On Sunday, January 17, the Standardbred Owners Association of New York lauded Yonkers Raceway's top harness racing driver and trainer of 2015. Maine native Jason Bartlett, perennially at or near the top of the Yonkers leader board, notched his fifth driving title at the Hilltop Oval. Winning at a nearly 20% clip, Bartlett finished an astounding 89 wins over his nearest competitor in the deeply talented Yonkers driving colony. The 2009 and 2013 United States representative to the World Driving Championship, Bartlett recently achieved the career 6,000 win plateau. Only in his mid-30s, Jason has achieved the status of consummate veteran horseman by regularly plying his trade at one of the sport's most competitive venues. Though only in his late 20s, Quebec native Rene Allard has already distinguished himself as one of the country's top conditioners. Allard eked out his leading trainer title with a winning dash total just slightly above the second place finisher Ron Burke. He achieved this result by winning with roughly 26% of his starters. Recently, Allard pledged his support for his fellow Canadian horsemen in need by pledging a percentage of his national training earnings to those victimized by the Classy Lane Farm fire earlier this month. "The renaissance of New York harness racing has served to attract some of the continent's top young talent to our Westchester Oval," said SOA of NY President Joseph Faraldo. "Both Jason and Rene are on the type of superior career paths we witnessed during the Roosevelt-Yonkers heydays. Their achievements are to be commended, and it is with great pride that we called both of them Yonkers horsemen." Standardbred Owners Association of New York
YONKERS, NY, Monday, January 18, 2016 - Yonkers Raceway and the Standardbred Owners Association of New York have announced a joint contribution to assist those affected by the Classy Lane barn fire. The initial donation is $10,000-equally shared by the track and its horsemen-with an initiative underway to increase that amount."As with the rest of the harness industry, we were stunned and saddened by what happened," Raceway COO Bob Galterio said. "We have enjoyed a strong simulcast relationship with Ontario tracks for many years, and we're thinking of those horsemen and their loss at this very difficult time." "It's the worst thing that can happen to anyone in this business, so we're just trying to assist in any way we can," SOA of New York president Joe Faraldo said. In addition to the "first donation," Yonkers' owners, trainers and drivers have been encouraged to set aside a portion of their purse earnings to be earmarked to the Central Ontario Standardbred Association. The SOA has specifically requested that the half the money raised go toward caretaker assistance and for those trainers who had three or fewer horses. Distribution of the balance is at the sole discretion of COSA for those based upon financial need. "We've had any number of our members ask how they can help," Faraldo said. Frank Drucker
SOA of NY recognizes harness racing driver George Brennan's 9,000th win. In 1981, a youngster named George Brennan drove a horse named Myron's Bunny to a fifth place finish in an amateur contest at Monticello Raceway. His entire $2.50 in driver earnings was donated to charity. Little did anyone know that this inauspicious appearance in the sulky was the beginning of a storied career that would bring Brennan perennially towards the top of the leader board at our nation's top harness ovals. On November 9, the Sullivan County native notched his 9,000th career win at his home oval, Yonkers Raceway. The 2011 winner of both the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks at his old stomping grounds, George has achieved in excess of $150 million in purse earnings, ranking him by that standard among the top ten drivers of all time. At only 48 years old, there's no telling what stratospheric heights the "Minister of Speed" can reach. SOA President Joe Faraldo, who has known Brennan since his teenage years, said in awarding him a commemorative plaque on November 17th "From those days back at Monticello, George has aspired to be among the top drivers in our sport. There is no doubt that he has reached that plateau and is now setting his goal higher still.". Alex Dadoyan
On November 15th, the Standardbred Owners Association of New York honored Maine native Jason Bartlett for notching his 6,000th lifetime win on October 29 at Yonkers Raceway. With over $70,000,00 in career purse earnings and a quartet of Hilltop Oval driving titles under his belt, the 34 year old continues to dominate the 2015 Yonkers drivers standings, winning with roughly one out of every five mounts. The 2009 and 2013 United States representative to the World Driving Championships, Bartlett has been privileged to sit behind some of the classiest horses of the last decade, including the venerable Foiled Again, hard hitting Anndrovette and millionaire racemare Krispy Apple. The SOA is proud that Jason calls New York home and has chosen to compete as a member of North America's deepest drivers' colony. With youth and talent on his side, there is no limit to what Jason can accomplish as his career develops. From the SOA of NY
