By Bill Liblick, re-printed with permission by www.sullivancountypost.com As EPR Properties and Empire Resorts prepares to present their resort destination plans next Thursday evening at a private presentation at Bethel Woods, and not at Empire’s operational facility, the harness racing horsemen at Monticello Raceway have declared war. The horsemen feel they have been betrayed and used as a pawn by Empire Resorts, the owner of Monticello Raceway, and are fearful that the Standardbred racetrack and the industry that has employed thousands of residents over the years in Sullivan County will be gone if the company receives a license to operate a full-fledged gaming hall. When racino’s were permitted in New York State it saved the horse racing industry from dying. The introduction of video slot terminals has seen racetracks such as Monticello, Tioga Downs, Saratoga, and Yonkers flourish thanks to a percentage of the take going into racing purses. Although attendance and actual pool totals from Monticello Raceway attendees is minimal, the racetrack has become a cash cow for Empire Resorts thanks to simulcasting and off-track betting wagering. Monticello Raceway has in essence become a huge television studio. Under proposals from EPR and Empire Resorts they say they are going to construct a new harness track at the Concord no matter what happens – with or without table games – but will they? Horsemen claim Empire Resorts is capping purses at 2013 levels and if they are granted a table gaming license there will be no increases. They also say there are no guarantees the harness track will even remain open. The Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association has declared a war against Empire Resorts. They argue track owners slammed the door on them once the resort destination amendment was approved in November and that they refuse to negotiate. Things are so bad, the horsemen have exercised their right to stop Monticello’s simulcast signal from being broadcast, preventing Empire Resorts and New York State from receiving millions in revenue. Empire has since slashed purses and cut back the number of races in a card. They have even shut down the horsemen’s lunch room. According to Alan Schwartz, President of Monticello’s Harness Association The dispute between management and the horsemen at Monticello Raceway is very easy to understand. “The parent company of the racetrack seeks to obtain a lucrative license to construct a Las Vegas style casino, complete with slot machines and table games. They would be one of just two, and possibly the only casino permitted in the Catskills. Despite the tremendous windfall such a license would bring to the parent company, it flatly refuses to allow the horsemen or breeders to share in any portion of the huge anticipated profits.” Schwartz claims that “in order to get the casino amendment passed, management both figuratively and literally called the horsemen their “partners.” The logo of their lobbying group prominently contains a horse. Their radio commercials ballyhooed their support for racing. Of course, once the amendment passed, management’s idea of “partnership” quickly degenerated.” Under the present video lottery gaming law, horsemen and breeders get a fixed percentage of the track’s net win. When a racino underperforms, the purse money generated is less, even though it isn’t the horsemen’s fault. When the racino does well, purses go up modestly – In essence a true economic partnership. Schwartz maintains Empire Resorts wants a firm cap on purses and breeding contributions at 2013 levels. He says if that happens, harness racing will become a near-zero or zero growth industry. “Nobody is going to buy or breed horses in this state when places like Ohio, Massachusetts, Delaware and Pennsylvania offer significantly more industry support.” Schwartz acknowledges that harness racing won’t die in the next several years, but “consider, however, that the price of feed, diesel fuel, veterinary services; literally anything you can think of, will be significantly higher in just a few years. Once you can’t pay to maintain racehorses, the sport will evaporate from sheer economics – And that’s exactly what our racetrack management “partners” would love to see happen.” Although Empire Resorts blames Albany for the horsemen’s plight, Schwartz asserts the law speaks only about minimum contributions. “No government can interfere with the private right of contract. Racetrack management hides behind Albany when, in reality, their own lobbyists pushed for and signed off on the legislation.” Schwartz says “The horsemen and breeders at Monticello and elsewhere refuse to be “silent” former partners. If management wishes to embrace us as economic partners, as mandated under the video lottery gaming law, gaming can move forward in a meaningful way in the Catskills, and the renaissance created by Albany through the VLT program can continue to flourish, for not only the six harness tracks owners but also for the state, education and the agriculture and racing industries. If that doesn’t occur, we really have nothing