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American In Paris has taken the Meadowlands by storm. A 4-year-old female pacer, American In Paris is 6-for-6 this season, with all her victories coming at the Big M. Her two most recent triumphs were in the preliminary rounds of the Artistic Vision Series, which concludes Saturday with a $55,800 final. American In Paris will start the final from post two with driver Jim Morrill Jr. at the lines for trainer/co-owner Ron Burke. Art Ideal, another Burke mare, leaves from post seven in the seven-horse field. She finished second in both her preliminary legs. Saturday's card also features the $63,000 Whata Baron Series final for male pacers. Captive Audience, who is unbeaten in three races this year, drew post three for trainer Corey Johnson. Wake Up Peter, who also won both his preliminary rounds, starts from post seven for trainer Larry Remmen. American In Paris won five of six races as a 2-year-old, then won five of 16 last season at age 3. She was winless in her final six starts last season, but turned the corner this year with the addition of Lasix. She won the second round of the Artistic Vision Series in a career-best 1:50. "She had a few issues last year," said co-owner Mark Weaver. "This year, I think the key is we added Lasix; maybe we should have had her on it sooner. "Earlier this year, she almost raced like a thoroughbred, with two or three weeks between starts. It's hard to be in top condition when you do that, so I thought we still hadn't seen the best of her. She's pretty good. I'm not saying she could beat the top horses, but I'm not saying she couldn't." American In Paris is a daughter of stallion American Ideal out of the mare Sendingforth. She was purchased originally for $4,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale by Iowa's Nolan Van Otterloo. She finished second in her first start and then won twice before being purchased by Burke, Weaver and Mike Bruscemi. "We've bought horses from (the Van Otterloos) before and it's been a good connection for us," Weaver said. "They have a pretty good knack at buying some underpriced horses and usually at least one of them hits." Although Weaver thinks American In Paris might be able to compete against the division's best, she probably will have few chances this year. "She's not staked, but she's only (age) 4, so that might not be a bad thing," Weaver said. "We usually don't stake the 4-year-olds too heavily. We'll probably pick our spots; there's enough money to be made, hopefully, in some of the invitationals and opens. "Depending how she does, we could shut her down a little early and may stake her up for her 5-year-old year." As for the immediate challenge of fending off six rivals in the Artistic Vision final, Weaver likes American In Paris' chances. Other contenders include Josh Parker's JK Letitgo, who has won seven of nine races this year, and Chris Ryder's Road Bet, who won a preliminary leg in the series. "She's in a good spot," Weaver said about American In Paris. "There are some pretty nice horses in there, but the way she's been racing, I think she'll be pretty tough to beat." by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications  

