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A couple of years ago Mark Purdon while visiting Natalie's family in Queensland was called upon to sort out a couple of yearlings Vic and Cheryl Rasmussen might be interested in. The first one was Aldo Rossi a $6000 purchase which won $50,000 in his first 10 starts from Rolleston before returning to Queensland where he had to be put aside after developing a problem. The second one, believe it or not, cost a lot less than Aldo and was named Horace Greeley-but things didn't go so well for him. "He was just ready to come over and get ready for some nice races here when he suffered a freak injury. He was out for over eight months so his three year old career was on hold. He only got over here a couple of months ago but he had been trained up and it is just good to get him to the races." Horace claims a place in the Timaru fields on Sunday but it is unlikely he will be asked to back up. He had to work quite hard to get to the front and was challenged early in the run home in a 28 and change quarter so it rated as a bold debut. Horace Greeley is a son of former Burwood Stud stallion Western Edition a combined thoroughbred and standardbred breeding and agistment operation based near Toowoomba on the Darling Downs by the Denning family. The stud has five standardbred stallions (more than any other Queensland stud) and two thoroughbred horses. By David McCarthy (ALL STARS RACING STABLE) *The All Stars team were also successful with Petite One, Go-Harness Syndication trotter Saratoga, and Change Stride, who headed an All Stars quinella when downing stablemate Have Faith In Me in the fourth event. However, it is evident neither of them came as cheap as Horace Greeley. Change Stride is a Rocknroll Hanover half-brother to New Zealand Cup champion Changeover while, Have Faith In Me, is a Bettor's Delight full-brother to superstar mare Adore Me. Purdon was understandably impressed with both juveniles. "Change Stide burned the gate and still won with something in reserve, while Have Faith In Me produced a big run after being left out three-wide for the last lap," said Purdon. Tonight's earning took All Stars total stake earning for the season above the $3 million mark for the first time since 2010.

The continuing drop in the number of standardbred mares bred in New Zealand is a major impediment to the longterm survival of our industry. Every breeding season the problem continues to worsen with little or no attempt to address the major causes. From a high of 8798 mares served in the 1987/88 breeding season, the number of mares served has gradually declined to the point that last season just 2861 mares were covered in New Zealand. The fact that you have to go back to the 1968/69 season when 2755 mares were covered to find a season with a lower number than last year should have everyone in the industry very concerned. In an effort to combat this long term trend the focus to date has been on increasing stake levels returned to stake holders and on this front solid progress has been made. But as must be patently obvious to Harness Racing New Zealand, this strategy has not arrested the slide in numbers of mares bred. Some commentators have even been as brave to suggest we are only discarding the poorer mares at the bottom of the breeding chain and not to worry about the drop off. In our view that is a very short shighted position and could have dire consequences for the New Zealand industry long term. We desperately need to stop the breeding slide in the first instance and then have a long term plan as to how to grow our breeding industry. The focus has to be on the breeding componet of the industry as a seperate entity. The focus needs to be around what help/ reward can we implement that will incentivise those breeders who have withdrawn from the industry to start breeding again and to intice new breeders to begin breeding. In our view there are two options that overseas experience tells us are worthy of consideration in this matter. A breeding bonus paid directly to the breeder of a horse every time it wins a race in New Zealand. A good starting point in our view would be $500 per race.                                                                   OR A percentage of the stakemoney of each winner on raceday is directed to the breeder of winner Settling on that percentage would be difficult but in France for instance it is 12.5%. We think that is way to high for New Zealand but the concept has merit. On the issue of how to fund these payments,it is the obvious that other stake holders will protest loudly if they percieve they are losing out to the breeders. That will be the view expressed but it is a terribly short shighted one in our opinion. In our view it is up to the larger clubs to set the ball rolling and so when the next round of stake increases are announced by the likes of  the Auckland Trotting Club and the NZ Metro, they should set aside up to $500 per race of that proposed increase to be paid to the breeder of the winner of every race they stage. One thing is certain. If we continue to think that lifting race stakes on its own will arrest the slide in breeding numbers then we are sadly mistaken. Unless we introduce specific measures to help breeders, then all the future will hold will just be a further slide in the breeding numbers. If that happens, then our ability to maintain our current 32% share of the New Zealand gaming market will be severely compromised and our longterm viability would then seriously come into question.  Visit the sires register for full details of breeding numbers Harnesslink media