else to lose.” Schwartz professes he is trying to negotiate in good faith, but Empire Resorts is not, so with “few weapons in this fight” they had to pull the simulcasting signal. “We are also acutely aware of the loss of revenue to the track, the horsemen and the industry. Yet, we have pondered just how much money these track operators strive for while they jeopardize an entire industry for their own profit; a racing industry that worked hard to spawn the birth of VLTs at tracks in this and other states. We cannot just sit by and watch an industry get swallowed up by a handful of track operators professing to be concerned about our sport, whose ultimate goal is to kill it.” The right to withhold the export of signal from Monticello is a right granted to horsemen by Federal law. Schwartz explained, “That 1978 law very wisely recognizes that the horsemen at a host track are the real guardians of this sport. It armed the horsemen with the important tool to use only when they perceived a crisis threatening the very existence of the game. It has been used very sparingly and with the utmost of caution.” A mediator has been appointed by the New York State Gaming Commission in an attempt to resolve the situation. Charles Degliomini, executive vice president of Empire Resorts/Monticello Raceway issued the following statement in response the suspension of simulcasting. “Monticello Casino & Raceway (“MC&R”) continues to support the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act (“Gaming Act”). When they authored the Gaming Act, the Senate, Assembly and the Executive protected the Monticello Harness Horsemen’s Association (“MHHA”), and the entire racing industry. As New York State moves toward approving four casinos in upstate New York, future revenue for the horsemen is governed by the Gaming Act, and current revenue is governed by the New York State Lottery for Education Law. Degliomini added, “It is sad and unfortunate that we are being attacked for legislation that actually protects harness horsemen’s interests. While MC&R continues in good faith, through negotiation and mediation, to attempt to secure an agreement with MHHA, the MHHA is now attempting to amend a law that they don’t like by unfairly punishing our business, our employees, our loyal customers and even their own members. We are simply track owners, not elected officials. The MHHA should stop this destructive behavior and turn the simulcasting signal back on.” With all the new resort destination proposals coming out of the woodwork this dispute is something Sullivan County does not need. Schwartz does raise many valid concerns that must be addressed if a racino operator is granted a full gaming license, Monticello Raceway, the horsemen, and the industry must be protected.
Rikybrnthegaragdwn and King Of The Crop put on four great battles in the California Sire Stakes series for the 3-year-old pacing males at this standat Cal Expo Harness, ending up with two trophies each once the dust had settled. The Luke Plano reined-and-trained Rikybrinthegaragdwn drew first blood on January 18, but had to be happy with a second and a third in the next two stakes clashes behind King Of The Crop and driver/trainer James Kennedy. Rikybrnthegaradgdwn evened the score last weekend, carving out all the fractions and then coming a :26 and change final quarter to hold safe by a head over his pocket-sitting arch-rival in a very game performance. They're both nice horses, but still green, Plano related after his colt scored in 1:55 2/5, a week after motoring by conditioned foes in a 1:55 tour. Even though Riky is a stud, hes as mild-tempered a horse as youre ever going to be around. Hes got a great personality and a toddler could jog him. By Living It Up out of the fine racemare and producer Sports Bra, Rikybrnthegaragdwn was broken last year in Florida by Lukes dad Rick and has really developed in the last few months. Hes getting better all the time, the younger Plano noted. I think hes going to turn out to be a good one. Of course, one cant interview Luke without asking about the name, which it turns out goes back many years and involves his dad, his uncle and his grandfather. The story goes that my dad burned down the garage when he was a kid, but my grandfather was never told who did it. Anytime my uncle Fran wanted something from my dad and he didnt get it, he would ask my grandfather, Who do you think burned down the garage? and my dad would have to give in. We now have an answer to that burning question. Haggin Oaks has top billing in Open Distaff Pace Haggin Oaks, who returned to her winning ways with a solid score at most recent asking, gets the top billing in Friday nights $5,000 Open Handicap Distaff Pace at Cal Expo. A 13-race card is on tap, with first set for 5:45 p.m. The main event will go as the second contest on the evening with Haggin Oaks leaving from the assignment outside post with trainer James Kennedy at the controls. An 8-year-old daughter of Hi Ho Silverheels from the Incredible Finale mare Ladyladybemybaby, Haggin Oaks races for the partnership of Shari Burns, Ferris