It has been such a downward spiral for the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs that this latest lowest of lows has harness racing driver Jody Jamieson contemplating switching allegiances to another NHL team. As for which team Jody might start cheering for, nothing has been decided but all of us Maple Leafs fans understand that at some point we must all move on or do we become the Chicago Cubs of the National Hockey League. "It's in my blood" says Jody, "I'm a diehard fan but this is getting out of hand." Jody's career in harness racing has been remarkable, with some comparing his success to the likes of hockey greats Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby. As flattered as Jody is by the comparison, in no way does he consider himself to be painted with the same brush as the hockey legends. "It's a lofty comparison, and it's not something I am not comfortable with" Jody notes. Admittedly, Jody feels he was able to jump start his career thanks to his father, legendary trainer Carl Jamieson. "My father is a hall of fame horseman and I had probably one of the best starts anybody could have in this business, by having him back me up." Jody says. A key piece of advice given to Jody by his dad is to always be respectful, regardless of whom that person is. It doesn't matter if it's a groom or a racing official, everyone matters. Jody Jamieson's name is up there with drivers such as Tim Tetrick, Mike Lachance, Chris Christoforou and Brian Sears and even after all the wins and accolades, Jody's focus hasn't changed. There's never a race he takes for granted and Jody admits he's human and makes mistakes, like everyone else. "I'm out to win every possible race I'm in... it's never lack of trying or being prepared but I make mistakes. Thank God there is another race right after that one where I can try and redeem myself." Jody says. With any sport, competition is extremely fierce and the guys who lead the standings are always battling between themselves and new comers. The saying goes, if you're going to win, you want to beat the best and Jody acknowledges everyone on the track wants to make a name for themselves. "That's what makes this game so fun, in one moment you're king of the castle but twenty minutes later you're knocked off." Jody adds, "It's very competitive, every twenty minutes, every night of the week." All drivers and trainers have been through dry spells, going through stretches of time without positive results. A piece of advice Jody was given is you need to learn to lose well before you learn to win well. "Don't get to high with the highs and don't get to low with the lows" is Jody's approach to keeping a level head to remain mentally grounded. "If you look at my record, I have way more losses than I do wins and I've learned to deal with it and keep it on the track as much as possible." With people having hard days or rough spells, it's amazing how well the horsemen are able to cope and still keep it classy amongst them. "I find in Canada and Ontario, it's the kind of people we are." Jody says. "We all try to get along off the track; there is no reason to be enemies off the track and not like each other. But when we go to the gate, it's on! I think that's taken for granted in other places, with people taking issue of being beat in a race." "Not only is life too short, our careers are too short to be hung up on every last thing, so you have to keep it light." Jody says. "I think I can relate to almost anybody, I enjoy busting (chops) and I can handle having my (chops) busted as well." Speaking with Jody, the biggest take away I got would be understanding how tough it is to mature in such a highly competitive sport. Yet in an odd way it can still be very easy. Yes I am aware there is a contradiction to what I have just written but the difficulties I perceive is being young with an ego. At this point I am not speaking for a driver, I am thinking of myself as a young one who is 18 or 20 and all I focus on is me and my success. If something were to come in between, I can honestly admit I would of taken issue from the get go. However, through it all in any sport, life hands you a constant wave of highs and lows and the earlier you notice these waves, the easier it is to 'ride it out' so to speak. Things can't always go your way, if they did, how would anyone learn? Over the last couple of years, Jody admits there have been some up and downs and this year he is more driven because of that. "Last year it took me until December to win a Classic race. It was the Cleveland Classic with Apprentice Hanover." Apprentice Hanover is trained by Benjamin Wallace and won the race in a time of 1:52.1 at Northfield Park. "There were big races where I came in second or third, but it wasn't the win." Jody admits. Jody is happily married to Stephanie and Jody has a daughter Hailey who is 11, a son Jett who is 2 and a baby girl on the way who is due in July. As much success as Jody's had over the years, he is now racing for his family, not just for him and this means ensuring his family can live happily. "I have a young family and I am recently married and I want to be a part of their lives to... I'm going to spend the best time with my family and I am not going to change anything. I'm going to be prepared as ever, more prepared than I've ever been to go on the race track every night." Jody says, "Before it was about wins and putting up big numbers, now it's about making a great living and being able to provide for my family down the road." "I had the one year where I broke the wins records in Canada. I drove right until the end of the year and then I quit for a month and just relaxed, it gets really stressful.... I had that one (great) year and I thought I want to treat myself a little bit." Jody adds, "I want to be the top guy and make enough money to enjoy life." Jody also missed some time away from the track to attend the O'Brien awards and Jody flew to Finland to be the ambassador of Canadian harness racing. To add to Jody's time away was the volcano eruption in Finland where the dust had to settle before Jody could fly back home. So at what point did Jody change his outlook? Or at what point did a light go off where Jody realized it was more than just about him? "When you're in it, running from track to track winning races and having some success, you don't think of anything until you're laying on a beach in Mexico... you don't think of it until then." Jody points out. Throughout his career, Jody has grown close to many people who have supported him and who always believe in his talents. "Mark MacDonald and I used to be thick as thieves and as best friends off the track and fierce enemies on the track." Jody continues, "We'd do anything to beat each other and Mark moved away and we haven't kept in touch as much, but definitely Mark was a huge influence in my career. He helped me learn my craft and have a better mindset on the race track for sure." Jody loves what the new Meadowlands racetrack is doing, "they're doing incredible work" he says and at one point in Jody's career, the idea to go to the big M did cross his mind, but home is where the heart is. "I'm from Moffat, Ontario, Canada and this is where my family is and this is where my family's family is. This is where I'll be unless something worse happens like what is happening with this Liberal government." "In 2011 the Standardbred industry received $176 million dollars to operate harness racing in Ontario. In 2014 harness racing will be lucky to have $70-$80 million." Jody points out. The money the racing industry received is from an agreement between the racetracks and the Ontario Lottery Gaming Corporation, (OLG) which is a Government entity, based on revenues brought in from the creation of the SLOTS programs at each racetrack. With the racetracks already established, the OLG agreed to give a percentage of all revenue to the racetracks so the OLG could put in slot machines and the money given to the tracks would go towards purse money to create a higher level of competition within the province. Anthony Macdonald, who is a horseman, is running as a PC provincial candidate hoping if an election takes place, the standardbred industry will have a stronger voice at Queen's Park, (the provincial legislator). Jody is a strong advocate and supporter of Anthony and his efforts to bring more awareness to the standardbred community and Jody is willing to help anywhere he can. "Anyone who knows Anthony, you can't tune him out and I am going to campaign hard to help get him elected." Jody states. "We have 3 or 4 candidates who are pro harness racing on the Conservative side." Jody feels strongly that the Liberal government has messed up several industries outside of harness racing, such as the gas industry, the powers sector and even the teachers union. "Horses don't speak" says Jody, "they are nice to look at and people love them but they don't speak. We need to do a better job speaking for them.... The OLG's revenue was around a billion dollars and we were only getting around 20 percent, maybe less. Now the OLG is taking in the full 100 percent in revenue. We are in trouble and this money, (the $500 million/5 year proposal from the Liberals), it has kept racing open but we are on a life line and we are bleeding badly." Away from the politics and the tracks, Jody is the type of guy who likes to help others where and when he can. Jody would love to help the Toronto Maple Leafs, maybe try and get them a Stanley Cup sometime soon! "I'm so aggravated with this season, I like Randy Carlyle. He's a horse guy who started in the horse racing business before he was drafted." As you can tell, Jody is a massive hockey fan and aside from the Leafs, his favorite team is the Jamieson Jets, an adult men's hockey team. One thing to point out is Jody's son Jett was not named after the hockey team, even though some people make that connection. However if the dad who named the son said it wasn't, there's nothing to discuss. If Jody had a man cave, it would be filled with Toronto Maple Leaf paraphernalia and his entire top win photos including the North America Cup pictures, the Battle of Waterloo and Breeders Crown pictures. To date, the second heat of the 2007 Little Brown Jug is Jody's most memorable race. In that race he was driving great horse Tell All. "I could remember my heart beating the whole time."Jody says. "The half was in 56.1... I kicked the ear plugs on him around the last turn and he dug in, but he really didn't dig in like I thought. Brian Sears slipped off of David Miller's back going three wide in the stretch and I didn't know half way down the stretch if I could hang on. So I hit the wire not knowing if you have a clear cut win. It was the best ever (feeling)... I'll never forget him." "I would love to win the Hambletonian. I've been fortunate to win big races and I'd love to win them all again. Just because I won them, doesn't mean they're off my bucket list." Jody adds, "It would mean a lot to me to win any of those races again, they're special, special races." Jody enjoys interacting with fans. "I love meeting fans...they message me of Facebook and Twitter. I think its wild and I thrive on it, I love meeting with the fans and doing whatever I can to meet fans." Jody says. A few summers ago, Woodbine asked Jody to go to a Jack Astor's opening in Toronto as the restaurant was doing simulcasting. "I went in my driver suit, not a soul knew who I was, not a soul and I had my suit on and they knew what I did at the end of the day they loved it. I loved it and meeting people who want to get to know me. Like I said, horses can't talk but I can and I want this industry I love to survive and prosper." By: Roderick Balgobin www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: ScSupernova  