Breeding wise Poppymalda has a lot to recommend her. By champion harness racing trotting sire Armbro Invasion, Pollymalda is from the Sundon mare In The Sun who is a full sister to the former standout trotter Sundowner Bay 18 wins ($259,856). In The Sun is also a half sister to the dam of the brilliant Enthusiast 1:59.5 ($90,585) who won 11 races as a two and three year old, Inspire 9 wins ($147,468) including the Group One Rowe Cup and Call You Later, 9 wins $73,174. The great race mare Framalda (22 wins) is another standout trotter close up in the pedigree. So it should be no surprise that Poppymalda looks to have inherited all of the family ability. Having just her second lifetime start last night at Forbury, she was sent out a short priced favourite even though she drew the outside of the second line. That was due in no small part to her huge run on debut where she lost a 100 meters early but still finished a close up sixth. Last night she settled last of the bunch before coming out with a round to go to work forward to the death. She remained there until they turned for home where she shot clear with driver Nathan Williamson sitting as quiet as a church mouse as she cruised to the line,an easy winner. The stock of Armbro Invasion are noted for getting better with age so Poppymalda looks to have a big future ahead of her if her first two runs are anything to go by. Poppymalda Harnesslink media

All maternal lines of horses go through periods where they seem to be winning everything they enter and the “Kenny” breed of North Otago is doing just that at the moment. One Over Da Moon won the group two VHRSC Holmfield at Melton on Friday night, his eighth career success to date taking his earnings over the $150,000 mark. At Oamaru on Sunday, King Kenny was very impressive winning his ninth race from just 24 starts after starting from a 50 meter handicap, while his half sister One Two Kenny also looked on the path to better things when easily winning her maiden race earlier in the day. It is a breed that doesn't have a long history but one that seems to be on a real roll at the moment. Raymauwarrhen Son (22 wins) and ($146,235) started the run off but it is the performance of his race winning half sister Frances Jay Bee (6 wins) at stud which has really lifted this family to such prominence. She left three outstanding trotters headed by the champion mare, One Over Kenny ($1,098,007) as well as One Kenny (19 wins) ($110,133) and One Under Kenny (11 wins) ($87,919). One Over Da Moon is a son of One Over Kenny while both King Kenny and One Two Kenny are from her full-sister One Under Kenny. Another full sister to One Over Kenny and One Under Kenny is the two win mare ,Nice One Kenny who has already left the very promising Queen Kenny who has won three to date from just seven starts. It is a breed that is quickly cementing itself as one of the premier trotting maternal families in the New Zealand studbook. One Two Kenny King Kenny Harnesslink media      