YONKERS, NY, Friday, October 9, 2015 -- Doing their part to make sure no harness racing handicapper has to go it alone, Yonkers Raceway and the Standardbred Owners Association of New York present some assistance toward taking down Saturday afternoon's International Trot program special $75,000 guaranteed pool Pick 5 wager. The guidance comes courtesy of the Hilltop Helper, a very useful (and gratis) handicapping sheet which is distributed on-track every Saturday as well as sent to the all Empire City Bets members and available at www.soaofny.com. The Helper's analysis accompanies this release and has compiled a $36 ticket for the 50-cent base wager. Again, some notes regarding Saturday's special gimmick wager... --it includes $25,000 of "seed money"; --it encompasses races 2 through 6 on the 13-race card (usual Pick 5 sequence is races 7 through 11). --first post is 2 PM, with the $1 million, 10-horse International scheduled as the fourth race (approximate post 3:10 PM). --though additional monies may be carried over should the Pick 5 not be hit Friday night, Saturday's total guaranteed pool remains at $75,000; --as always, the Pick 5 is not a "must-pay" wager, so if no one selects all five winners in the sequence, the entire pool (minus takeout) would move to the Monday, Oct. 12, program; --program pages for this wager are available at www.yonkersraceway.com. Again, please note the International is part of a matinee card, with first post at 2 PM and the race itself going at approximately 3:10 PM. Also note that a superfecta has been added to the International Trot wagering menu. Frank Drucker
The Standardbred Owners Association of New York will contribute $25,000 to the 50 cent Pick 5 pool on International Trot Day Saturday October 10 at Yonkers Raceway. With this added money, the Saturday Pick 5 will be starting with a $25,000 carryover. Based upon that seeding of the pool, Yonkers Raceway and the SOA in conjunction with the USTA's Strategic Wagering Program have guaranteed the 50 cent Pick 5 pool at $75,000. "We felt it was very important to do something very special on this great day of international racing that rewards our betting fans," said SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo. "There are some great events already planned for the participants in the International Trot, and some very nice promotions for those in attendance at Yonkers Raceway thanks to the generosity of Tim Rooney. The SOA Board of Directors felt that the bettors both on track and throughout the simulcast network should participate in a wager that will provide unprecedented real value to much appreciated fans." With such a large sum contributed to the pool in advance, it is likely that bettors will be wagering into a pool with a positive expectation - where more money will be paid out than is wagered, a true rarity in gambling. The Pick 5 is a 50 cent base wager and will cover races two through six on Saturday October 10 at Yonkers Raceway. The International Trot Day card is a special afternoon program at Yonkers Raceway with a 2pm first post. The second race and start of the $75,000 guaranteed Pick 5 with a $25,000 carryover will have an approximate post time of 2:20pm. The International Trot will be the middle leg of the sequence, race four and have an approximate post time of 3:10pm. The $1 million International Trot returns to Yonkers Raceway after a 20 year absence and features 2013 Horse of the Year and Yonkers Raceway track record holder Bee A Magician taking on many of Europe's top trotters. Trotters from the United States, Canada, France, Sweden, Norway and Italy will compete in this year's International Trot. Free past performances for the 50 cent Pick 5 starting in race two will be available courtesy Trackmaster at internationaltrot.com, yonkersraceway.com/pick5 and trackmaster.com/usta The Standardbred Owners Association of New York
The Standardbred Owners Association of New York has set December 5, 2015, for the election of Directors to the S.O.A. Board. The Board of Directors has nominated Irving Atherton, Michael Kimelman, Henry Gargiulo, Peter Venaglia for three year terms, expiring in 2018 in the Owners category; and John Brennan for three year term, expiring in 2018 in the Trainer/Driver category. Any S.O.A. member qualified pursuant to the By-Laws who wishes to become a candidate must file a petition, signed by at least twenty-five (25) current S.O.A. members endorsing his/her candidacy. The petition must specify the category (owner or driver/trainer) the candidate wishes to run in, as well as the term for which they are running, and must be submitted to the S.O.A. office by November 5, 2015. A brief biographical sketch must also be submitted, and will be forwarded to the membership along with the official ballot. Petition forms may be obtained in person at the S.O.A. office at 733 Yonkers Avenue, Yonkers, New York. A contested election will be conducted under the supervision of a qualified election administrator or CPA firm. Chris Wittstruck, Chairman of the Election Committee, has stated, "As always, we welcome the active services of members willing to dedicate their time and effort on behalf of horsemen racing at Yonkers Raceway, and we encourage any qualified member who wishes to become a Director to obtain and complete the required petition." For further information contact the SOA office at 914-968-3599.