A number of factors make the entire harness racing trotting sector particularly vulnerable to economic fluctuations. This story first appeared April 5 in the Helsinki Times by Minttu-Maaria Partanen; Aleksi Teivainen and Marianne Pykäläinen. Breeding numbers have already tumbled below the levels of the 1990s recession as the economic down-turn continues to pummel the Finnish trotting sector. The lingering economic uncertainty has also reduced betting on harness racing and the number of races organised in the country. In particular, the financial standing of regional trotting tracks has eroded. "Economic fluctuations affect the trotting sector. That has always been the case," reminds Pekka Soini, the managing director at the Finnish Trotting and Breeding Association (Hippos). Yet, since 2008 virtually every indicator of the trotting sector has taken a tumble due to the economic situation. The number of races organised has declined, as has the number of active racehorses and drivers. Similarly, the number of privately-owned racehorses has fallen by over 20 per cent over the said six-year period. "The trotting sector relies on private ownership. For most, however, owning a racehorse is a hobby. During tough times, they will cut back on it," explains Soini. Regardless, the managing director is not particularly concerned. "The changes are part of typical economic fluctuations. We must adapt to the situation." Meanwhile, the breeding of thoroughbred mares has fallen sharply – by over 35 per cent – and already threatens the sustainability of breeding activities in Finland. Last year, only 1,897 mares were bred – fewer than during the worst year of the 1990s recession."We are still in a remediable situation. If the breeding numbers continue to decline in the years to come, breeding activities in Finland will not recover without special support measures," underlines Minna Mäenpää, the director of breeding at Hippos. For the indigenous Finnhorse, the situation is even more precarious. Last year, the number of Finnhorse mares bred fell below the nadir reached in the depths of the 1990s recession. Roughly 80 per cent of the Finnhorse population are racehorses. "I'm extremely concerned about the situation of the Finnhorse. It is a breed that does not exist elsewhere. You cannot compensate for the decline by importing. Domestic breeding therefore determines the future of the breed," highlights Mäenpää. Betting on harness racing, however, has not fallen as steeply as the other indicators, only by roughly eight per cent from the peak year of 2008. Fintoto, the body responsible for developing horse betting operations, is nonetheless keeping a close watch on the entire sector, managing director Markku Breider says. "Without horses, there won't be a single trotting race. The footing of domestic betting operations will erode, if no horses take part in the races," he explains. "Last year was okay, but the start of this year has been below par. The sums used on betting have decreased," Breider adds. Studies show that 80 per cent of the people who bet on harness racing are middle or working class-men, who have been hit particularly by the recent belt-tightening efforts and structural changes. As a result, the financial standing of some regional trotting tracks has deteriorated rapidly. "As revenue from betting falls, the revenue of the tracks falls. With the tracks still forking out the same prizes, it's obvious that the situation has exacerbated," says Sanna Heino, the managing director of Hevostalous Oy, which manages the finances of the major trotting tracks in Finland. Fintoto decided in February to temporarily lift the minimum prize requirements of daily trotting races, allowing trotting tracks to determine their purses independently. "That was the fastest way to alleviate the financial situation of tracks in dire straits," Breider says. Hippos, in turn, is set to review the structures of the entire trotting sector this spring in a bid to identify possible savings targets. Soini promises that the association will do its utmost to avoid the closures of trotting tracks. "Do we need to have over 20 separate organisations responsible for the management of the trotting tracks? What tracks organise races in the winter, what in the summer?" he speculates.

For six decades respected horseman Jerry Silverman has been campaigning champions, but the 78-year-old has decided the time has come to hang up the harnesses and retire from training racehorses. Now living in Florida, the New Yorker made his decision to retire after qualifying back his two-horse stable consisting of stakes starters Another Transcript and Another Deposition. “You know, I had two beautiful three-year-old trotters and I just felt that I was ready,” Silverman told Trot Insider. “I didn’t want to go through the stress and I couldn’t do justice to them shipping them all over the country, etcetera, etcetera. That basically was it.” While Silverman has yet to determine his retirement plans, he is happy to share his wealth of harness racing knowledge. To read the rest of the story click here.

The new Breeders’ Bonus scheme that commenced on 17 January this year is proving to be a real winner amongst breeders who have won a race at Addington. With six New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club (NZMTC) race meetings being held over January, February and March and 56 races eligible for the bonus of $500, 34 bonuses have been paid out at a total of $17,000. This equates to a high 60% pay out on the qualifying races. Kiely Buttell, Executive Manager of the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders’ Association commented that “32 new members have joined the Association since January and we can put that down to the new bonus scheme. At only $89.95 for an annual subscription and the chance to earn $500 each time your horse wins, many breeders have taken advantage of the opportunity. Both The Met and the NZSBA have received excellent feedback and jointly we are delighted to reward members’ efforts in breeding winning racehorses.” The scheme is open to any member of the NZSBA who breeds the winner of a totalisator race held at an NZMTC meeting at Addington Raceway, subject to conditions. They will be eligible for a $500 bonus payment. Full terms and conditions are available at www.addington.co.nz or www.harnessracing.co.nz Ged Mooar Marketing & Commercial Manager Executive Manager                