‘‘A BLIND man can see what’s happening, we’re running out of horses.’’ With that stark statement, North Auckland trainer Ray Green issued a warning that unless Harness Racing New Zealand got off its hands and did something to address the problem, the game would quickly die. Green went on the attack this week with the revelation that the number of mares served was down another 6.6% and for the first time in decades New Zealand’s foal crop will dip below 2000. Alarmingly, the number of mares bred is down to 2832, a drop of 28% on 10 years ago. And Green says that’s all down to the wonderful policy HRNZ had adopted to arrest the decline - ‘‘it’s called let’s do nothing.’’ ‘‘Breeders are quite rightly getting pissed off - the owners aren’t there to buy their horses any more because the costs are too high and stakes too low. And HRNZ is the enemy because it has done nothing to counter that.’’ Green, trainer for the powerful Lincoln Farms operation, said they had recently sold talented pacers Medley Moose, Hawkeye Bromac and Imhisdaughter to Australia because it made no sense to keep racing them here. ‘‘Medley Moose is a beautiful horse, I would love to have kept him, but we had a good offer for him and it would have been hard to win that sort of money here. The handicapping system is such that with one more win he would have been up against Terror To Love. You just have to sell them.’’ Green said owners are continually weighing up whether to take a punt and keep their horse or to sell them. ‘‘If an owner thinks his horse can win two more races, and perhaps another $10,000, if an Australian wants to give him $50,000 for his horse, it’s a no-brainer. ‘‘The Auckland Trotting Club, struggling to fill its fields, is offering higher stakes, hoping people will retain their horses. But horses will still be handicapped out of it too quickly and people will still want to sell them.’’ Green cited the case of a two-year-old in his stable who had won three races.‘‘He’s a c2 but if he wins another race over $15,000 he’ll start next year as a c3 horse and to get a run he’ll have to go in standing starts and have Besotted, our c9 horse, breathing down his neck.’’ Crazily, Besotted, who has never won a race over $15,000, is still rated an M0 in Australia and could go to Sydney and win two or three races really quickly. ‘‘They need to create more opportunities for horses to be viable here if they want to keep them. But people will not wait forever. Like cars, horses depreciate as they get older, and the more a horse wins here, the less it is worth over there. ‘‘The game’s going to die unless something is done but  the powers that be don’t seem to be interested.’’ HRNZ chief executive Edward Rennell said Green was completely wrong to say nothing was being done to solve the problem but there was no silver bullet. ‘‘Yes, the number being bred is of concern but what is encouraging is the wastage factor is less.’’ Rennell said the breeding decline was a worldwide problem. In Australia, standardbred breeding numbers dropped by 33% in the last 10 years and by 47% in North America, according to a report it commissioned from the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders’ Association. The thoroughbred code faced the same issue, he said. Rennell said while the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club had introduced a breeders’ bonus - in the last three months 34 $500 bonuses have been paid out to breeders of tote race winners at Addington - HRNZ did not agree that all stake payouts should incorporate the same bonus, a French initiative being promoted by Studholme Bloodstock’s Brian West. ‘‘There is a limited pool of funds and if you pay some of that to the breeders that’s less that goes to the owners,’’ Rennell said. ‘‘And we are trying to make ownership more attractive and viable.’’ Rennell said HRNZ had increased the minimum stake to $5000 this season and stakes were up overall by 6%. It would be examining whether to increase the $80 payout to every starter. HRNZ was also looking at reducing the number of races next season by 2%. In the 2005-06 season, 2435 races were run while that number rose to 2743 last year, putting more strain on field sizes. Discussions were also underway with the Sires’ Stakes Board, the breeders and two principal clubs on whether changes were needed to age group and premier racing. ‘‘But we think that the changes to the handicapping system are working because field sizes are up from 10.4 starters per race to 10.6.’’ While that might not sound much, it was a significant improvement when it covered 2700 races. Rennell said the handicapping sub-committee was meeting next week to review the performance of the new system and its age group concessions and would make a recommendation on whether it thought the drop back provision should be reduced from 10 starts. The challenge for HRNZ was not only to get more horses to the races but to better use the horse population – if every horse raced just once more in a season, field sizes could be maintained. Rennell said the number of horses sold to Australia was actually down on previous years. ‘‘It averages around 850 a season but that’s down 50-100 because of the new import levy.’’  Overall, exports were similar with about 100 sent to China. WASTAGE COSTS BREEDERS $11 MILLION HALF OF all the standardbred horses we breed never get to the races. And that disturbing fact, rather than the continuing decline in numbers, will be the immediate focus for the industry’s main breeding body. The annual cost to breeders of the high level of wastage is put at $11 million in a paper by Kiely Buttell, executive manager of the NZ Standardbred Breeders’ Association. ‘‘At an average service fee of $6000, plus vet costs, stud handling fees and agistment charges of a further $1500, the annual (wastage) cost to breeders is $11 million.’’  While figures show the percentage of the foal crop wasted dropped from 61% in 1995 to 53% in 2005, Buttell says the continuing high level is a major conern. ‘‘There will always be a percentage of the foal crop that is born with defects, die at an early age or suffer accidents that will impinge on their racing viability. ‘‘But we need to understand the percentage of horses that are deemed unviable for non injury related reasons and identify solutions to address this.’’ The NZSBA would also be focussing on conception rates. Only 71% of mares served in the latest breeding season were confirmed in foal, a figure which has been static in the last 20 years despite improvements in artificial insemination in other breeds. "Serving a mare three times and not getting her into foal is a massive cost to breeders.’’ Buttell said the association had engaged Palmerston North trainer and equine researcher Jasmine Tanner to scope a research project to investigate the quality parameters of chilled standardbred semen in New Zealand in order to improve conception rates in mares and increase the economic viability for broodmare owners. Funding would be sought from the NZ Equine Research Foundation but the industry might have to foot some of the bill itself, she said. Evidence suggested it was the smaller hobby breeder who was exiting the game, citing rising breeding costs along with declining stakes. That was a problem when breeders here raced 50% of horses. BARRY LICHTER Courtesy of the Sunday Star Times