Over the years the International Trots were raced on American soil and featured the most outstanding aged trotters in the world. Since the race was an American initiative, one would figure that the host country would have had the most winners in the event. Initially that was not the case but over the course of time the United States trotters emerged victorious 15 times, only three more than the amount of French victories. Sweden’s three International Trot wins is third best followed by Canada’s two. Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands trotters each had one win in the international event. And though they started multiple times in the International Trots, no German or Finnish horse has won the event. A Finnish horse “Seabiscuit” is currently being considered as a potential invitee for this year’s event. The inaugural International Trot was staged at Roosevelt Raceway in 1959 and that track was the site of the event until its demise in the early summer of 1988. The last International there was won by Sweden’s Callit when he turned down France’s Potin d’Amour in 1987. With the 1988 edition threatened by the closure of Roosevelt Raceway the powers to be were in a quandary. But Tim Rooney came to the rescue and quickly made plans to race the event at Yonkers Raceway. In doing so he hired Lew “Tootie” Barasch, Roosevelt’s premier PR man who was instrumental in all the previous International Trots at the Roosevelt facility. Tim even secured the United Nations as the venue for the post position draw. With Yonkers Raceway as the host, the world saw the United States’ Mack Lobell cruise to an easy victory over Canada’s AJ’s Speed in 1988. Six additional International Trots were then staged at Yonkers Raceway before economics forced the race to be discontinued in 1995. America’s last international champion was Giant Force in 1993. Giant Force was owned by the Spar J Stable (the Katz Family) and Ted Gewertz, still prominent veteran horse owners today. Giant Force a son of Meadow Road came into the August 14th, 1995 event with impressive credentials having won the Nat Ray at the Meadowlands the previous week. Driven by John “Sonny” Patterson, Jr. Giant Force, one of two American horses entered in the eight-horse field, used a burst of speed down the stretch to catch Meadow Prophet and just yards before the wire, he dashed past the Swedish champion. Giant Force, the 3-1 second choice, behind Sea Cove, the German horse who was the 9-5 favorite, trotted the mile and a quarter on the familiar oval in 2:27 flat, shattering the then world and stakes record set by the French horse Reve d'Udon in the 1990 International Trot and equaled by Sweden's Peace Corps the following year. "It was getting a little late so I thought it was about time to get started with him, and he really kicked in,” Patterson explained while being interviewed after the race. “Luckily, we got behind Meadow Prophet, and my horse really kept on coming down the stretch.” Unquestionably all involved with Giant Force’s victory were ecstatic but none more so than Ted Gewertz, a fan of Latin dance music who admitted he named Giant Force after a favorite album cover of the same name by bandleader Ray Barretto. “I was especially thrilled since not too many years previously I was just a player attending the races three or four times a week sitting in the grandstand and now there I was standing in the winner’s circle as a co-owner of the International Trot champion,” Gewertz said, and then added with a smile, “not bad for a kid from the Bronx!” Gewertz couldn’t say enough good things about Tim Rooney and the way he graciously extended both himself and Yonkers Raceway to all the participants, both before and after, that International trot. “After the race we all were invited to a hotel in Westchester for a post-race celebration and Tim had champagne on hand for all the other participants in the race. This after Tim personally opened his home to all at a pre-race dinner,” Gewertz added. The work behind the scenes to make the International Trot come to fruition can be mind-boggling when dealing with the likes of transportation, quarantine, licensing and all the details prior to the race. Joe Faraldo, president of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, was instrumental in the return of the International Trot and he and his organization are working arm-in-arm with Yonkers Raceway to expand simulcast wagering to Europe. Because of those simulcasting inroads in Europe, for the first time Europeans can not only watch the race when it is being contested, but also wager on the race. This year’s International is expected to have two US representatives, a Canadian representative Bee A Magician and up to seven European trotters. The mile and a quarter event will be Saturday October 10 with a 3:25pm post time. First race on the card is scheduled for 2pm. Yonkers International Trot 1993 - Giant Force with John Patterson Jr driving Standardbred Owners Association of New York