Cam's Card Shark, one of the leading stallions of his generation, has just been retired from stud duty, but hopes are high in Ohio that one of his greatest progeny can carry on his dynamic legacy in the breeding shed. Shark Gesture, whose earnings in excess of $2.8 million are the most of the more than 1,700 racehorses that Cam's Card Shark sired and one of the fastest with a speed mark of 1:48.1s, will be represented by a crop of two-year-olds this season. Abby Stables in Sugarcreek, Ohio, is standing the big, dark brown stallion.  "Shark Gesture is the total package," Abby Stables' Teresa Maddox told Harness Racing Update."   Shark Gesture developed into a horse for the ages. A $110,000 yearling purchase by Norm Smiley, Shark Gesture raced from two to four, posting some impressive victories.  He was retired to the breeding shed due to an injury and stood as a stallion in Ontario for the 2008 season. Later that year, when the injury had fully healed and he trained excellently, Shark Gesture returned to the races and started three times. But it was as a six- and seven-year-old that he excelled, earning over $1.8 million. He beat some of the best aged pacers, including the likes of Foiled Again, Mister Big, Art Official, Boulder Creek, Artistic Fella, Shadow Play and Won The West 12 times, including by more than 10 lengths in the Hoosier Cup.  Maddox said because Shark Gesture disappeared from the breeding scene for three years people may be confused about his history.  "He really hasn't gotten a fair shake as a stallion," Maddox said. "If you go back and look at some of his races, he was phenomenal. He's well-mannered, he's intelligent and was a bear on the racetrack. It's just a breath of fresh air to have him in Ohio. We welcomed him with open arms." Shark Gesture can be seen in action on his page at www.abbystables.com . His web page comes complete with race footage, photos, pedigree, articles and both a downloadable and digital breeding contract.  "There is no reason because he had 44 foals that raced from his first and only crop as a stallion, standing in Ontario and bred to mostly Ontario-bred mares, that people should have forgotten about him because he went back to the races," said Smiley. "He is still a good horse.  This year he has two-year-olds that are training and I've got good reports on them. Trainer Fred Grant has a colt by Shark Gesture out of Boca Babe.  Fred owns the dam and owns a piece of the colt and said, 'he's very good-gaited, very sound, very willing and has lots of speed. I just love him.'" Trainer David Miller, currently training a two-year-old Shark Gesture filly named Hex, described her as a "big, strong, great-gaited, intelligent filly who is showing excellent speed." Another trainer, Jenny Melander, has a nice sturdy black filly named When Sharks Fly and echoed Miller's comments about Shark Gesture's offspring. "His foals are big and sturdy, with heart, speed, intelligence and strength," she said.   Shark Gesture is truly an anomaly. How many horses return to the races two years after retiring and earn almost twice as much, facing battled-hardened competitors? In total, he posted 31 sub-1:50 miles, 16 of those 1:49 or better and four of those sub-1:49. As a 2-year-old, he won the Bluegrass Stakes (recording a freshman mark of 1:51.3), the Simpson Stakes and an elimination of the Breeders Crown.  At three, he won the Breeders Crown, the Tattersalls Pace (with a sophomore speed mark of 1:49.1), the Bluegrass Stakes, the Simpson Stakes and the Progress Pace. In an abbreviated four-year-old season, he won the New Hampshire Sweepstakes. In his return to the races, he won the William R. Haughton Memorial two years in a row, the Canadian Pacing Derby Final (with a lifetime mark of 1:48.1), the Graduate Series twice, the Dan Patch Invitational Pace and the Bettor's Delight. He broke track records at Tioga Downs and Hoosier Park and tied the track record when he won the Canadian Pacing Derby. "He's won all the big races, beat all the good horses," Maddox said. "He beat Foiled Again (the top aged pacer last year) more than once. He beat Won The West. He's beat them all at one point or another. His owners believed in him so much, they told us the story (of why he retired and then returned to the races) and it was just a no-brainer for us." 2010 Graduate Final William R. Haughton Memorial Smiley recalled why he bought Shark Gesture. Even though he was big and growthy, Smiley liked him, viewing him six times. "There are certain horses you go to the auction and put a price on and you go to that price or a few bucks more," Smiley said. "With him I said I was buying him, period."  Smiley subsequently offered shares to his brother, Gerald, and Thomas and Louis Pantone. Typical of a Cam's Card Shark offspring, Shark Gesture grew into his body from two to three. He stood about 17 hands high and had a long stride. Early in Shark Gesture's two-year-old season, he won the Bluegrass in 1:51 3/5, but he was still developing and growing. As a three-year-old, he did some amazing things, none more so than winning the Breeders Crown only a week after he fell down in a mishap in his elimination race for the final. He finished third and was moved up to second, but Norm Smiley and trainer Erv Miller feared the colt might not survive the accident. Once the bike and equipment were removed, Shark Gesture stood up and walked off as if nothing had happened, although he did have some cuts and abrasions. Driver Brian Sears, Miller, Smiley and the horse's vet shook their heads in disbelief. "If that's not a tough horse, I don't know what is," Smiley said.   A week later, he won the Breeders Crown with George Brennan, who would become his principle driver, steering him in what was a clean trip, racing on or near the pace. "Nobody knew that horse like Georgie," Smiley said.  "George was tremendous with that horse from the first time he drove him." Shark Gesture raced only eight times in an abbreviated four-year-old season and was retired, his notable victory in the New Hampshire. Some of the notable offspring from the 32 starters from his first crop as a sire include stakes winner Piston Broke, 1:49.2s ($291,131) and Best Ears, 1:49.4f, ($188,483). After Shark Gesture recovered from his injury and trained solidly, Norm Smiley made the decision to bring the horse back to the races. It would prove to be a shrewd decision. In 2009 at the age of six, Shark Gesture came into his own, racing 29 times and winning seven, including the Haughton Memorial and Canadian Pacing Derby and topping all pacers with more than $900,000 in earnings. At age seven, he raced 12 times and winning seven, notably the Graduate, Bettors Delight, Dan Patch (by a whopping 10½ lengths), and repeating in the Haughton.  He finished second by a length in the Franklin. He was retired at the end of the season.  "He was just amazing," Norm Smiley said. "This horse never got the respect he deserved. He was a tremendous racehorse." By Perry Lefko, for Harness Racing Update

Brandy Pinske, 40, daughter of trainer Nelson and Kay Willis, of Beecher, Ill., passed away on March 14 after a long illness.    An experienced horsewoman, Brandy grew up working alongside her parents, who have competed successfully for decades on the Illinois harness racing circuits. Brandy was also an accomplished rider, and an owner and breeder of Standardbred racehorses.   Besides her parents, Brandy is survived by her daughter McKenna, 14. She was preceded in death by her husband, trainer Brian Pinske, who passed away in 2002 at age 38.   A wake will be held for Brandy on Tuesday, March 18, from 2 pm to 7 pm at the Crete Funeral Home, 1182 Main Street, Crete, IL.    Her funeral service will begin at 10 am on Wednesday, March 18 at the Crete Funeral Home, with burial to follow at the Skyline Memorial Park & Cemetery, 24800 S Governors Hwy, Monee, IL. by Kim Rinker