Harness Breeders Victoria (HBV) President, Dr Tony Britt, welcomes Desiree Pettit to the newly created part-time role of Executive Officer. The role will be responsible for developing a range of new initiatives and consolidating the current platform of the Association’s activities in representing Victoria’s Standardbred breeding industry as a kindred  body with Harness Racing Victoria. This autonomous role will work with the Executive and Committee in complimenting their work for breeders, studmasters and breeder owners & members. This role will further develop the Association’s service delivery, particularly in digitisation and communication. Pettit’s prior corporate and management roles within racing, not-for-profit and marketing industries ensure a broad range of skills will be brought to the role. In addition, she has extensive and varied experience, involvement and knowledge of both equine racing codes over a considerable period. Pettit holds degrees in Business (Marketing) and Arts (Sport & Event Management) from Victoria University, along with post graduate qualifications, and industry specific training. HRV Media

Temple Hills, MD --- Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has appointed longtime Maryland horsewoman and Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association board member Tammy Lafferty to a position on the Maryland Racing Commission. Mrs. Lafferty brings extensive Standardbred experience to the MRC and will be a valued asset on that governing body. Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association President Tom Cooke stated, “Tammy Lafferty will be an outstanding member and valued addition to the Maryland Racing Commission. Her depth of experience as a horseman, board member of Cloverleaf Owners Association and breeder will serve the industry well. She will be a strong advocate for the Standardbred horsemen on the MRC and the entire industry thanks Governor O’Malley.” Maryland Standardbred Breeders Association President Dan Myer said, “I thank Governor O’Malley on behalf of the Standardbred breeding industry for appointing Tammy Lafferty to the Maryland Racing Commission. Her knowledge and commitment to the Standardbred industry and our horsemen is tremendous. I look forward to working with her in the next four years.” Mrs. Lafferty’s first meeting as a member of the Maryland Racing Commission will be Tuesday (Nov. 19) and she will serve a four year term. From the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association

Three college students with high marks, high hopes and high ideals have been named winners of Harness Tracks of America’s 2013 college scholarships. Each recipient has harness racing family connections and each receives a $5,000 check toward their college education. Each of the winners has worked with harness horses and in harness racing. The 2013 winners are: CHELSEA FAHY, 22, Washington, Pennsylvania, daughter of William and Moira Fahy, harness racing owners, trainers and William is also a driver. A graduate of The University of Findlay, Fahy is now in her first year at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Fahy is a third-generation horsewoman who, along with her parents, has a successful stable of horses. She was active in the Harness Racing Youth League at the Meadows and worked as a veterinary assistant for Canon Hill Equine Clinic. She credits her positive experiences growing up at the racetrack to her lifelong dream of becoming an equine veterinarian and owning her own practice. AMY NAROTSKY, 20, Willowbrook, Illinois, daughter of Eliot Narotsky, director of racing/racing secretary for Maywood Park and Balmoral Park, and Jean Narotsky, financial manager for Francenter.- Narotsky is a sophomore at the University of Illinois studying Animal Sciences with plans to attend veterinary school upon graduation. She chose the University of Illinois because of the opportunity to work with Dr. Kevin Kline and the Standardbred breeding program there. Narotksy’s great-grandfather was racing when Maywood Park first opened. After discovering harness racing at Buffalo Raceway while in high school, her father “Doc” went on to become the youngest racing secretary of the time. She has spent her life “hanging around” in the race office with her father and a few years ago was offered the opportunity to work at the Illinois State Fair in the race office and as the ringmaster an experience she likens to a dream come true. She has since moved her way up to being a placing judge and helping in the race office at Maywood and Balmoral. ASHLEY CONGER, 17, Hudson, Ohio, is the daughter of Jeff Conger, a Standardbred owner/trainer, and Linda Conger, a physical therapist. Conger is a third-generation horsewoman with ties to harness racing that began with her grandfather, horseman Joe Urban, over 45 years ago. Both her parents received their racing licenses as teenagers and she has followed by acquiring her groom’s license in 2012 at Northfield Park. Conger has spent a great deal of her free time working with her family in the Standarbred business as well as holding the officer positions within two 4-H clubs; one as presidnt and the other as secretary. With a cumulative high school GPA of 3.8, Conger is studying Pharmacy at The University of Findlay. The winners were selected by HTA’s Scholarship Committee, consisting of 10 HTA directors and racing industry executives from around the country, cochaired by former HTA president Jeffrey Smith and David Snyder of International Sound Corporation. Submitted by Harness Tracks of America

