Commonwealth," stated McErlean. "It's been a long, cold and snowy winter but the racing industry in Massachusetts has brighter days ahead with a lot more victories, and so does Royalty for Life," said McErlean.   Submitted by Plainrdige Racecourse Publicity  

Boston, MA --- The preservation of existing harness racing jobs and of the entire Standardbred industry in Massachusetts was a determining factor to award the state’s single slots parlor license to Penn National Gaming Inc., which will develop the project at Plainridge Racecourse and complete purchase of the track. “One of the things in the mandate (from the state legislature in passing the expanded gambling bill in 2011) was to save jobs and preserve industry. It doesn’t say anything about horse racing specifically, but that clearly had a factor in the conversation,” Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said at a press conference following the official awarding of the license on Friday (Feb. 28). On Thursday (Feb. 27) the five member commission voted 3-2 in favor of the PNGI proposal, and company officials were asked to return the following morning to give notice that they would accept the conditions of the license. After PNGI officials complied, the MGC voted 5-0 to make the award official. “Obviously, this gives harness racing in the Commonwealth a very bright future. We’re happy to be a part of it,” said Timothy Wilmott, the president and chief executive officer of PNGI, who added the company is eager to start creating new jobs and revenue for the state. Plainridge management had previously been on record that without the slots license, the track would be shuttered. PNGI’s proposal beat competitors The Cordish Companies and the partnership of Greenwood Racing, which owns Parx Racing and Casino, and its partner Raynham Park, a horse and dog racing simulcast facility which hosted live greyhound racing before it was outlawed in the Bay State. The Cordish Companies plan did not have any ties to racing or breeding, but Raynham Park owner George Carney had offered to host a 40-day live racing meet if it won the license. The Cordish Companies received two votes from the MGC while the Greenwood/Raynham plan garnered none. The awarding of the license to PNGI/Plainridge is a stunning reversal of fortune for the state’s harness industry, which was dealt a blow last August when the MGC ruled the track’s current ownership group as unsuitable to hold a gaming license after investigators turned up evidence that a senior executive had taken about $1.4 million in cash from the money room for personal use over time. PNGI, which had been derailed in its earlier attempts to secure one of the three destination resort casino licenses to be awarded, plus a slots license in a different part of the state, then teamed up with Plainridge. Wilmott, who planned to visit the track on Friday afternoon, said that officials will meet with their construction and design team on Monday and plan to have the permanent racino open in the second quarter of 2015. But if the MGC prefers, a temporary facility would be opened in the meantime. Under state law, the slots parlor may have a maximum of 1,250 slot machines. The cost of the license is $25 million and a minimum investment in the facility of $125 million is required. Nine percent of the facility’s revenue and a portion of the license fee will go to the MGC’s Race Horse Development Fund to benefit both the Standardbred and Thoroughbred horsemen, and the fund will also receive a portion of the gross gaming revenue from the development of three resort casinos. The MGC will award the first two casino licenses by the end of June. Thoroughbred track Suffolk Downs and gaming partner Mohegan Sun and Wynn Resorts are competing for the sole license designated for the Greater Boston area. Plainridge is scheduled to open its 2014 live meet of 100 days on April 15. by Lynne Snierson, USTA Web Newsroom Correspondent  

Today the Massachusetts Racing Commission, with a 3-2 vote, has selected Penn Gaming’s harness racing track, Plainridge Racecourse, as the recipiant of the sole slot machine operators license in the state.  “I believe the Commission will be issuing certain conditions to the license which we have until tomorrow to accept.” Said Chris McErlean, Vice President of Racing for Penn National Gaming, Inc., “I am not involved in that discussion but I would assume there will be no issues with our accepting whatever is required for the license. Officially I don’t believe the Commission awards the license until tomorrow.” The commission will take an official vote to award the license Friday. Commissioners Gayle Cameron, Enrique Zuniga and Bruce Stebbins said in individual statements that they slightly favored Plainville, which would be operated by Penn National Gaming, over a proposal by Cordish Cos. to build a slots parlor in Leominster.   Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby and Commissioner James McHugh said they were leaning toward Leominster. Thursday’s vote came after two days of evaluation presentations and only a few hours of formal deliberations by the five-member commission. All five commissioners stated their positions on the license during the morning deliberation session. “This is an exciting moment and an energizing moment,” McHugh said prior to the vote. “We have two very strong applicants...I am happy that we have two applicants of this caliber.” Penn National must report to the commission by 9:30 a.m. Friday on whether it will accept the license conditions. If the company accepts the conditions and is officially awarded the slots license, it would install 1,250 slot machines in a new facility it would build to include restaurants and a sports bar, as well as harness racing. Plainridge had appeared out of the running for the slot license as late as last August when the state gaming commission ruled that the then owners of the track were unfit to hold a license. The track’s bid was resurrected when Penn National stepped in to purchase an option on Plainridge. Horsemen and others called the Plainridge application the last chance to save harness racing in the state. Penn National had said it would not continue racing if it did not receive the slot license. By Steve Wolf for