Four-time New Zealand Trotting Cup winning driver Todd “The Wizard” Mitchell will be the Methven Trotting Club’s guest drive at their annual March meeting, next week. Following on from two successful appearances by Tony Herlihy in the past two years, Mitchell was offered the opportunity to try his luck on the picturesque Mt Harding course for the first time and jumped at the opportunity. Regarded by many as the best grass track surface in New Zealand, the Methven track is also renowned as a tricky track to win a race on and was described by Herlihy as one of the toughest tracks to win a race on that he has driven on. After an unsuccessful first visit, Herlihy picked up a win on his return trip when saluting the judge with Jackaroo Bromac for trainer Mark Jones. So the challenge is well and truly set for Mitchell to try and better the effort of Herlihy when he debuts next week. Methven Trotting Club president Bruce Harper said the club was excited to have Mitchell on course this year. “Todd has a great reputation as a driver and a real rapport with horses,’’ he said. “He’s long been considered one of the best in the business and it’s a privilege to have him as a guest driver at this meeting. “Tony Herlihy’s two appearances sparked interest from North Island punters and we have no doubts that Todd will do the same.’’ Mitchell currently sits just 30 wins shy of his 1000th career driving win while his 195 wins as a trainer and many victories in the thoroughbred code only further underline his talents with racehorses. The Waikato horseman will be available for drives throughout the entire day of racing and trainers interested in utilising his services can contact Matt Markham on 0275107115. [Matt Markham | The Press [Sports & Racing Journalist]

By Bill Liblick, re-printed with permission by www.sullivancountypost.com As EPR Properties and Empire Resorts prepares to present their resort destination plans next Thursday evening at a private presentation at Bethel Woods, and not at Empire’s operational facility, the harness racing horsemen at Monticello Raceway have declared war. The horsemen feel they have been betrayed and used as a pawn by Empire Resorts, the owner of Monticello Raceway, and are fearful that the Standardbred racetrack and the industry that has employed thousands of residents over the years in Sullivan County will be gone if the company receives a license to operate a full-fledged gaming hall. When racino’s were permitted in New York State it saved the horse racing industry from dying. The introduction of video slot terminals has seen racetracks such as Monticello, Tioga Downs, Saratoga, and Yonkers flourish thanks to a percentage of the take going into racing purses. Although attendance and actual pool totals from Monticello Raceway attendees is minimal, the racetrack has become a cash cow for Empire Resorts thanks to simulcasting and off-track betting wagering.  Monticello Raceway has in essence become a huge television studio. Under proposals from EPR and Empire Resorts they say they are going to construct a new harness track at the Concord no matter what happens – with or without table games – but will they? Horsemen claim Empire Resorts is capping purses at 2013 levels and if they are granted a table gaming license there will be no increases. They also say there are no guarantees the harness track will even remain open. The Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association has declared a war against Empire Resorts. They argue track owners slammed the door on them once the resort destination amendment was approved in November and that they refuse to negotiate. Things are so bad, the horsemen have exercised their right to stop Monticello’s simulcast signal from being broadcast, preventing Empire Resorts and New York State from receiving millions in revenue. Empire has since slashed purses and cut back the number of races in a card. They have even shut down the horsemen’s lunch room. According to Alan Schwartz, President of Monticello’s Harness Association The dispute between management and the horsemen at Monticello Raceway is very easy to understand. “The parent company of the racetrack seeks to obtain a lucrative license to construct a Las Vegas style casino, complete with slot machines and table games. They would be one of just two, and possibly the only casino permitted in the Catskills. Despite the tremendous windfall such a license would bring to the parent company, it flatly refuses to allow the horsemen or breeders to share in any portion of the huge anticipated profits.” Schwartz claims that “in order to get the casino amendment passed, management both figuratively and literally called the horsemen their “partners.” The logo of their lobbying group prominently contains a horse. Their radio commercials ballyhooed their support for racing. Of course, once the amendment passed, management’s idea of “partnership” quickly degenerated.” Under the present video lottery gaming law, horsemen and breeders get a fixed percentage of the track’s net win. When a racino underperforms, the purse money generated is less, even though it isn’t the horsemen’s fault. When the racino does well, purses go up modestly – In essence a true economic partnership. Schwartz maintains Empire Resorts wants a firm cap on purses and breeding contributions at 2013 levels. He says if that happens, harness racing will become a near-zero or zero growth industry. “Nobody is going to buy or breed horses in this state when places like Ohio, Massachusetts, Delaware and Pennsylvania offer significantly more industry support.” Schwartz acknowledges that harness racing won’t die in the next several years, but “consider, however, that the price of feed, diesel fuel, veterinary services; literally anything you can think of, will be significantly higher in just a few years. Once you can’t pay to maintain racehorses, the sport will evaporate from sheer economics – And that’s exactly what our racetrack management “partners” would love to see happen.” Although Empire Resorts blames Albany for the horsemen’s plight, Schwartz asserts the law speaks only about minimum contributions. “No government can interfere with the private right of contract. Racetrack management hides behind Albany when, in reality, their own lobbyists pushed for and signed off on the legislation.” Schwartz says “The horsemen and breeders at Monticello and elsewhere refuse to be “silent” former partners. If management wishes to embrace us as economic partners, as mandated under the video lottery gaming law, gaming can move forward in a meaningful way in the Catskills, and the renaissance created by Albany through the VLT program can continue to flourish, for not only the six harness tracks owners but also for the state, education and the agriculture and racing industries. If that doesn’t occur, we really have nothing else to lose.” Schwartz professes he is trying to negotiate in good faith, but Empire Resorts is not, so with “few weapons in this fight” they had to pull the simulcasting signal. “We are also acutely aware of the loss of revenue to the track, the horsemen and the industry. Yet, we have pondered just how much money these track operators strive for while they jeopardize an entire industry for their own profit; a racing industry that worked hard to spawn the birth of VLTs at tracks in this and other states. We cannot just sit by and watch an industry get swallowed up by a handful of track operators professing to be concerned about our sport, whose ultimate goal is to kill it.” The right to withhold the export of signal from Monticello is a right granted to horsemen by Federal law. Schwartz explained, “That 1978 law very wisely recognizes that the horsemen at a host track are the real guardians of this sport. It armed the horsemen with the important tool to use only when they perceived a crisis threatening the very existence of the game. It has been used very sparingly and with the utmost of caution.” A mediator has been appointed by the New York State Gaming Commission in an attempt to resolve the situation. Charles Degliomini, executive vice president of Empire Resorts/Monticello Raceway issued the following statement in response the suspension of simulcasting. “Monticello Casino & Raceway (“MC&R”) continues to support the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act (“Gaming Act”). When they authored the Gaming Act, the Senate, Assembly and the Executive protected the Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association (“MHHA”), and the entire racing industry. As New York State moves toward approving four casinos in upstate New York, future revenue for the horsemen is governed by the Gaming Act, and current revenue is governed by the New York State Lottery for Education Law. Degliomini added, “It is sad and unfortunate that we are being attacked for legislation that actually protects harness horsemen’s interests. While MC&R continues in good faith, through negotiation and mediation, to attempt to secure an agreement with MHHA, the MHHA is now attempting to amend a law that they don’t like by unfairly punishing our business, our employees, our loyal customers and even their own members. We are simply track owners, not elected officials. The MHHA should stop this destructive behavior and turn the simulcasting signal back on.” With all the new resort destination proposals coming out of the woodwork this dispute is something Sullivan County does not need. Schwartz does raise many valid concerns that must be addressed if a racino operator is granted a full gaming license, Monticello Raceway, the horsemen, and the industry must be protected.  