The uncertainty that Ontario’s Standardbred breeding industry faces is substantial.  Ontario’s once strong breeding sector has been devastated due to the provincial government’s ill-planned decision to end the mutually beneficial partnership that the Slots-At-Racetracks Program created between the Province of Ontario and the horse racing and breeding industry. For the second consecutive year, Ontario’s Standardbred breeders have had to weather tremendous losses.  Although Standardbred Canada's 2013 Canadian Yearling Sale showed an average increase of nearly 22 percent over the 2012 sale, it is important to realize that the 2013 sale average remained almost 31 percent below that of the 2011 sale.  Much like 2012, Ontario’s Standardbred breeders have once again taken another drastic financial hit. In her recent letter to the Horse Racing Transition Panel, Premier and Agriculture Minister Kathleen Wynne requests a comprehensive five-year plan for Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry.  This plan is vital in order for long-term sustainability and growth to occur within the industry.  However for sustainability and growth to be achieved through a five-year plan, the government must be willing to invest sufficiently in Ontario’s horse racing and breeding industry, as well as promote and encourage integration amongst gaming and horse racing within the province.  Unfortunately, for many breeders the financial losses that they have incurred over the past 18 months have been so substantial that it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to survive to a point where the industry can see it's way through to a five-year plan.  Until the final plan is released sometime this October, participants in all facets of the industry face more questions than answers.  Only once the final plan is released will breeders have the ability to make informed decisions about the future of their operations.  Submitted by the Ontario SBOA  

If I'm a 'player' in the standardbred breeding 'game', I'm up for a small fortune at high risk before there's any prospect of financial return.   That's been the 'equation' for years,but in these testing times for harness racing worldwide. HRTV asks does that have to change for the contraction of the sport to start easing?   Is harness racing at a point where relying on long term market strategy and forces isn't going to save it but tip it over the edge?   Is there a 'save' strategy and does it start with breeding costs and keeping close to home?   John Curtin and Alabar NZ's Graeme Henley in Part two of HRTV's 'Meeting the Market' spring feature.

Trainer Roger Welch’s super night came a few days earlier than the 25th edition of Illinois festive evening of racing last weekend at Balmoral Park. The Belvedere, IL native sent out four horses at Hoosier Park on the track’s “Night of Champions” September 11 program and they delivered $228,800 in purse earnings to the stable, thus far this year the most lucrative payday on a single card by any an Illinois based trainer. Welch’s Always About Katey and Justine Jet each won a $200,000 Indiana Sire Championship and his two other starters finished third. Racing at both his home track at Balmoral with a 3 and 1/2 hour drive to Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana, sometimes on the same night, has got to be awfully tough on Welch and his employees. “It’s not an easy thing to do and it takes a lot of traveling but when you can race for 3 or 4 times more money than you can in Illinois, it can be worth it,” said Welch, who celebrates his 50th birthday today. “Plus, the stake payments to Indiana sire events are a quarter of what they are in Illinois, so it can be a profitable business if you have the right horses.” In 2012 over 4,000 Standardbred horses were bred in Indiana, about 10 times more than in Illinois where the breeding industry has been hit hard through the past decade with the exodus of so many horsemen and their owners. For the last 20 years in Indiana the breeding industry has grown leaps and bounds with the influx of money derived from on-track Casino gambling. Meanwhile, it’s been mostly broken promises for the last 10-plus years to the horsemen and the racetracks in our state with still no slots at the racetracks. “In our industry in Illinois there haven’t been any new sires in years and that’s also the case for broodmares,” said Welch. “When you go to a yearling in our state it’s a cross of the same old broodmares and the same old sires. “Half the babies in the sale are the brothers and sisters of horses you’ve trained and the other half are brothers and sisters of horses you’ve raced against. It’s the same old bloodlines. There aren’t any new faces at our Illinois sales. It’s been stagnant that way for a long time.” While the Standardbred breeding industry is prospering big-time in Indiana and lucrative purses are offered to horsemen and owners, that hasn’t translated into booming mutuel handles. Far from it, the wagering on Balmoral programs is two to three times greater on any given night than at Hoosier Park. Indiana’s $1.88 million Night of Champions program handled only $470,783, compared to Balmoral’s $1.3 million Super Night card where $1,758,945 poured through its betting windows with the same number of races. In fact the same Wednesday when Hoosier Park held its “Night of Champions,” Balmoral handled $700,730, over $200,000 more, with four less races and a paltry $43,600 in total purses, that’s $1,836,400 less than horsemen raced for in Indiana that night. I asked Roger why he thought the mutuel handle in Indiana has never caught up to the caliber of horses racing nightly in the Hoosier state. “There do have better horses with full fields and their marketing department does a very good job,” he answered. “The track has plenty of giveaways and special events but what they don’t do is cater to the big gambler. They do a number of things that keep that person away. I’ll give you a half-dozen of them: “First, Hoosier has 10 horse fields but unlike Balmoral, it’s not 10 horses across. It’s nine behind the (starting) gate with a trailing horse and most gamblers don’t like trailers. “Second, they have a no whipping rule in Indiana. A driver can’t whip at all. You’re fined if you do. Gamblers like to see drivers get after their horse. Most hit the bike or the disk wheel, anyway “Next, unlike Illinois they don’t use a staggered starting gate there and the gambler knows that hurts the chances of horses with outside posts. “They don’t have a passing lane at Hoosier like they have on the Chicago circuit. Most tracks do and big players like it. They don’t want to see their horse stuck inside with no chance of getting loose race after race. “Also, Indiana starts its races at a bad time. They start at 5:30 pm. Most harness tracks start at 7 or 7:30 in the evening. Indiana begins its races going against some major thoroughbred tracks in California and it’s at a time that is too early for most harness racing fans. “Lastly, Hoosier is a 7/8’s oval while Balmoral is a full mile track. Every poll taking in the county says players prefer a big track and they prefer it by a wide margin. “If Hoosier Park’s Super Night card were raced at Balmoral Park on a Saturday night it would set a new record handle," added Roger.” It makes you ask yourself what kind of handle numbers Balmoral Park could put up on a regular basis if the slots-at-the-racetracks bill ever gets passed and signed in Illinois. It definitely would be huge, that’s for sure. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