Last week I did a column on racetrack management needing to do their homework on allowing harness racing people to compete at their tracks when they have a questionable history. It came about because of situations involving individuals who may or may not have been allowed to compete and to try and shed some light to readers on how tracks make these decisions and why. It’s a tough subject insofar as most tracks hold the key to allowing someone to continue working in our industry. Some say it is not right that tracks make a decision such as this, some say it needs to be done for the majority of horsemen and the betting public that do play by the rules and that many tracks are too easy to let a “bad boy” back in racing. The story created a bit of controversy and I received a lot of emails and calls from track managers, horsemen and even betting fans who gave me their pros and cons on the article. And I appreciate everyone who commented and hope others take the time to voice their opinions. The most interesting of the calls and emails I received was from one of the horsemen who I pointed out in the story was allowed to return to racing after a questionable past. His name is Marc Mosher and he is currently racing at Cal Expo in northern California. Here is his story. Let’s do some background first for the readers on how you came to get involved in harness racing. “I first lived in Maine and was introduced to harness racing by my grandfather, Merle Mosher,” Marc explained. “He was a dairy farmer and as a hobby he always had two or three horses that he trained and drove so I knew about harness racing early on. My brother Gary is nine years old than me and he was already helping on the farm and started with the horses. He developed into a top driver and has nearly 6,000 wins. “When I was in high school and during the summer Gary had a stable at the track and I would help out with the horses,” Marc explained. “After school and most weekends I would be at the track and I knew I wanted to work in racing.” Early in his career Marc became one of the youngest drivers in the sport to reach 1,000 career wins in 1993. When Marc started training and racing on his own in Maine he had some issues and fines with racing officials but attributed that to being young. “I was an immature young man who did not know better,” Marc laughed. “I would show up late to drive a horse, take the breathalyzer test after a couple of races. But I soon learned to settle down and show some respect to the officials. They were doing their job. I never drank or did drugs but I guess you could say I had a chip in my shoulder early on.” Marc then went on to a decent career in racing. He had more than 1,600 wins as a driver. Always had a stable of horse to train and was a sought after catch driver, but then his life in racing came to screeching halt after the events of February 20, 2001 at Monticello Raceway. According to the report from the New York Racing and Wagering Board “ You attempted to influence the outcome of a pari-mutuel race by authorizing, directing and causing a hypodermic injection of a prohibited substance to the horse Too Much Data and removed the horse from the track after it died without the required equine death certificate and written consent of the presiding judge.” I asked Marc to explain the events of that ill-fated day. “I have no reason to lie about anything that happened that day,” Marc said. “We had a horse in to go from my stable at Monticello Raceway. I had asked the veterinarian to give him something for his bleeding. It was not lasix but I told the vet to go ahead and treat him. Then afterwards the horse passed away. “I was going to do the right thing,” Marc said, “And inform the officials what had happened but the vet asked me to not do it. He wanted me to cover it up and get the horse off the grounds. From there it was a nightmare. “The last thing I would never do is abuse an animal,” Marc said. “You would not believe the stories that have come out about how I abused this horse. I wanted to take care of this horse’s bleeding problem but did not want to put him on lasix. I made a stupid mistake that has cost me my career in harness racing. I was not trying to fix a race. I was trying to help the horse so he could continue racing. “In this industry, I guess like all others, stories