The rules of harness racing are dictated by the state where the racing activity occurs. All racing ovals are situated within the boundaries of a certain state. By virtue of inherent police power to protect the health, safety and morals of its citizens, each sovereign state independently determines how our sport is conducted. On this score, consider that medication regulations are solely within the purview of the individual state governments. When regulations are deemed to be "uniform," that identity happens only because each of the participating states adopt mirror image rules. Even if they appear to be the same or substantially similar from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the rules are, in fact, unique to each state. Licensing is a function of the state as well and, as everyone in our industry is aware, being licensed in one state in no way guarantees that a license will issue in others.  Federal law was created by the states. The promulgation of the U.S. Constitution was accomplished only because the independent colonies agreed to abdicate a very limited amount of their respective powers to a federal government for the greater good of all. As powerful as the federal government may at times seem, it can only act if a constitutional provision allows it to do so. In the racing realm, the sparse instances of federal regulation occur based upon the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That provision reserves solely to Congress the regulation of commerce across state lines. It makes perfect sense. Imagine if each state developed their own regulations for the size and shape of mud guards on the rear of tractor trailers. Truck drivers would be required to carry scores of different flaps, and to stop and change the flaps at the border of each state. In fact, 55 years ago the U.S. Supreme Court struck down just such state regulations as unconstitutional burdens on interstate commerce. Thus, the Interstate Commerce Clause permits the federal government to regulate things such as interstate simulcasting and the transportation of horses across state lines. So, what about a state law or regulation that prohibits the interstate movement of racehorses for periods of time? Can such rules pass constitutional muster, or should they be struck down as being in conflict with the Interstate Commerce Clause as unnecessarily impeding the free flow of business among the states? These questions are not hypothetical. Several states have regulations geared towards ensuring that there are always enough horses to fill race cards at meets. Both the Pennsylvania Code and New York regulations dictate that a harness horse may not race at a track other than the track where claimed for 30 days or the balance of the current racing meeting, whichever comes first, unless released by the racing secretary. In Maryland, the rules bar a claimed harness horse from racing outside the state for 60 days if the claim was at Rosecroft, or for 30 days if the claim was at Ocean Downs, unless the respective meet ends sooner. Delaware regulations contain a blanket 60 day prohibition on racing a claimed horse out of the state without approval of the track where the horse was claimed. May a state prohibit an owner from immediately racing a claimed horse in another state? That was exactly the question decided by the Kentucky Court of Appeals last month. The case, Jamgotchian v. Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, was brought by a Thoroughbred owner who claimed a horse at Churchill Downs in Kentucky in May of 2011. Under Kentucky Thoroughbred rules, the horse was not permitted to race outside the state until the Churchill meet ended on July 4, 2011. In June, the owner entered the horse at Penn National Race Course in Pennsylvania. The racing secretary, in consultation with Churchill officials, rejected the entry based upon the Kentucky regulation. The owner claimed that the Kentucky prohibition violated the Federal Interstate Commerce Clause. In its ruling, the court stated that the test to be employed was whether, a) the challenged law is protectionist in measure, or; b) whether it can fairly be viewed as a law directed to legitimate local concerns, with effects upon interstate commerce that are only incidental. In other words, the court initially indicated that not every state regulation affecting interstate commerce is unconstitutional. In applying the test to the regulation in question, the court first reasoned that the general regulation of horse racing is both a traditional and legitimate state function, and is thus a valid exercise of Kentucky’s police power. In its analysis, the court pointed out that out of the thirty-eight states that permit wagering on horse racing, twenty-seven states have a claiming law similar to Kentucky's regulation. In sum, state regulation of claiming is pervasive across the United States. As to whether the regulation is protectionist or discriminatory, the court pointed out that the regulation applied evenly to both in-state and out-of-state licensees. Also, it determined that the effect on interstate commerce is incidental, inasmuch as the prohibition was strictly limited to horses acquired in the claiming realm. The court reasoned that the aggrieved owner could have purchased a horse privately or at an auction sale, and could have freely and immediately raced that purchase elsewhere. Finally, the court concluded that the regulation was limited in duration and scope, inasmuch as it banned transport out of state for racing for only the duration of the meet, which at the outside was just three months. To read the full text of the case, click here: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=505383974654814112&q=jamgotchian&hl=en&as_sdt=6,33&as_ylo=2014 While Kentucky upheld the regulation, it is unclear whether a federal court would agree with the reasoning of the Court of Appeals. That just might be Mr. Jamgotchian’s next move. By Chris E. Wittstruck, who is an attorney, a director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York and a charter member of the Albany Law School Racing and Gaming Law Network.

