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The SOA of New York and Yonkers Raceway are pleased to announce a new handicapping feature which will provide useful information for both casual and experienced bettors.   The Empire Report is a new feature available at www.yonkersraceway.com/cer. On the web site page that normally has daily entries and results for Yonkers, there is an additional box below which will contain pre-race analysis and post-race reviews every racing night.   The Empire Report is compiled by a team of handicappers that have followed Yonkers Raceway and harness racing overall for decades.   The goal is that the daily analysis will be used as a guide that can help players become familiar with horses and how races might be contested, rather than just telling someone which horse to bet. The rationale being you give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, you teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.   It will help point out vulnerable favorites and live longshots which should prove to be very valuable for anybody looking to map out exotic wagers and multi-race bets   The in-depth post-race reviews are not currently offered by any other tracks. They will be helpful to handicappers - and owners - in providing much more information about how each race was contested and subtleties in each horse's performance that can't be gleaned just from looking at a results chart. Combining the pre-race analysis with the post-race commentaries will hopefully allow players to continually sharpen their skills, and gradually do better and better at the windows.   Yonkers Raceway's five nights a week racing schedule continues with live racing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:10pm. Beginning on November 9, six daytime Sunday cards will be offered at Yonkers Raceway to replace the Tuesday night cards as a simulcasting experiment that will send North American harness racing into Europe on a weekly basis for the first time.   From the SOA/NY

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, August 13, 2014-Yonkers Raceway is the backdrop for the latest harness racing installment of The French Connection. The Raceway has received approval from the New York State Gaming Commission to conduct a half-dozen Sunday matinee cards-from November 9th through December 14th, inclusive-as part of a new wagering relationship with the French parimutuel agencies. The races are to be televised and wagered on through much of Europe. First post of these trotting-dominated programs is scheduled for 11 AM ET, with more information regarding field sizes and race distances as it becomes available. Please be advised that these six Sunday cards replace five Tuesday evenings (Nov. 11th thru Dec. 9th, inclusive) on the Raceway's live schedule. "We think this endeavor could lead to more international simulcasting in the future, which would be extremely beneficial TO racing throughout New York State," Raceway Chief Operating Officer Bob Galterio said. "We appreciate the cooperation of the Gaming Commission, the Standardbred Owners Association of New York and our racing friends across the Atlantic. "It's a new experiment for us, and we're anxious to see how it works out." Until that schedule change, the Raceway's five-night-per-week live docket continues, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available daily. Frank Drucker

Yonkers Raceway already has the highest purse structure in North America. What the half-mile track has lacked is the ability to get bettors to play along. Despite its lofty perch for horsemen, Yonkers has been unable to get on track, with money through the windows virtually stagnant. This is not a news flash for the Standardbred Owners Association of New York. Over the last year they have made a concerted effort to bring about change, not necessarily by playing to the same audience, but by looking overseas. Earlier this year they announced an agreement with PMU (the wagering arm in France) to simulcast races during the fall. The initial conversation saw Yonkers ask and receive permission to race on Tuesday afternoons, but the French team expressed a desire to give Yonkers a window if they agreed to race on Sunday afternoons instead. The arrangement was forged and for five Sundays during the heart of the NFL season, the track will open at 11:00 a.m. for a live racing program that will commence with five consecutive trotting races of varied field sizes and distances. “I don’t think there’s that big a difference racing Tuesdays or Sundays,” said Alex Dadoyan, Executive Director of the SOA of New York. To view the rest of this story click here. 