get changed around,” Marc said. “The rumors being spread about me were outrageous and people did not want to hear it from my side. They wanted to believe what others made up about the events that happened. “I can only blame myself for everything,” Marc added. “I should have never listened to the vet and just taken my lumps for treating the horse on race day and did the right thing. The commission at the time really did not want to hear what I had to say as much as they listened to the vet’s story. It was just a total disaster. A couple of months later the commission finally understood my side of the story. But you can’t change history.” Marc received a two-year suspension and did not return to racing until 2004 where he trained and drove at Rockingham Park and Plainridge Racecourse. He did not even try and get his license back in New York. “New York was not ready yet to give me my trainer/driver license back.” Marc said. “They said they would give me a groom’s license to start with so I went to New England where I could train and drive. Then in 2006 I had another incident when my vet had left medication for another trainer to pick up and the authorities said I was wrong in allowing this to take place and convicted me on a conspiracy charge. I have not and will not name the vets involved and again I told the authorities the truth, but when you have a past record they are very quick not to believe you. “I then just used my groom’s license and did not train or drive from 2006 to 2012,” Marc explained. “My wife was a trainer so the horses were in her name and we ran the stable. The officials knew all of this and they were fine with it. That is why you do not see me have any drives or trains for those years.” Then in 2012 Marc  was able to get a provisional license to train and drive at Harrah’s Philadelphia, but things did not work out after just two weeks. “After the meet opened, I qualified a horse at the track.” Marc explained. “A few days before he raced I treated him with Banamine paste because he had problems with his stomach and ulcers. Then he comes up positive. So then they excluded me. They tried to fine me $1,000 but then after I got a lawyer they dropped it to $500 but still kicked me out because I was on a provisional license.” Marc packed up and was fortunate to have a friend in long time trainer/driver Syl King, Jr., who had one of the biggest stable of horses competing in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Fairs that are run all summer long throughout the state. King hired Marc on to help train and drive in the fairs where King led all trainers in wins and purses won this year. Marc had a great season with more than 20 wins and a universal driving rating of .350. From there Marc applied to the authorities at Cal Expo and they said they would give him a chance to train and drive again. What does the future now hold for Marc Mosher? What is he looking for after this season at Cal Expo? “I want to come back east next spring and drive in the fairs during the summer and help Syl again with his stable,” Marc said. “I want to get back to training a decent stable of horses on the east coast. I would  concentrate on training and not so much on driving. I want to try and just train young trotters. I have always done well with them. Over the years now I have also learned a lot about shoeing and feel I can once again become a good trainer. “I came forward in doing this interview with you,” Marc said, “so I can tell people the truth in what happened years ago. I want to be a productive and active part of this sport again. I have served my time for the infractions I was responsible for and I want to be a positive force in the industry. I just want a chance to prove myself and help this industry to grow.”  I thanked Marc Mosher for coming forward and telling his side of the story for everyone to read. He has admitted to making some major mistakes in his career, explained what took place and also that he paid his dues for years and is now seeking a chance to return. I would guess that if Marc completes the season at Cal Expo without any incidents that he may have a chance to return to pari-mutuel racing on the East Coast in 2014. If he does and there are no further incidents then I will be the first to congratulate him. By Steve Wolf for 