Funk and Gerald Cimini. She comes into this assignment with $158.000 in the bank and a 1:52 3/5 mark that was established last year at Tioga Downs. After recording a smart win here on November 22, the dark-hued mare had to settle for a series of place and show finishes while chasing home the likes of Show Runner and Strings. Both of those mares have headed East, leaving Haggin Oaks as the big gun in the division. Sent off at 50 cents on the dollar in her last appearance two weeks ago in the Open, the Kennedy trainee lived up to the backing as she made the lead at the quarter, took complete control at that point and came home with a length and a half to spare in a 1:54 3/5 performance. Ladys Art hits hard with her top mile and has to be respected. James Wilkinson conditions the daughter of Art Major for owner/breeders Kenneth Seastron and James Kouretas and Chip Lackey will be in his usual spot in the sulky. Her last score came in a conditioned affair on January 17. Completing the field are Sea Bug, who leaves from the rail with Patrick Galbraith; Windsun T Bird, to be handled by Luke Plano; and Pismo Beach, who will have the services of Mooney Svendsen. by Matt Ratzky, for Cal Expo Harness
There is a “grass roots” movement currently going on in harness racing, which is being led by two prominent horse owners, Richard and Joanne Young of South Florida. They have been owners in the Standardbred industry for 20 plus years. Joanne has been riding and showing Arabian horses for 30 years. Over the years they have had the pleasure of owning not one, but two world champion performers, Put On A Show (31 wins in 50 starts with earnings of $2.4 million) and I Luv The Nitelife (17 wins in 25 stars with earnings of $1.9 million) in addition to other stakes winners over the years. I Luv The Nitelife was recently announced as the Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year for 2013. They travel throughout the country to watch their horse’s race and are big supporters of the industry. Now the Young’s are on a different mission, one that has been involved in a series of hotly debated discussions for years but solutions have been far from being solved. The Young’s want every track and state racing commission that has harness racing to put a stop to drivers who over use the whip in races and take their feet and touch or kick their horse during a race. This all came about because someone did a blog on the internet last Fall, regarding the non compliance with the rules regarding kicking and whipping that woke Joanne Young up. The Young’s took the initiative and started asking and inquiring about the rules and regulations of various states. They sent letters and emails to major race and industry officials throughout the country and learned quite a bit. “I couldn’t tell you how many emails, letters and calls we made,” Joanne said. “ We got back some calls and about a half dozen emails and some of them were so encouraging. Most states have rules but track management and the judges need to enforce them and in some cases increase the fines and suspensions significantly so drivers will not abuse the horses as many do.” “Tracks and judges make their own rules and maybe give a fine after a couple of offenses.” Young said. “It’s like a slap on the wrist and some drivers may say it’s worth the fine to win the race because of the purse. Personally I don’t see why either method is used. These horses are bred to race and I don’t believe that a whip or a “kick” does anything to make the horse perform better. To those people that say the “kick” is nothing and does not hurt the horse, I say all you have to do is watch what happens to the driver’s leg when he comes into contact with the hock. The leg is forcefully pushed back and looks like kicking. So whatever you want to call it, it looks horrible and the public perceives it as abuse. For that reason alone it needs to be banned.” According The United States Trotting Association’s penalties that are suggestions as guidelines to pari-mutuel state gaming commission and racetracks are: “The penalty for kicking as defined herein shall not be less than 9 days suspension.” For excessive whipping the suggestion is, “The mandatory minimum penalty for a whipping violation shall be a fine in the amount of $100 and a 3 day suspension from driving for the first offense and for each subsequent violation the mandatory minimum penalty shall increase in the amount of $100 and 3 days (e.g. $200 and 6 days for the 2nd offense, $300 and 9 days for the 3rd offense, etc.)” “These rules are a joke and everyone in the harness racing business knows it, because either they are not enforced or the penalty is too lenient.” Joanne Young said. “ We want to see a cohesive rule that states that the right hand remain on the right line and the left hand remain on the left line during the race and that the feet must have no contact with the horse. “The penalty for not following these rules will be suspension for 2 months and a $5,000 fine,” Young continued, “or placement of the horse. We need to make the punishment harsh enough to stop the