There are few, if any, issues facing the harness racing industry where all segments are in complete agreement. Just mention of words like whipping, takeout or Lasix® evokes countless vocal opinions across a broad spectrum. If ever there was a matter on which the entire horseracing community could stand uniformly positioned, it is the obstinate insistence by the Internal Revenue Service to treat horseplayers differently from all other types of investors with regard to withholding of portions of their winning wagers. On June 6, the United States Trotting Association joined a chorus of prominent industry groups, publications and federal officeholders in calling on the I.R.S. to stop harming racing by failing to either understand or appreciate the unique nature of 21st century pari-mutuel betting. This lack of knowledge or concern results in the unfair calculation of the amount of tax withholdings assessed against handicappers who successfully prevail when playing super-exotics. Fortunately, much has recently been written about the withholding problem in industry publications. This article will identify the problem; summarize how the industry is attempting to formulate a solution, and how you can play a part in getting the solution implemented. In our grandfathers’ day, tracks offered only win, place and show wagering, later adding a revolutionary bet called the daily double. In essence, it was difficult to make an outrageous score on a $2 wager. Very few horses go off at 99-1 or better, and only an infinitesimal amount of them actually win.   Only the rare daily double pays in the hundreds of dollars. Today, the superfecta, pick-six and other combination and parlay offerings constitute the lion’s share of wagers made on horse races. These dominant betting opportunities often produce payoffs in the tens of thousands of dollars for a single $2 wager. Of course, winning the big one is usually not simply an exercise of pure luck; professional players often invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars in an attempt to cover as many potential outcomes as possible. By anticipating the probable value of a payoff, the bettor assesses the risk and intensively wagers accordingly. These plays constitute what is aptly called gambling, but arguably the gamble is little different than, for example, those involved in oil wildcatting or opening of a high-end restaurant. Of course, it’s the province and duty of the I.R.S. to assess and collect taxes. If a bettor hits a score over $600 and the odds are 299-1 or more, the track is required to report the winnings on I.R.S. Form W-2G. In applying this law, consider a bettor who cashes a $50 win ticket on a horse at 50-1 odds and receives $2,550. Since the odds were less than 299-1, there is no reporting requirement. Conversely, if a neophyte bets a single, straight $2 superfecta on his 4-digit street number and hits for $1,000, the lucky first-timer would go home with lots of cash, as well as a copy of Form W-2G which the track uses to report his gain to the I.R.S.       While the reporting rules might appear to produce conflicting results, the true concern involves the area of mandatory withholding on certain winning wagers.  Although the I.R.S. recognizes that legitimate expenses are to be subtracted from gross revenue in calculating taxable profit for a business venture, the problem is that the assessment of tax withholding from supposed “profit” in the racing realm is skewed, to say the least. The applicable section of the Internal Revenue Code requires racetracks to withhold 25% of purported profit when the bettor wins more than $5,000 from a wagering transaction in a pari-mutuel pool with respect to horse races, provided the amount of such proceeds is at least 300 times as large as the amount wagered. From the statutory language, it plainly appears that Congress intended that the total amount wagered into a particular pool be treated as the handicapper’s investment capital. Like in any other business, that capital investment should serve to reduce by equal amount his gross winnings when calculating his profit for withholding purposes. Unfortunately, congressional intent in the tax realm is solely determined by the I.R.S. In a 1976 private letter ruling, a vehicle by which the I.R.S. gives its guidance to taxpayers under a set of submitted facts, the Service determined that only the investment on the actual winning combination counts as the “wagering transaction in a pari-mutuel pool” for tax reporting and withholding purposes. How does the present application of this archaic Service interpretation of the Code create the problem? Assume a gambler invests $800 to cover 400 possible pick-six combinations at $2 a pop. He hits the parlay, and it pays $5,600. While the payout is over $5,000, the fortunate bettor really only received odds of about 6-1 in relation to his investment: or did he? The I.R.S. takes the position that only the wager on the winning combination, and not the other 399, constitutes the specific “wagering transaction” referenced in the Code. In other words, rather than credit his entire $800 outlay in the pick-six pool as congress unmistakably envisioned, the Service credits only the $2 spent on the cashed winning combo. Thus, while only receiving 6-1 on his total investment, his I.R.S. imputed odds are about 2,800-1. This triggers not just Form W-2G reporting, but also a 25% tax withholding on winnings. The racehorse gambler actually walks away from the mutual window with $1,399.50 less of the payoff. The overwhelming majority of horseplayers don’t invest thousands of dollars into super-exotic pools on a regular basis. Should we cry for the successful, high-end handicapping aficionados? Maybe not; but the concern is that some of these folks might place their investment capital elsewhere.  Undoubtedly, some already have. This simply drains the already well-parched pari-mutuel pools. Moreover, by taking 25% of earnings out of the hands of the career players who are still around, the industry loses churn; meaning that instead of being able to wager this money again and again, the sum literally sits on account with the Service unless and until the big gambler can recoup it months later via her federal tax return filing. This decrease in handle, especially in racing states with no alternative gaming, is devastating. Racetrack managements, horsemen, breeders and the state all miss out on countless sums of takeout dollars. Luckily, it doesn’t take an act of congress to reverse this situation. While previous attempts at congressional clarification have failed, the problem isn’t really with the language of the law, but rather with how the I.R.S. inexcusably construes it against horseplayers. Consider a medium-sized retailer who embarks on a $1,000,000 marketing campaign. The endeavor actually yields a 6% increase in gross sales. Would the I.R.S. limit the deduction for the marketing expenditure to $60,000? Hardly. Yet, the I.R.S. withholds pari-mutuel earnings as if only that tiny fraction of the total investment made by the horseplayer allocated to the single winning combo was his cost of doing business. You can help change this surreal circumstance by adding your name to an online petition already supported by thousands of individuals and groups. The petition simply mirrors what at least 17 members of congress have already demanded: That the I.R.S change course and consider the total amount invested by a taxpayer in a pari-mutuel pool when determining whether tax withholding on winnings is warranted. A link to the Petition is here:   Apparently, the Washington-based tax lawyers working for the Service don’t frequent Rosecroft Raceway or Laurel Park. If they did, they’d understand the business of pari-mutuel wagering from the big bettors’ prospective. We can only hope that they amend their tax guidance in this matter soon, while there are still some whales around that can benefit. Chris E. Wittstruck 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. Chris E. Wittstruck Courtesy of the USTA web newsroom