It all started in 1986; a year with just two driving wins. It got better a few years later, with 421 and 419 wins in 2004 and 2006 respectively. Now, Yonkers Raceway mainstay Larry "Bomber" Stalbaum's legendary work ethic and aggressive on-track style has garnered him the milestone achievement of 5,000 lifetime driving wins. Larry's path to accomplishment was a long and winding road, accentuated by his forceful desire to make good on both professional and personal fronts. While the 5,000 victory plateau is a career feat, his personal life is no less of an accomplishment. Larry and veteran conditioner Kimberly Asher are lovingly raising four focused and devoted children. Facebook postings show Larry with his brood, none older than teenagers, traveling behind him in jog carts during training miles with charges from the Asher Stable. A recent posting by the children themselves spoke volumes, referring to Larry as "the best Dad EVER." Larry has right to be very proud of how far he has come, exhibiting the traits of both a consummate horseman and a very special father. The SOA of New York is proud that Larry graces the Yonkers' oval as part one of North America's deepest driving colonies, and wishes him every continued success, both at the Hilltop Oval and on the northeast circuit. The SOA of New York
The framers of the inaugural International Trot in 1959 could not have been more pleased with the way it was received and that over 48,000 fans attended the race spoke volumes alone. However, all involved were even more delighted with the race's second edition at Roosevelt Raceway in 1960 playing to a crowd of over 54,261 which was, and still is, an all-time attendance record at a night time harness racing venue. First time champion Jamin dropped out of the 1960 race which gave tremendous confidence to Holland's Willem Geersen, the driver/trainer of the vastly improved Hairos II. A French-bred trotter, Hairos II, was purchased early in his career by Geersen for his Dutch connections, although the trotter at that time could not really be considered a serious threat amongst the elite group of potential competitors. But with his horsemanship and training knowledge Geersen developed Hairos II into a world class trotter who improved with every season. By 1960, at age nine, Hairos II was at the top of his game and was invited to race in America. Geersen, racing under the flag of the Netherlands, was very confident that Hairos II was going to win. So much so that the rotund driver had no qualms when he asked: "where is the press box" since the winning driver was scheduled to be brought to the press box after the race. The second edition of the International trot was raced at a distance of 1-1/4 miles, two furlongs shorter than the inaugural version. Since Geersen was a big man, weighing more than 260 pounds, Hairos II was not given favorable consideration from the wagering public. Despite being parked the whole way outside of Tornese, the Italian entrant who had finished second to Jamin in the inaugural International Trot, Hairos II won a relatively comfortable victory. Another Italian trotter Crevalcore, rallied to be second while the favored US Entrant, Silver Song was third. And after giving his backers an $11.90 payoff the confident Willem Geersen was escorted to the press box to meet the international media and expounded on the virtues of Hairos II. Now with a pair of International Trots already in the books many were questioning the supposed superiority of the American entrants which were yet to take a jaunt to the winner's circle. Hairos II was unable to defend his title in the 1961 race, after suffering a bowed tendon. At the 1961 International Trot, a French horse named Kracovie who had won that year's European circuit was missing a stablemate, either a mountain sheep or a goat that could not be brought into the United States due to quarantine regulations. Kracovie would not eat in the absence of its companion. As described by George Vecsey in the New York Times, "The entertainer Tina Louise just happened to have a goat in her Manhattan apartment. Wearing a sleek and revealing dress, she her agent and the goat paid a mission of mercy to Roosevelt." Despite the publicity, and the goat, Kracovie lost the race to Su Mac Lad, with Tie Silk third. Su Mac Lad, driven by the legendary Stanley Dancer finished in a time of 2:34.4 in driving rain and a sloppy track in front of 28,105 racing fans. The following year (1962) before a crowd of 53,279, Su Mac Lad got corralled by Canada's Tie Silk who had his revenge and Su Mac Lad had to settle for second money. But in 1963 "Summie" redeemed himself and turned back the Netherlands Martini II in a driving finish. That victory for the American entrant was followed in 1964 by yet another American horse, Speedy Scot, winning the International. Over the years there was a competition as to which country would send out the most winners in the International Trots. Although France won the inaugural and then had a streak of five years in a row (1981-1985) with French trotters prevailing on the strength of three wins by Ideal du Gazeau and two by Lutin d'Isigny, their total of 13 winners was eclipsed by the United States 15 wins. So it seems the rivalry will be renewed this year on October 10th after a twenty year hiatus. Sweden's three International Trot wins is third best followed by Canada's two victories. Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands trotters each had one win in the international event. After the closure of Roosevelt Raceway in 1988 the International Trot was raced at Yonkers Raceway until 1995 when economics forced the race to be discontinued. However, it is coming back in grand style later this year at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday October 10th and the invited entrants will race for a $1-million purse. Standardbred Owners Association of New York
The year was 1959. Interest in harness racing was at its zenith and those in the forefront felt that the sport should have international flavor. Since Europe only offered races for trotters it seemed natural that the powers behind such an international event would look across the pond to find the best trotters and bring them to race against the best that the United States and Canada had to offer. Back then the logical site of what was to be called the International Trot was Roosevelt Raceway, known in those days as the "Taj Mahal" of harness racing after a sparkling new $19 million racing facility was built and completed in 1957 with its Cloud Casino dining room. The onus of promoting the race lay upon Roosevelt Raceway's publicity and public relations department which got a tremendous boost from a harness racing friendly media including the New York Times. The inaugural racing distance was set at a 1-1/2 miles and the purse of $50,000 was huge in those days. Lew "Tootie" Barasch hunted down the horses worldwide and promoted the strong field that would participate. Representing the United States was Trader Horn; Philip Frost was Canada's entrant; Norway sent Jens Protector, while Germany was represented by Ivancourt; Italy had two entrants, Tornese and Icare IV and France sent their stalwart, Jamin. There was even an entrant from New Zealand by the name of Adept. Sure just the advent of bringing trotters across the vast Atlantic and Pacific was of utmost interest to the racing public but how was the attention of the general public captured to make the event a spectacular showcase for our sport? The French entrant, Jamin, was one of Europe's top trotters and when it was discovered that upon arriving in New York his food supply of artichokes was impounded by the Department of Agriculture, the stage became set. To stave off what could have turned out to result in a national disaster a solution had to be found. If not, Jamin would starve. He would lie at death's door. So humane societies, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, storekeepers and just private citizens, responded to the news stories flashed across the country via AP and UPI, and combed the land for the lifesaving delicacy. The search scoured along the eastern seaboard without turning up one single artichoke. But, in Monterey, California, a local grower Eugene Boggiato catapulted into action enlisting the aid of the California Artichoke and Vegetable Growers Association which assembled 120 pounds of them grown in Castroville, California and shipped them quickly to Idlewild (now JFK) Airport. Waiting for the touchdown of the mercy plane with its precious cargo was a horde of newsmen and photographers, a delegation of Raceway officials and, oh yes, a helicopter to hurry the artichokes to Jamin's stall. It all worked. It was great publicity and a fitting send off for the inaugural International Trot. The horse, energized after eating the artichokes, or so it was said, went on to win the race. Jamin held on to victory in front of a crowd of 48,000 spectators, with the Italian horse Tornese in second by half a length and betting favorite Trader Horn, the American entry, in third. Jamin toured the mile-and-a-half distance in 3:08.3. The monstrous crowd witnessed Jamin and driver Jean Riaud feed artichokes to Jamin in the winner's circle after the race. And the following year, on what was built by the Roosevelt Raceway the previous season, a crowd of 58,861 fans jammed into the state of the art racing facility to witness Holland's entrant Hairos win the second International Trot. After Roosevelt closed in 1988 the race moved to Yonkers Raceway and was last contested in 1995 when Sweden's His Majesty won the International Trot besting S.J.'s Photo and Panifesto, both American trotters. The timing seems right to bring back the International Trot especially with the inroads made by Yonkers Raceway and the Standardbred Owners Association of New York which has pioneered simulcasting to Europe. The upcoming $1 million purse for the International Trot is a big leap from the original purse and with or without an exceptional sidebar, this year's edition will be a welcome return of a great event at Yonkers Raceway on October 10.
