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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.   http://bcove.me/cuy0e3k5

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.

An alternative investment: Horse racing doesn't have to be just about thoroughbred racing. There's a whole other side to the sport in standardbred (or harness) racing - a slower-paced version where the jockey sits in a two-wheeled cart attached to the horse.

The harness racing documentary film trailer Happy Easter from 'I Am, A Harness Racing Horse' deeply appreciates the wonderful support from those of you who posted the video on your harness racing websites. We want to thank you sincerely for doing this for us.

Sunshine Meadows (Florida) has been residence of many highly desirable 2012 yearlings, now during their education and conditioning. Like their pacing counterparts these trotting elite elicit expectations, anticipation and dreams as the harness racing season approaches. Some of those juveniles that caught our eye are profiled below. In a future story we'll select our favorite '10' and then measure the results at year end.

As the 'winter' training season moves toward completion I was recently reminded of why dreams, anticipation and excitement remain at top of mind for harness racing stakeholders and observers of the standardbred sport. The following excerpt from a Harness Horse 1948 story, following the Harrisburg Sale, rightfully references baseball's 'Hot Stove League' as of similar context:

At a time when harness racing breeding numbers are down world-wide, Blue Chip Farms in New York is bucking the trend thanks to some clever marketing.

Once a week, Whig reporter Adelma Gregory-Bunnell profiles Cecil County's workingmen and women. The assignment has allowed her to meet an alpaca farmer, a Chesapeake Bay crabber, a county tour bus driver, a highway road worker and many more. This week, she spent several early morning hours with a foaling manager at a Chesapeake City-area harness racing farm.

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