Bob MacDougall, Chairman of the co-sponsored SOA of New York/Yonkers Raceway Scholarship Committee, has announced that Alleysha Reynolds is the winner of the 2014-2015 Scholarship Award in the amount of $5,000 and Sarah Vallee is the winner of the $3,000 award.   Alleysha Reynolds is currently enrolled at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where she is majoring in Equine Science and Management. Alleysha was introduced to the harness racing industry at a young age, She has been working as a groom in New York and Pennsylvania where her special bond, talent and love of horses made her decision to study to become an Equine Veterinarian an easy one. Alleysha is the daughter of Luann Reynolds of Duryea, Pennsylvania.   Sarah Vallee has been accepted to enter the University of Delaware, in Newark, Delaware this fall, where she will study to become a Veterinarian. She has been an exceptional student in high school, on the High Honor Roll and Principles Honor Roll for all four years at Jackson Memorial High School. She has been influenced by her parents, Anita and Shaun Vallee, of Jackson, New Jersey, and is presently an active groom at Yonkers Raceway.   "The scholarship records of both 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.   by Alex Dadoyan, for SOA/NY    

Ever wonder what makes a gallon a gallon? A yard a yard? A bushel a bushel?  Units of measure in customary commercial use in the United States are established by government. In addition to several other enumerated powers, the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to “… fix the standard of weights and measures” (Article 1, Section 8). It’s government that decides how old you have to be to buy cigarettes or liquor, cast a vote or be drafted. Like it or not, government prescribes what a safe speed limit is for streets, roads and highways. Conversely, government cannot decide the size of the moon. The moon is a sphere with a defined circumference.  While government decides the standard by which a mile is measured, the number of miles that make up the circumference of the moon is defined by the moon itself. Government reports, but it’s the moon that decides. Can government determine whether the species of horses is inherently vicious? As the state of being vicious is descriptive of a disposition that either exists or doesn’t, it would appear at first blush that government has no say in the matter. Unlike the size of the moon, however, the determination can’t be arrived at with a tape measure. A species’ distinctive traits can only be ascertained via subjective human observation. Reasonable people will necessarily come to different conclusions; and that makes the perception adopted by government determinative on the subject for all practical purposes. Last October, we reported on a case progressing through the appellate courts in Connecticut that dealt with this very issue. In Vendrella v Astriab, an intermediate appeals court concluded that whether a horse bite is foreseeable given the nature of all horses was a question of fact to be decided on a case by case basis. The matter was further appealed, and on April 1 Connecticut’s highest court, the Supreme Court, issued its decision. The Supreme Court affirmed the intermediate appeals court’s ruling, agreeing that whether horses have vicious propensities and are, as a class, likely to bite or otherwise cause injury, is to be determined on a case by case basis. The court further concluded that the owner or keeper of a domestic animal has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent injuries that are foreseeable if the animal belongs to a class of animals that is naturally inclined to cause such injuries, regardless of whether the animal had previously caused an injury and, accordingly, the owner may be held liable for negligence if he or she fails to take such reasonable steps and an injury results. The high court decision gives absolutely no comfort to an industry that stables over 51,000 horses statewide. As we stated in October, such a ruling would have devastating ramifications for the horse industry in Connecticut, and potentially nationwide. While the court did not determine as a matter of law that all horses are vicious, it left it up to juries to decide the issue based upon specific facts presented in each case. In any case, a jury could determine that an owner was negligent in failing to secure a horse that had never bitten before, and gave no indication that it was inclined to bite, simply by finding that all horses have the propensity to bite. Each case would devolve into a battle of experts on the issue of whether horses are inherently prone to cause injury. If a jury determined that horses have such vicious propensities, the only real issue left would be how much the injured party should recover. In short, the ruling would render virtually all equine operations of any sort uninsurable, due to prohibitively expense premiums. That’s ironic, considering that the state’s capital, Hartford, Connecticut, is also nicknamed the “Insurance Capital of the World,” given the proliferation of headquarters for several major nationwide insurance companies in the city. The irony was not lost on Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. Immediately after the Supreme Court ruling, Malloy renewed a push to clarify once and for all the inherent nature of equines, not for scientific purposes, but as to the issue of prospective liability for owners, stable operators, riding academies and others. The result of the Governor’s thrust was the unanimous passage of a bill in both legislative houses that essentially rendered moot and unenforceable the Supreme Court’s pronouncement regarding the nature of horses. The new Connecticut law does three things. First, the law states that in any civil action for personal injury caused by a horse, pony, donkey or mule, these animals shall not be found to belong to a species that possesses a naturally mischievous or vicious propensity. Second, the law establishes a presumption that such horse, pony, donkey or mule does not have a propensity to engage in behavior that would foreseeably cause injury to humans. The presumption can only be rebutted by evidence that the specific animal, not its overall class, put the owner or keeper on notice that it had a propensity to engage in the behavior that allegedly caused the injury. An example would be proof that the horse in question had previously bitten someone; not that all horses allegedly have a tendency to bite. Third, the law prohibits causes of action in lawsuits based upon a strict liability standard. In other words, in each case an injured party can only recover if he or she can prove negligence on the part of an owner or keeper. Again, all horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys are presumed to be other than vicious or mischievous. The injured party can’t recover solely on the basis that injury was caused; there has to be a showing that the owner or keeper knew or should have known that the animal could cause injury, and then failed to adequately prevent against the injury. Do all horses have vicious propensities? While zoologists, equine behaviorists, research veterinarians, and other scientists study the inquiry at length, a group of political officeholders have already conclusively answered the question in the negative. That’s good enough for our industry, and the Connecticut legislature’s action should rightly serve as a guidepost for all states to follow. Chris E. Wittstruck 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.