Bob MacDougall, Chairman of the co-sponsored SOA of New York/Yonkers Raceway Scholarship Committee, has announced that Adam T. Michael is the winner of the 2015-2016 Scholarship Award in the amount of $5,000.00, Jessica De Witt is the winner of the second place $3,000.00 award and Charlene Cushing is the winner of the third place $2,000 award. Adam T. Michael is currently enrolled at Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey where he is working on achieving his Master's degree to further his music education, enabling him to continue teaching music to high-needs students in the inner-city of Passaic New Jersey. Michael has worked tirelessly to do this special work, while also balancing his time in the world of harness racing, as a proud Standardbred owner. Jessica De Witt is currently enrolled at the University of Connecticut, where she is studying to be a Children's Physician's Assistant. She has been an exceptional student in high school and college as a member of the Honor Society and Deans List. Her passion is horses. Jessica is truly happy about the opportunities she had by being born into the racing business and spending so much of her life in the barn or the tracks. She plans to use the work hard ethic she has learned being around the race industry and to apply that in her future endeavors. Jessica is the daughter of Jackie Rousse, Hudson Falls, New York. Charlene Cushing has been involved in the harness racing industry for over 25 years, which began as a teenager growing up in Monticello, New York. She was a Marshall for 15 years, and then attained her trainer/driver license in 1990. In 2007 her driving success earned her the MHHA Rising Star award. A few years ago, her husband became disabled and as a result of caring for him, she realized that she had a desire to help others in a different profession, so she enrolled in college classes to become a nurse. Charlene is currently enrolled at Central Maine College of Health Professionals, and looks forward to becoming an RN in May of 2016. Her husband is Michael Cushing of Farmington, Maine. "The scholarship records of these three winners, along with their participation in extracurricular activities were excellent," noted MacDougall. "They should serve as examples for all high school and college students to follow. The Committee wishes all of the applicants the very best as they continue on with their education". The annual SOA/Yonkers Raceway scholarships are awarded to SOA members, or members of their immediate families, or to covered individuals (backstretch personnel) or a member of their immediate families, for study beyond the high school level. The recipient is chosen on the basis of merit and financial need. The winners and their families will be acknowledged one night at Yonkers Raceway this summer. Alex Dadoyan
On the evening of January 24, The Standardbred Owners Association of New York, in conjunction with the management of Yonkers Raceway, proudly honored the track's leading harness racing driver, trainer and owner for calendar year 2014. Maine native Jason Bartlett came away with his fourth Yonkers' driving title, finding the winners circle 485 times in 2014 from 2,440 starts, thus winning with nearly 1 in 5 of his mounts. Trainer Ron Burke, who smashed the national earnings record, eclipsing even Thoroughbred trainer Todd Pletcher's earnings mark, also topped all Yonkers conditioners with over $4.6 million in purse earnings. Burke had a Hilltop Oval leading 144 winners in 2014, which was 26 more than the second-leading trainer. Additionally, Burke Racing Stable took home the leading owner title for 2014. Alex Dadoyan, Executive Director
Kenneth G. ("Captain Kenny") Dillman, 48, passed away on January 14, 2015 after a brief illness. A native of Hempstead, Long Island, Dillman was a professional caretaker at Roosevelt and Yonkers Raceways for his entire adult life, first for trainer John Brennan, and later for trainer Mike Sorrentino, Jr. Such was his level of competence and work ethic that he was named the Standardbred Owners Association's Caretaker of the Year in 1992. He was well liked by everyone he came in contact with, both on and off the track. In the 1990s, SOA President Joe Faraldo named a horse "Captain Kenny" in his honor. He was predeceased by his wife Petra in 2004. He is survived by his daughter, Amelia Faithe (Amy). A viewing will be held on Saturday, January 17 from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. and from 7:00 -10:00 p.m. (religious service at 8:30 p.m.) at Flower Funeral Home, 714 Yonkers Avenue, Yonkers, New York. Burial is private. From the SOA of New York