Sydney’s Bankstown Paceway will kick start an Australian standardbred breeding resurgence by hosting the opening event of the Breeders Challenge racing series on Monday, May 19th, 2014, which will see record levels of prizemoney on offer for two year colts and geldings, and fillies. ‘We are delighted to dedicate our afternoon race meeting on this day as “Breeders Race Day” in salute to the grass roots of the harness racing industry – and extend a particular invitation to breeders and country racing participants to join us for our race day and theatre restaurant show,’ Bankstown Paceway director Andrew Ho revealed to Harnesslink. ‘Bankstown Paceway remains committed to combating falling foaling numbers which have reached a virtual crisis point across our nation – with last season’s foal births recording the lowest ever number since records began being kept,’ he added. Mr Ho, fellow Paceway director Megan Lavender, former Bankstown deputy mayor Jill Barber OAM, champion Bankstown horse owner Kevin Stanley and Panania resident and equine enthusiast Heather Gibbs met with harness breeders at their stud farms at Cowra, Young and Wagga Wagga last weekend (September 14th to 15th). Bankstown Paceway also expressed its support for other harness racing industry initiatives announced at the weekend, which include the introduction of one off breeders challenge incentive certificates which are available for the payment of service fees in 2013/14, expanded eligibility to win breeders challenge owners bonus certificates and nominators cash bonuses, and the revision of foal notification/breeders challenge nomination and sustaining fees so as to enable cost savings. Photo (right to left): Bankstown Paceway director Andrew Ho, former Bankstown deputy mayor Jill Barber OAM, Panania resident Heather Gibbs and Bankstown Paceway director Megan Lavender with the winner of 2008 Treuer Memorial, Robin Hood, who is currently standing for service at the Yirribee Pacing Stud farm at Wagga Wagga. Megan J. Lavender  

The declining state of the Illinois horse racing and breeding industry really hasn't even been a topic for debate.

Seth Rosenfeld, harness racing principal of Birnam Wood Farms, is a lifelong Yankee fan who is getting the same production from 4-year-old male pacer Sweet Lou as the Bronx Bombers got from Sweet Lou's namesake, Lou Piniella, back in the 1970s.

With the first few weeks of baby quailfiers underway it was pleasing to see that the richest stallion ever to go to stud Mister Big p,4,1:47.4 ($4,143,492) had four performers on the track with the two-year-old colt On The Big Swing becoming his first impressive qualifier (Friday the 30th of May) rating 1:59.1 with a last quarter in 28 seconds winning by 13 lengths at Saratoga.

The big guns haven't quite come out to play and as harness racing's profile takes a back seat to the infamous Kentucky Derby which will be run at at Churchill Downs this Saturday (May 4) our sport is at this time of year down on the popularity rankings. At least says so New York harness racing blogger Allan Schott.

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