Recently concluded stakes’ series at Yonkers Raceway underscore the consequences created by the coupling of horses for wagering purposes. The Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Pace consolations each contained an entry. That reduced those races’ betting interests to 7 and, with a scratch, further reduced the Matchmaker consolation to 6 interests. Finals of these series each contained two coupled entries, thus reducing the program choices for these two prestigious races down to 6. What’s the point of coupled entries? Racing commissions require that horses with certain types of common connections race as a single betting interest to preserve integrity, or at least its appearance, for the wagering public. If horses A and B from a trainer’s barn are permitted to race as separate betting interests, the thought is that the two drivers might work together to disadvantage other horses in the race. For example, the weaker half of the uncoupled entry might be used as a sacrificial lamb, parking out the horse with the best chance of beating the stronger half of the entry. Another scenario is that the trainer might nefariously give instructions to the drivers that are calculated to ensure that the horse with longer odds outperforms his more favored stablemate. The problems created by coupled entries are obvious. The fewer betting interests offered in a race, the fewer opportunities for the bettor to find value. This is even more pronounced when a standout is in the race. With few wagering alternatives, the standout goes off at even shorter odds than expected. The contest presents an occasion for the bettors to abandon the mutuel window in favor of the concession stand, while awaiting full, competitive fields later on the card. For those bettors willing to take the plunge, fewer betting interests equate with less exotic waging combinations to cover. Either way, the result is the significant loss of wagering handle. Not only does that financially injure the tracks, the state, the horsemen and the breeders; as these entries occur primarily in major stakes races, it also deters from the excitement surrounding what are the marquee events at a particular oval. It also negatively impacts the sport in another way. The insinuation that horsemen would seize upon an opportunity presented by uncoupled entries to cheat is a sad condemnation of them, as well as the industry as a whole. Stated plainly, the signal sent is that horsemen shouldn’t be trusted to race horses honestly. The unavoidable hint is that the horseplayers might want to skip much more than just a race or two, and put their wagering money into scratch-off tickets, multi-state lotteries or some other endeavor purportedly more on the “up and up.”   The coupling rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. While Pennsylvania harness rules require coupled entries for horses trained or owned by the same individual or entity, a trainer can request uncoupling in non-overnight events despite common ownership   In Delaware, the Association can request uncoupling of horses with a common owner or trainer in non-overnights. Interestingly, the New York rules are markedly different for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. Thoroughbred rules require coupling of entries with common owners in all races, except when the race has a purse of $1 million dollars or more. Horses with common trainers in overnight races may be carded as uncoupled, so long as there is no common ownership.  Conversely, the harness rule expressly prohibits coupled entries in all overnight events (except with commission approval), permitting only one horse per race to be entered by a trainer or owner. The rule mandates coupled entries for horses with common owners and trainers in non-overnights. In this regard, a horse to be driven by a full-time employee of another driver in a race is considered to be racing from the same stable. Despite a common trainer or owner, horses from the same barn will necessarily be steered by different drivers.  Today, professional catch drivers are the norm, not the exception, and this is especially true at the stakes level. Paper appearances aside, it would appear objectively implausible that a stakes-class catch driver would risk a severe, potentially career-threatening penalty by following “bad orders” from a trainer with uncoupled entries in a race. Ironically, if a driver were to heed such orders, he is more likely to do so when his mount is coupled with a stablemate. In such a circumstance, the #1’s so-called “defensive drive” in assisting the #1A would be innocuous; it cannot be said he harmed the betting public by “sacrificing” his charge for that of the other. Moreover, ensuring integrity in stakes events through coupling is to a large extent counterproductive, as the bettors in general shy away from races with fewer betting interests anyway. Not in spite of the punters, but in furtherance of their interests and that of the entire industry, it’s time to consider the uncoupling of entries in stakes, early and late closers and other non-overnight events in all jurisdictions as a rule. While it can be reasonably argued that every publicized integrity violation presents a real danger to pari-mutuel handle, there is no question that pari-mutuel handle suffers each and every time betting interests are reduced through coupling of entries. Harness racing can ill afford to lose any more handle, or the chance to pick up a few bucks through uncoupling for that matter.    Chris E. Wittstruck 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. [1] PA. Harness Rules § 183.198 (a) [2] Delaware Harness Rule 7.1.4  [3] N.Y. Gaming Commission Rule 4025.10 [4] N.Y. Gaming Commission Rule 4111.15