ALBANY, NY - The state of New York has the authority to order the random off-track testing of harness horses, the state's high court ruled Thursday. New York enacted the so-called out-of-competition testing rules in 2009 as another way to keep horse racing clean. Aimed at catching performance-enhancing drugs that might elude detection on race day, the regulations allow for the testing of harness horses up to six months ahead of a race. Harness horse owners and trainers and their trade group, the Standardbred Owners Association Inc., challenged the rules as exceeding the authority of the agency overseeing horse racing in the state. Those opponents also invoked the privacy rights of farm owners that stable horses miles from the tracks. Though the Albany County Supreme Court sided with the opponents in 2011, the Appellate Division reversed last year, finding the rules valid. This past August, amendments to the rules - partly in response to industry objections - mooted some of the opponents' arguments. New York's high court thus narrowed its review on appeal, looking only at "whether there are legal grounds for respondent's promulgation of any rule mandating out-of-competition race horse testing, and whether a testing regimen of the sort proposed would of necessity involve constitutionally unreasonable intrusions by respondent's agents. "To the former inquiry, we answer 'yes,' and to the latter, 'no,'" Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman wrote for the unanimous court Thursday. He noted that the overseers of pari-mutuel horse racing in the state "have for decades" worked to police the sport, including testing horse blood and urine on race day for banned substances. The 2009 rules adopted by the state Racing and Wagering Board, now the New York State Gaming Commission, came as "a new generation of doping agents" surfaced, particularly protein-based drugs used to enhance speed, Lippman said. In an affidavit, a longtime state veterinarian said the new drugs could turn a lame horse into a competitor but remain undetected when administered ahead of race day. In addition to threatening the integrity of racing, jockey and horse are also at risk, the vet said. Although the horse owners and trainers argued that new race-day tests are capable of detecting the latest drugs, the Court of Appeals dismissed such measures as costly and unreliable in finding banned substance given months earlier. "The existence of tests of such uncertain general utility does not stand in the way of concluding that the relevant requirement of a rational basis for respondent's determination to mandate out-of-competition testing was met," Lippman wrote. New York is not alone in turning to out-of-competition rules, according to the ruling. Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey and New Mexico have similar regulations. New York's out-of-competition rules apply to thoroughbred horses as well, but the owners did not challenge them in court. Lippman described the gaming commission's legislatively outlined authority over horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering as "well nigh plenary," dating back 40 years. The enabling legislation specified oversight of activities "both on and off-track," he said. "Respondent's power effectively to reach off-track activity, such as horse doping, bearing directly on the safety and integrity of pari-mutuel racing, seems to us unarguable," the opinion states. As for the horsemen's claim that off-track testing amounts to an unreasonable search of farms stabling horses, the court described this argument as "unavailing." When farm owners sign such commercial agreements, "they may reasonably be deemed to have relinquished a privacy-based objection to the very closely circumscribed property intrusion that will foreseeably occur incident to an appropriately focused out-of-competition testing regimen," Lippman wrote. The rules envision state veterinarians taking blood and urine samples from specifically identified harness horses. No residential or private space would be affected, and no attempt would be made to uncover criminal activity. "We do not think that such a visit, particularly when conducted in accordance within a duly constrained regulatory framework, will generally implicate a privacy interest triggering the requirement of a warrant or prior consent by the stable owner," according to the ruling. Judges Susan Read, Robert Smith, Eugene Pigott, Jenny Rivera and Sheila Abdus-Salaam concurred. The term of former judge Victoria Graffeo ended last month, leaving the court with an open seat. by Marlene Kennedy, reprinted with permission by http://www.courthousenews.com
At any harness oval, the integrity of the paddock is critical to the maintenance of the overall integrity of the racing product. While the judges possess authority over the paddock, the hands-on responsibility for control of human and equine access to, and activities within the facility is vested in the track's security force. On Sunday, December 7, The Standardbred Owners Association of New York (SOA) recognized the diligent service to our industry of Lieutenant James Pace of the Yonkers Raceway Police Force on the eve of his retirement. Mr. Pace, a native of Eckman, West Virginia, made New York his home decades ago. After a stint working in the transportation department for a major Manhattan retailer, he joined the Yonkers Raceway team. For the last 15 of his 18 year tenure, James was the horsemen's most visible Raceway employee. He was responsible for all ingress to the paddock, manning the security booth positioned at its entrance, as well as for the supervision of all paddock security officers. The task required more than simply the skills of a conscientious gatekeeper. Lieutenant Pace was always diligent in ensuring the safety of all horsemen in the paddock, as well as the security of their horses, on a nightly basis. While bearing the name Pace made James a natural for his position, it was his friendly and professional demeanor towards everyone he encountered that endeared him to the harness community. The members of the SOA were lucky to have benefited from his friendship for so long, and wish him all the best in retirement. From the SOA of New York