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

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Gaming Commission was supposed to take up the mechanics of fusing old racing statutes with new gambling rules at a forum this week. But nervous horse breeders and racetrack officials wouldn't stay on track. Assembled in Hynes Convention Center Wednesday, they wanted to talk about a more basic issue: the uncertain future of horse racing in Massachusetts. "This year is so terrible because none of us know what's going to happen," said Anthony Spadea, president of the New England Horsemen's Association. "Most of our people don't have another place to go race." With applications in for the state's lone slot parlor, the commission, which will decide the winner, hosted a horse racing forum Wednesday to discuss matters such as distribution of purse accounts, tax withholding, congressional involvement in the industry and what would happen to purse money if horse racing founders in Massachusetts. But the uncertainty of whether Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville or another track would get the slot parlor go-ahead kept dominating the conversation, illustrating how the decision about a racino is seen as a life or death issue for racing in the state. "Most racing seasons are like a roller coaster ride," said panelist Steve O'Toole, the general manager of Plainridge. "There are ups and downs. This year has been one of those. Today, operating a racetrack is a gamble." O'Toole said Plainridge runs at least a million-dollar deficit each year operating races. Key to the track's survival could be the offer from the gambling corporation Penn National Gaming to buy the struggling harness racecourse if it wins the state's only slot parlor license. Without the license, the track would have difficulty staying in business. In the track's best years, about 125 horses were purchased (claimed), O'Toole said. "Last year, we had just half a dozen horses claimed," he said. As the conversation about the declining business dominated the forum, commission Chairman Steve Crosby kept trying to turn the subject back to the original intent of the forum, getting out "the information that would build a strategy that would sustain a horse racing industry in Massachusetts for a long, long time." But many panelists said that until they knew whether they would be racing next year, they couldn't discuss the future. "It looks like we're going to lose another breeding season in 2013," said George Brown, president of the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association. "It's a big investment - raising a foal for two years. We don't even know if we're going to be racing." Breeding has steadily declined in Massachusetts since early 2000, the horsemen said. Mike Tanner, CEO of the United States Trotting Association, said he believed lack of racino legislation, in which slot machines would help subsidize horse racing, was responsible for the drop in breeding numbers. "These are numbers that would affect our level of business," he said. "Indiana racino legislation passed in 2007, and their breeding numbers went up 50 percent after it passed. The numbers continue to trend in a positive direction." Plainridge officials have sought other forums to make their point. Last week, they posted a video on YouTube that extolled the positive impact expanded gaming and racino legislation would have on the Plainville track. The video featured Jolene Andrews, a trainer and driver from North Attleboro, who explained how her livelihood could be saved. "Year-by-year, the purses get lower and lower, and with Penn National coming, it gives us hope," she said in the video. The video narration also mentioned "hundreds of family farms and thousands of acres of open space," that would be saved if Plainridge was granted racino status. The video's message echoed the testimony of the nervous stakeholders at the commission meeting, despite efforts by commissioners to confine the conversation to issues of regulation. Jennifer Durenburger, the commission's director of racing, reminded panelists of the "gypsy lifestyle" they had chosen by working in the industry. "You're always looking three months ahead," she said. "We can all tolerate a certain amount of risk, or we wouldn't be in this industry." With forum members still focused on the uncertainty of racing, Crosby put an end to the meeting almost an hour ahead of schedule. "This is just not the time for all of us to be able to sit down and work out a macro fix to the horse racing legislation," he said. "We appreciate the way you feel about your industry. We'll be doing what we can to pitch in." BY LOREN SAVINI FOR THE SUN CHRONICLE reprinted with permission by

The C.K.G. Billings Amateur Driving Series saw action in both regions this past weekend with Kelly "Sky" Walker prevailing in the midwest at Raceway Park on Sunday September 1 and the following day Bobby "Rapid Rail" Krivelin winning at Plainridge Racecourse in the east. Both sportsmen are previous Amateur Drivers of the Year; Walker in 2011 and Krivelin, 2012 and 2001. Walker's victory came at the expense of five others when he guided Love ignites to a come-from-behind neck victory in a time of 2:00.1 while a patient pocket-trip enabled Krivlein to prevail over seven others in 1:59. At Raceway Park, Walker, with Love Ignites, started along the pylons and played hardball parking both "Lawbook Larry Farley's and "Trader Bud" Hatfield's trotters by the quarter in :29. But neither Farley, with Rewrite the Rules and "Trader Bud" with Wolf's Jan, cleared and they remained two and three wide heading toward the halfway point which was timed in :58.4. After everyone settled in along the pylons, when the field headed up the backside "Marvelous Marv" Raber and Tabulator rallied from fifth position to the lead at the third stanza in 1:28.2 with Walker and Love Ignites in hot pursuit. In the lane, Love ignites was the strong horse and the 4 year old Sand Vic gelding collared Tabulator at the wire for a head victory in a time of 2:00.1. Dolea Delight and Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford took home the show dough in that one. Love Ignites , owned and trained by Walker, paid $4.80 for win. Walker, off to his best start in his relatively short amateur driving career, notched win number 11 to go along with 17 seconds thus far this year. And it was Walker's 83 winning drive in just 485 career starts. On Labor Day at Plainridge Racecourse, Bobby Krivelin had a picture perfect trip behind pace-setter Famous image and driver "Mike " I Ain't Finished" Eaton and in the lane he came calling. Eaton hustled Famous Image to the lead from the three-hole and once on top he kept the pedal to the metal and they trotted by the quarter in :28 and the half in:57.4. Krivlein, comfortable in the two-hole with Budlightning , was probably licking his chops as he followed the leader and waited patiently for the long homestretch to appear but once it did Famous Image didn't come back to Krivelin as much as he had hoped. Still Krivelin was able to strongly urge Budlightning through the stretch and the two-hole covered trip paid off as the veteran Sierra Kosmos gelding got up in the final strides to photo-out Famous Image in a 1:59 clocking. Budlightning, owned and trained by Diane Hellen, paid $7.00 for win. For Krivelin, it was seventh winning drive of the season and the 148th of his amateur career. by John Manzi  

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