Woody Allen’s Bananas is one of the all time classic comedy flicks. To impress a love interest, the Allen character travels to the mythical banana republic of San Marcos to help a band of revolutionaries oust its ruthless ruler. When the revolutionaries prove successful, their leader declares himself El Presidente, and immediately pronounces that the nation’s new official language is Swedish; that underwear will be worn on the outside at all times and that all children under sixteen… are now sixteen! Real laws can sometimes appear to be as ridiculous as fictional ones. Laws often sound absurd because the facts and circumstances that justified their promulgation have drastically changed. Consider that until relatively recently it was still illegal in New York City to shoot pigeons off the decades-ago extinct Fifth Avenue trolley. Occasionally, deep-rooted traditions are clung to long after everyone else has discarded them. So, while most American jurisdictions have abandoned laws preventing retail businesses from operating on the Christian Sabbath, Bergen County, New Jersey still enforces so-called “Sunday blue laws.” Then again, some real laws appear ridiculous simply because they are ridiculous. Is there a check or limit on what laws a legislature may create? The only true test is whether the law squares with the Constitution. Unless completely devoid of all logic, an otherwise constitutional law will stand. In a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a completely arcane law concerning the election of judges, Justice John Paul Stevens took note that his late colleague, Justice Thurgood Marshal, was quite fond of saying, “The Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from enacting stupid laws.” While legislatures have wide latitude in their power to make laws, administrative agencies are much more restricted in their ability to pass rules and regulations. The distinction is important, because in most jurisdictions, harness racing is heavily controlled via administrative rulemaking. As a creation of the legislature, an administrative agency may only act in the limited manner that the statute which enables it permits. In most jurisdictions, when an administrative regulation is challenged by someone affected, it will be upheld only if it has a rational basis and is not unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious. In other words, the rule must not just be constitutional; it must also make sense. The additional strictures placed upon administrative rulemaking are many. In New York, for example, the State Administrative Procedure Act mandates that an agency consider in its rulemaking the utilization of approaches which are designed to avoid undue deleterious economic effects or overly burdensome impacts of the rule upon persons. Further, New York law requires agencies to prepare a ‘needs and benefits statement’ for each proposed regulation setting forth the purpose of, necessity for, and benefits derived from the rule. Moreover, the agency must provide a citation for and summary, not to exceed five hundred words, of each scientific or statistical study, report or analysis that served as the basis for the rule, an explanation of how it was used to determine the necessity for and benefits derived from the rule, and the name of the person that produced each study, report or analysis. Additionally, New York specifically requires administrative agencies to give due consideration to the impact a proposed regulation may have on small businesses and rural areas, and to provide  flexibility, even to the extent of exempting some from coverage by the rule, or by any part thereof, so long as the public health, safety or general welfare is not endangered. Further, unlike legislated laws, rules and regulations proposed by agencies must undergo a public comment period before their enactment is considered final. In this vein, the agency may choose to hold a public hearing to better understand how proposed rules impact communities, industries or segments thereof. Against this backdrop, the New York State Gaming Commission recently considered a series of proposals put forth by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium in the RMTC’s quest to establish uniform medication rules in all racing jurisdictions. While the official position of the United States Trotting Association is that uniformity across the states is desired, the USTA requires that the standardized rules must comport with the specific needs of harness racing. In this regard, the RMTC proposals have in many ways proven to be centered solely on the wants and desires of Thoroughbred racing, as well as the customary training and racing attributes of their horses, without the least bit of concern for the Standardbred industry. The RMTC pitch regarding the administration of Clenbuterol is but one glaring example. Clenbuterol is a therapeutic medication used as a bronchodilator. While some question its effectiveness, others swear by its curative and restorative qualities, and urge that there are no legitimate alternatives to treat common respiratory ailments in horses. At least one scientist has put forth a study that long term use of the drug could be associated with heart failure. Yet, neither the purported safety nor efficacy of the medication was the driving force behind the RMTC’s submission to the various racing commissions. The RMTC’s position is that prolonged use of Clenbuterol has a ‘repartitioning’ effect in horses. This means that in certain quantities over certain periods the substance may turn fat into muscle, and thus has a mechanism ostensibly similar to anabolic steroids. Does it, and if it does, how long of an administration is required to cause such an effect? In truth, there are no good peer reviewed scientific studies on the matter. Nonetheless, RMTC recommends that the Clenbuterol withdrawal time for all racehorses be established at 14 days. This means that any administration of the medication given at any time within the 14 day period before a race would be a violation. Such administration would be determined by a scientifically-established threshold. If a race day specimen contained more than the threshold, the assumption would be that the medication was given within the prohibited timeframe. In New York, the previous Clenbuterol withdrawal time for both breeds was 96 hours. The Thoroughbred rule was recently changed to 14 days, and late last year the Gaming Commission proposed a similar 14-day withdrawal time for Standardbreds. Are Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds the same animal? Hardly. While classified as the same species, Standardbreds have been a closed breed since the late 1800s, with Thoroughbreds being a pure breed for at least a century before. It doesn’t require a science degree to perceive that the breeds are distinguishable in both the conformation and temperament of its members. Some argue that despite the foregoing, there remains a physiological identity to all horses. On this point, consider that there is an open question as to whether the supposed increase in muscle mass some attribute to the medication occurs with equal effect, or at all, in Standardbreds. One consideration is that Thoroughbreds have a high percentage of fast-twitch skeletal muscle fibers, while Standardbreds fall into an intermediate range. Such fact would infer that the purported repartitioning effect cannot be lumped upon the entire species. Again, studies are sparse, and legitimate studies involving racehorses are non-existent.   Even more relevant, while members of both breeds might share an equal 64 chromosomes, the marked differences in both the husbandry and placement in service of the distinct breed members are undeniable. Gaits, surfaces, feeding and training routines are all patently dissimilar. The glaring difference, however, is in the frequency with which the breed members compete. The average Thoroughbred makes fewer than 7 starts per year. Whether due to physical necessity or the lack of opportunity offered by the condition book, most runners get several weeks off between races. Standardbreds, on the other hand, race weekly during most of the year. This is especially true when a horse is competing in a high-end elimination series. Thus, the irony is that while a 14-day rule would still present ample opportunity for “loading-up” Thoroughbreds with Clenbuterol for non-therapeutic purposes, the rule for once-a-week harness horses would simply prevent use of the medication as a legitimate treatment option. What is more, the present 96 hour rule prevents an ulterior illicit use of the medication in weekly-competing Standardbreds, since the administration of the substance would be limited to scant days between races. In sum, a 14 day withdrawal rule for Standardbreds would not simply be nonsensical, but also would prove to completely damaging to the health, safety and welfare of horses that industry regulators are charged to protect. It is for all the foregoing reasons that the USTA, in conjunction with New York’s harness horsemen and assisted by equine scientists and practicing veterinarians, made its case against the 14-day rule in a January public hearing before the N.Y. Gaming Commission.   Subsequent to the hearing, the Commission proposed a modified rule. The modification retains a 96 hour pre-race withdrawal period for harness racing, with the exception that if the horse has not raced for a period in excess of 30 days and needs to qualify, that the 14 day withdrawal rule will be in effect for its first race back. In this regard, the Commission has acted in a way consistent with its mandate to do what is both rational and sensible while protecting the health and safety of the horses and the welfare of the horsemen and wagering public. The breed-specific rule ensures that competing harness horses will not denied a necessary therapeutic medication, and also makes certain that one on an extended layoff will not be administered the substance in a way that might cause performance enhancement. Perhaps RMTC will take the hint. Authoritarian regulations that provide strict and inflexible blanket commands which intentionally ignore conspicuous nuances so as to affect one segment of an industry over others might be expected from the ruling junta in San Marcos. Such edicts shouldn’t be generated by a group that is purported to be based in science and objectivity. Finally, those that believe they can steamroll ill-advised rules by threatening the resistant with government intervention and oversight should take pause; New York government just joined the resistance. Chris E. Wittstruck 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.