DOVER DE - The United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), harness racing's principal organization for media workers, held its annual meetings this past Saturday and Sunday at the Dover Downs complex, with the weekend culminating in the Dan Patch Awards Banquet held Sunday (Feb. 23) night, attended by almost 400 people and streamed worldwide for live viewing. During the Saturday meeting, the Directors of the Association voted for Bob Marks and Kathy Parker to be on the Communicators Hall of Fame voting ballot this summer. Marks has been a leading force in many harness dimensions over his 50 years in the sport, most recently as Marketing Director for Perretti Farms, while Parker, from a prominent harness family, worked her way through the ranks at the Horseman and Fair World weekly magazine until becoming editor in 1995 and later general manager of the Horseman Publishing Company, positions she maintains to this day. At the conclusion of the meetings, the membership voted in their slate of association Officials for 2014-15. Chris Tully, an MBA marketing specialist and writer whose digital literacy and social media acumen has helped bring USHWA to the cutting edge of communications technology, was elected President of the association, succeeding Steve Wolf of Harnesslink.com; Tully's "first official act" was to present Wolf, who now becomes the Chairman of the Board, with a gold Lifetime Membership pin. Tim Bojarski, writer/blogger for the USTA, moved up a chair to 1st Vice President, with the 2VP position going to Shawn Wiles, Monticello Raceway chief racing officer and a longtime USTA and USHWA director. Judy Davis-Wilson, who is based in Dover and worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the weekend, especially the banquet, was returned as Treasurer; Alan Prince, who attended his 48th consecutive USHWA meetings weekend, remains as Executive Treasurer. Also elected was Jerry Connors as USHWA secretary. Much of the discussion during the two days of meetings focused on the sport's Halls of Fame in Goshen NY, where plans for renovation and modernization are starting to advance rapidly, and where USHWA makes a significant contribution. In addition to the physical reconfiguration of the Halls of Fame area, the directors and membership discussed several by-law and rules change relating to the Halls, especially the re-establishment of a Seniors category for both. Debate was plentiful, lively, and well-reasoned on all sides, and some of these matters were tabled until a Committee, soon to be appointed, can focus on the merits - and the eventual wording -- of the varied proposed changes. The attendees heard reports from the many committees that keep USHWA functioning throughout the year, and were glad to hear from Davis-Wilson, voted the organization's member of the year, that the treasury was in a very good shape, pointing to future success in USHWA's upcoming progressive efforts. The Dan Patch Awards Dinner was as always the highlight of the gathering, with superstar sophomore trotting filly Bee A Magician "finishing her unbeaten season" by being elected Trotter of the Year and then Harness Horse of the Year; her contemporary, the pacing colt Captaintreacherous, took down overall honors for that gait after a brilliant campaign showing speed and courage in equal amounts. Also honored were the quartet to be inducted into the Halls of Fame Sunday, July 6 in Goshen: Harness Racing Hall of Famers David Miller and William Weaver, and Communicators Hall inductees Carol Cramer and John Pawlak. by Jerry Connors for USHWA

Coral Springs, FL - Would you like to own Yannick Gingras's helmet and colors, personally autographed to you? Or perhaps Bill Haughton's trainer trophy clock from winning the $2 million Woodrow Wilson Pace with Nihilator? Maybe a Mary Lou Dondarski original painting of the trotter Bee A Magician or the pacer Captaintreacherous? These items and many more are all up for grabs in the United States Harness Writers Association silent and live auction at the upcoming Dan Patch Awards dinner at Dover Downs, Delaware this Sunday, February 23. But you don't have to be there to be a winner! You can call in your bids now for all of the items in the auction. And best of all is that all proceeds go directly to the Harness Horse Youth Foundation and USHWA. All you have to do is call any of these numbers for detailed information; 954.654.3757; 732-306-6713; 317.908.0029 or 732.547.9459. and place your bid order on any or all of the auction items. You will be able to bid via telephone up until 7 p.m. on Sunday (February 23) so please don't delay and miss out on these great items. Most of the items can be seen on the internet at www.ushwa.org. Here are all the items that are in the live and silent auction:  Yannick Gingras colors and helmet (personalized by Yannick)  Original Mary Lou Dondarski acrylic painting Bee A Magician  Bill Haughton's engraved clock trophy as winning trainer of Nihilator in world's richest race, $2 million Woodrow Wilson Pace Original Mary Lou Dondarski acrylic painting Captaintreacherous Original Michele Hogan painting "Racing under the Moon" Horse Motive Quilt Throw Collectable silver coin with horse engraved Large "Colts Frolic" Bronze Statue Bow River Bracelets LV Harkness etched clock Complete bobble head collection (23 items) in showcase Breeding to Dream Away (Winbak Farm - Delaware) Rock N Roll Heaven halter with Breeders Crown Casino Chips (Display case) Hambletonian whiskey decanter (empty), Bank Barn collector's plate and horseshoe wall hanging Hand-painted Round Barn fruit bowl (13 inches) By Steve Wolf, president of USHWA  