Six weeks ago USTA Director Joe Faraldo was leading a contingent to Vincennes Racetrack in Paris, France with the specific intention of sealing an international simulcast agreement between the U.S. Trotting Association and the French Trotting Organization (Le Trot). He was joined on that endeavor by Yonkers Raceway president, Tim Rooney, Alex Dadoyan, the executive director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York , Mike Kimelman, president of Blue Chip Farms as well as a interested group of SOA of NY members and associates. Last night (March6) at Yonkers Raceway Faraldo won the second division of a trotting series sponsored by the North American Amateur Drivers Association (NAADA). He shared the limelight with David Glasser, a business professional who recently re-joined the amateur driving movement. For both gentlemen drivers their victories were their first of the 2014 season. Faraldo's win came behind his own Rodeo Red in a time of 2:02.4 while Glasser won with JS Miss Linda, a trotting mare that he owns in a 2:03.1 clocking,. In his contest, Faraldo sat back off the early pace and then rallied in the deep stretch to a length victory after trailing the Carbon Footprint (Dave Yarock ) by three lengths as the field headed for home. Yarock's trotter held on for the place money and Tony Verruso took home the show dough with Sam's Honeybee. "When my horse is right he's a nice trotter and he was right tonight," Faraldo said after his victory and then added with tongue in cheek, "Even a blind squirrel gets an acorn every now and then." For Faraldo the victory was the 138th of his amateur driving career. En route to his victory Glasser used a two hole journey with JS Miss linda to overtake the pace-setter Get Packin (Bob Hechkoff) as the field rounded the final turn and then they went on to score a two length triumph in 2:03.1. Get Packin was second best and Hardrockinjessica finished third for Monica Banca. Glasser,47, has been in and around in harness racing his entire life since his parents Arthur and Evelyn Glasser owned and raced standardbreds for decades. It was his 20th career driving victory. Glasser began his amateur career in 1980 and except for a few seasons he never drove more than six races a year. Since 1991 he has driven just 28 times and his last victory came during the 1991campaign. and it was said that he truly celebrated his latest triumph. "I did some celebrating last night since this win was a longtime coming," Glasser said. By John Manzi for the North American Amateur Driving Association  

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.