Following six-inches of snowfall overnight, Dover Downs horsemen on Thursday (2/13) had high praise for Track Superintendent Jerry Clifton for his preparation of the track for racing.. On the program, Dancin Yankee and All Stienam, both trained by Josh Green, won the $30,000 Preferred pace and $27,500 Delaware Special for the second straight week. The feat is unprecedented in track history. ------------------------------------ The longest win streak currently at the track belongs to Mach Lady, who scored her sixth-straight win of the meet on Monday (2/10) posting a 1:54.1 victory in a Delaware $10,000 Mares Claiming pace. ------------------------------------------------- The big-winning drivers during the week were Corey Callahan and Ron Pierce. Callahan won 15 races while Pierce made the winner's circle 10 times. Ross Wolfenden won nine races. Allan Davis is on the threshold of becoming a 1,000 race winner. When racing resumes on Sunday, Davis is just two wins away at 998 career wins. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Corey Callahan and Ron Piece are off to great starts in 2014. At present, Callahan leads all drivers in the sport with 90 wins. Ron Pierce is now second in the standing with 73 winners. Ross Wolfenden is 11th with 46 wins, ------------------------------------------------------------- The U.S. Harness Writers Association's (USHWA) Night of Champions comes to Dover Downs, next week. The 67th annual event takes place on Sunday, Feb. 23 in the Rollins Center. Among the champion horses and individuals being honored are three local horsepersons, Corey Callahan, Judy Davis-Wilson and Janet Davis will be honored. Callahan receives the "Rising Star Award," Wilson is USHWAn of the Year while Davis gets the Harness Horse Youth Foundations for her charitable voluntary work to make the Christmas season a happy time for hundreds of youngster in Delaware. The USHWA banquet features the top horse and human awards for the recently completed 2013 season plus the naming of the Horse of the Year. For complete information on the awards-dinner visit the USHWA website: www.ushwa.org. ----------------------------------- Corey Callahan has built an overwhelming lead in quest of his fifth consecutive track leading driver title. This meet, Callahan has won 163 races. Ross Wolfenden has moved into second place with 83 wins. Allan Davis is third with 77 winners. Vic Kirby and. Ron Pierce are tied for fourth with 69 wins. ------------------------------------------ Dylan Davis has extended his first place lead in the trainer standings with 47 wins. Wayne Givens is second with 38 winners. Trish Foulk is third with 36 wins. Joe Hundertpfund is fourth, 34 wins and Les Givens, 30, is fifth in the standings. by Marv Bachrad, for Dover Downs  

Breedings to Donato Hanover, Deweycheatumnhowe, Conway Hall, Camluck, A Rocknroll Dance, and Dragon Again are among the 85 seasons donated to New Vocations 16th Annual Stallion. The auction starts Monday February 10th and runs through 2:00 pm Friday Feb 14 at www.ongait.com.  The auction is conducted in an Open Ended format that allows for bidding slightly beyond the 2:00 p.m. deadline if less than five minutes have elapsed since the last bid on a particular breeding.  Participants are asked to be considerate and not bid for mares over 20, ones that have been barren two or more consecutive years, any that are due after May 21, and those that are already booked.  To view the list of stallions visit www.horseadoption.com or email dot@horseadoption.com.  Breedings are still being sought and can be added until the auction begins. New Vocations is the largest racehorse adoption program in North America accepting over 400 retired racehorses each year. Proceeds from the stallion auction go toward the care, retraining, and placement of retired racehorses. “We would like to thank all the stallion donors for their generous support,” said Executive Director Dot Morgan.  “They enable us to equip these horses with useful skills and get them into loving homes that will give them a life beyond the track. Every horse we adopt becomes an ambassador for the breed.” From New Vocations Horse Adoption

This Sunday, the 2014 Super Bowl security detail will include horses that found their new careers through the Standardbred Retirement Foundation. The Newark Mounted Police Department has nine of SRF’s horses, and the force is in the saddle protecting the public. Coincidentally, many of these horses have been around the oval at the adjacent Meadowlands Racetrack during their racing careers. The photo accompanying this story features Officer Camacho riding 11-year-old Allentown (aka ‘Chief’) and Officer Schroeder with 16-year-old Cunning Liar (aka ‘Commander’) pictured in the middle. At pre-game events and on game-day, additional Newark Mounted Patrol SRF horses may include, 18-year-old Blue Hoodlum, eight-year-old Shark Chaser, five-year-old Uthinkithinkurkidn, 11-year-old Prince Juniper, seven-year-old Echo of Thunder, 15-year-old Miracle Man, and 11-year-old YF Avenger. They serve many notable events throughout the city like the Super Bowl. The SRF is in its 25th year giving dignity and life to racehorses in need of a stable future. Nearly 2,600 adoptions have been made to loving homes for pleasure, and competitive riding, and driving disciplines. Every horse adopted out by SRF is followed-up for life. One hundred and ninety horses are currently in the SRF’s care, of which 110 are unadoptable and will remain in SRF’s full-care for life. To adopt, help by making a tax-deductible contribution, or to sponsor a horse in need, contact SRF at admin@srfmail.com, 732-446-4422, or visit this award-winning organization at adoptahorse.org and be sure to ‘like us’ on Facebook. From the Standardbred Retirement Foundation

Breedings to Donato Hanover, Deweycheatumnhowe, Conway Hall, Camluck, A Rocknroll Dance, and Dragon Again are among the 85 seasons donated to New Vocations 16th Annual Stallion. The auction starts Monday February 10th and runs through 2:00 pm Friday Feb 14 at www.ongait.com.   View Breedings Here   The auction is conducted in an Open Ended format that allows for bidding slightly beyond the 2:00 p.m. deadline if less than five minutes have elapsed since the last bid on a particular breeding.  Participants are asked to be considerate and not bid for mares over 20, ones that have been barren two or more consecutive years, any that are due after May 21, and those that are already booked.  To view the list of stallions visit http://www.horseadoption.com/assets/Available-Breedings1.pdf  or email dot@horseadoption.com.  Breedings are still being accepted until the auction begins Feb 10th.  For more information call (937) 947-4020.  New Vocations is the largest racehorse adoption program in North America accepting over 400 retired racehorses each year. Proceeds from the stallion auction go toward the care, retraining, and placement of retired racehorses. “We would like to thank all the stallion donors for their generous support,” said Executive Director Dot Morgan.  “They enable us to equip these horses with useful skills and get them into loving homes that will give them a life beyond the track. Every horse we adopt becomes an ambassador for the breed.” From New Vocations

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