YONKERS, NY, Friday, February 14, 2014--Ron Pierce, as quoted by Teddy Roosevelt..."Speak softly and carry a big stick." The 57-year-old Pierce has maintained that mantra throughout a Hall of Fame career, which, through the beginning of this week, included more than 9,000 wins and $204 million in purses. However, for all of his success, he's never had anything more than a Yonkers Raceway's visitor's pass. Until recently. After a trial run a couple of weekends ago--which resulted in eight wins--Pierce decided he enjoyed it so much, he'd fire up the EZ-Pass and become a Friday-Saturday regular. With four more victories this past Saturday night, Pierce is winning at better than a 31 percent clip (14-for-44), and started the week already ranked eighth in the driver standings. "We're extremely happy to have Ron driving here Fridays and Saturdays," Raceway president Tim Rooney said. "While others may think he's on the tail end of his career, driving here can do nothing but keep it ascending." "Ron Pierce has jettisoned himself into Yonkers Raceway's deep driving colony," Standardbred Owners Association of New York president Joe Faraldo said. "We wish him well and know that his presence only adds to the high quality of talented drivers sitting behind the best horses currently racing in North America." Pierce's previously-mentioned "visitor's pass" has included a pair of Yonkers Trot wins, two in the Messenger Stakes and another deuce in the final of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series. "Physically, I feel better than I have in 15 years," he said. "It's worked out very well so far." The Raceway's live schedule resumes Saturday night, with the five-night-per-week docket continuing-Mother Nature permitting--every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available daily. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway  

Due to an impasse in the negotiations between the Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association and the Management of Monticello Raceway, the horsemen's consent for interstate simulcasting of live racing from Monticello has expired.   Pursuant to the Federal Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, the consent of the recognized horsemen's association at the host track is necessary for a racetrack to conduct interstate simulcasting. Accordingly, Federal law dictates that interstate export of the live Monticello signal immediately cease until further notice.   From the law offices of Joseph Faraldo  

Schenectady, NY – Harness Racing’s top guns descended upon the New York State Gaming Commission public hearing to advance concerns over proposed drug levels for racehorses.  U. S. Trotting Association President, Phil Langley, and Standardbred Owners Association of New York President, Joe Faraldo, led a group of distinguished veterinarians and research experts to counter the “one size fits all” approach being forwarded by the Thoroughbred-based Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) proposals. The appearance of the Standardbred leaders at the public hearing, called by the agency formerly known as the NYS Racing and Wagering board, was to hear “testimony about adoption of per se regulatory thresholds for 24 approved equine medications and amending pre-race restricted time periods for various drugs.” One particular therapeutic substance, respiratory aid Clenbuterol, has been at the forefront of a debate over uniform medication rules approved by the RMTC. Although there is widespread Thoroughbred support for the measures, the Standardbred industry has argued that the two breeds have very distinct differences and therefore should be treated differently.  The proposed rule would prohibit the bronchial dilator from being administered within 14 days of racing, effectively eliminating its potential benefit to Standardbreds that generally race every week. Langley noted that, “Our horses are so durable, they do not even look [like Thoroughbreds.]  Many of our horses race 30 to 40 times each year.  In fact, the leading money-winning horse of all time started 198 times.  We are not trying to get the standards lowered.  We just want to conduct [racing] the way we are.” Dr. Kanter, an expert in equine medicine and pharmacology, with over 40 years of experience as the track vet at Buffalo and Batavia.  “This measure could be denying horses the benefit of years of research of these useful therapeutic drugs, while the efficacy of known substitutes is yet unproven.” Dr. Janet Durso of Goshen, NY, reiterated those concerns.  “Clenbuterol is one of the best drugs for treating blood and discharge from a horse’s lungs.  Remedies would be problematic without it!” One of the contributing factors toward this proposal is the concern that some Thoroughbred trainers are abusing Clenbuterol by overdosing in order to achieve a repartitioning effect, or to build muscle mass.  That appears to be a non-issue in Standardbreds as they race too often for long-term dosages to be administered effectively. Dr. Tobin, a renowned expert from the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, stated, “Clenbuterol did have a repartitioning effect and increased muscle mass, but this did not translate into an increase in performance.  In fact, it decreased performance.” Although the prospect of catastrophic injury of racehorses was discussed, Dr. Tobin noted that “Harness Racing was one of the safest sports in North America.  Only 1 in 15,000 fatal injuries occurred in Standardbreds, where 1 in 2,000 occurred in Thoroughbreds over the same time period.” Several other items were addressed, such as the list of 24 drugs that would provide for the basis of drugs that would have established levels for testing.  All others would be considered “off-limits” for use and result in positive tests if found in race-day blood or urine testing.  In addition, the proposal of special corticosteroid regulations sparked added debate. Of the nine speakers, eight of the experts gave convincing testimony toward the need for separate rules for each breed.  Dr. Dionne Benson, the executive director of the RMTC (Racing Medication and Testing Consortium), was the last speaker and lone dissenter.  She noted that the ad hoc committee for all breeds felt that the thresholds are appropriate, and that the state of Pennsylvania was “on-board” with her groups recommendations. Nonetheless, Joe Faraldo is not convinced that the RMTC proposals are suitable for Harness Racing.  “We heard today that not all of the scientific bases have been covered.  I believe that the [NYS Gaming Board] is cognizant of that fact.  Because this board took the time to listen to all of these points of view, and the science behind them, it is a good indication that Harness Racing will be treated fairly.” by Chris Tully for Harnesslink.com

YONKERS, NY, Monday, December 23, 2013-Bragging rights, congratulations...and $2,500 belong to Matthew Sanchez, who won Saturday night's final of the free, on-line handicapping contest, sponsored by Yonkers Raceway and the Standardbred Owners Association of New York. Sanchez earned $346 from his mythical $20 win bet on eight races Saturday. He defeated 29 other final-round participants, including Karl Dilcher ($287) and a "dead-heat" between Harry Varteresian and Gary Arceci ($219 each). Sanchez also earned $500 for winning the first preliminary round. Dilcher earned $1,000 for his runner-up effort in the final, with Varteresian and Arceci winning $250 each. The $10,000 contest, a joint venture between the Raceway and the SOA and coordinated through Trackmaster proved quite popular, with more than 1,300 handicappers signing up. About the only snag was provided by Mother Nature, who snowed out the final two rounds of a scheduled five-round event. Thus, the final had 32 qualifiers (top 10 finishers in each round, plus deadlocks), with 29 making selections. by Frank Drucker for Yonkers Raceway  

The Standardbred Owners Association of New York and Yonkers Raceway are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement on the terms of a new three year contract. The new agreement will cover the conduct of racing at Yonkers Raceway for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 racing seasons. The previous expired contract had been extended until December 31, 2013 by mutual agreement.   The 2014 meet at Yonkers will cover 236 racing dates and is scheduled to begin Monday, January 6. A full 2014 racing calendar will be released shortly.   "We are very pleased to have fostered a relationship that would allow us to complete negotiations in such a quick fashion," said Yonkers Raceway Chief Operating Officer Bob Galterio. "I believe each side knew the issues of importance for the other and acted accordingly." The schedule tentatively calls for some matinee programs on Tuesday afternoons in the Fall, as Yonkers looks to develop more international outlets for their high quality racing product.   The SOA Committee and Yonkers management only had to meet two times to iron out the agreement.   "The negotiations were seamless," said SOA of NY President Joe Faraldo. "Horsemen can know there is stability for the next several years with 236 racing dates scheduled each season."   During the talks, the SOA of NY was represented by SOA President Joe Farlado, SOA Trustee Chris Wittstruck and SOA Executive Director Alex Dadoyan.   As part of the agreement, the SOA of NY agreed to remove the $100 payment for horses finishing sixth through eighth. That money will go into the purse account for distribution in the traditional form of purse money for horses finishing first through fifth. It was further agreed that the $10 per start fee will be automatically deducted from the purse account rather than burdening the owners with the accounting each week. That deduction will not be applicable in the NYSS events for which there will be a separate fee that will be the owners' direct responsibility.   The SOA of NY will also receive slightly higher revenue for its new insurance program "We will continue to maintain the non-contributory retirement program for qualified industry participants which is a great benefit to those horsemen that reach retirement age with enough service credit," said SOA of NY Trustees Chairman Peter Venaglia.

On Saturday, December 7, The Standardbred Owners Association of New York (SOA), the horsemen's association representing the over 1,000 owners, trainers and drivers regularly competing at Yonkers Raceway, held its annual membership meeting.   At the meeting, the results of the SOA's 2013 Board of Directors election were certified. In the driver/trainer category, Ray Schnittker and Peter Younger were unopposed in their election to three year terms. In the owner category, SOA President Joseph Faraldo, Robert MacDougall and Chris Wittstruck were all re-elected to three year terms, also in unopposed fashion.   Additionally, the following officers and trustees of the Welfare and Retirement Funds were elected to serve during 2014. They are:   Officers: President: Joseph Faraldo 1st Vice President: Peter Venaglia 2nd Vice President Irv Atherton 3rd Vice President: John Brennan Treasurer: Irv Atherton Secretary: John Brennan Trustees: Joseph Faraldo Peter Venaglia Irv Atherton John Brennan Jordan Stratton Henry Gargiulo (1st Alternate) Chris Wittstruck (2nd Alternate)   At the meeting, the Board discussed a variety of statutory and administrative goals for the upcoming year. Also discussed were the salient points of the new three (3) year horsemen's agreement which was recently negotiated with Yonkers management. That agreement calls for 236 race dates for each of the three years. Subject to approval by the New York State Gaming Commission, the 2014 racing season with commence on Monday evening, January 6.   by Alex Dadoyan for SOA/NY

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