actions. Of course an easier fix is just to ban both practices immediately. Other countries have rules in place and no kicking or one handing whipping is allowed or tolerated. If the owners/drivers/trainers lose money you can bet that the drivers will stop immediately. We need to bring some credibility back to this sport.” Jeff Gural, the prominent owner and CEO of three racetracks, the Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, wrote back and also talked with the Young’s about their quest and encouraged them with this scenario. “I met with the drivers before the start of the meet,” Gural said, “and told them anyone kicking a horse would not be allowed to drive at our tracks, period. No one complained. The whipping is tricky because to change the rule in NJ you need public hearings, etc. The drivers are opposed to this but we have implemented a temporary rule which has cut it way down, but I will back any effort to make the rules stricter.” Joanne has been in touch with the Ohio and Kentucky Racing Commission in regards to their recent rule changes. She is also in the midst of trying to get a rule change on the agenda with the New Jersey Racing Commission. The Young’s also have had encouraging conversations with prominent owners, drivers and trainers who are on board with rule changes and harsher penalties. Not everyone though wants to publicly share his or her personal views. According to Joanne, this is due to the fact that the “old school” of racing sees nothing wrong with the status quo and some fear repercussions. “We had one judge,” Richard Young said, “Who actually said he had no problem with a driver touching the hock or flank of a horse when racing and that as long as a driver did not slash a horse with a whip, it was okay. He said horses are tough and can take it. That just infuriated us to no end. How can anyone, especially, a racing judge, say something like that? “We want this movement to be in a positive light,” Joanne Young explained. “There is a public perception of abuse and we can and should stop it. It is an easy fix for the harness racing commissions to all agree to a cohesive and enforceable rule. I also believe the drivers would like the same rule for all the harness tracks making their job easier. The USTA is going to be meeting this March. If you a proponent of banning the kicking and one handed whipping please voice your opinion with them or contact me. All we need is for the racing commissions to agree, and we can finally put this controversial subject to rest.” By Steve Wolf for Harnesslink.com
Coral Springs, FL - Video streaming of harness racing's biggest night of the year, the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, will take place this Sunday, February 23, 2014 at Dover Downs, Delaware, and can be seen on the United States Trotting Association's (USTA) website, www.ustrotting.com. Heading the awards will be the announcement of the 2013 Harness Horse of the Year along with both the Pacer and Trotter of the Year winners. The voting was conducted by the United States Harness Writers Association membership and race secretaries throughout the country. The cocktail party outside the Grand Ballroom begins at 6:00 pm and the awards ceremony takes place at 7:30 pm. The video streaming of the Dan Patch awards banquet is being provided by Roberts Communications and is being co-sponsored by Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. Awards will be made to the top trotters and pacers in each of their respective divisions per gait, age and gender from the 2013 race season, with the human stars of last year being honored as well. It will also be the first introduction of the recent inductees to the Harness Racing Museum Living Hall of Fame, David Miller and Bill Weaver, and the Communicators Hall of Fame inductees, Carol Cramer and John Pawlak. By Steven Wolf, president of USHWA
Nichols, NY - Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs have announced their 2014 stakes schedule, with an estimated $4.3 million in purses to attract the top horses in New York and across North America throughout the season. Tioga Downs opens their stakes season on Sunday, June 1 with the $200,000e Roll With Joe Open Pace. New York Sire Stakes races mark the calendar through June and July, leading up to the $350,000e Tompkins-Geers Stakes for two- and three-year-olds of both gaits. Unlike years past, where the Tompkins-Geers Stakes have been contested throughout an entire week of racing, two-year-old pacers will have their events on Sunday, August 3, while two-year-old trotters and three-year-olds of both gaits will race on Sunday, August 17. Between the Tompkins-Geers events, New York-sired sophomore pacers will take the spotlight on Sunday, August 10 in the $500,000e Empire Breeders Classic, with separate events for each sex. If needed, eliminations are scheduled for the week prior. Labor Day (Monday, September 1) proves to be a banner day in the Southern Tier, with a trio of stakes events headlining the afternoon. The $110,000e Shady Daisy for three-year-old pacing fillies and a $40,000e preliminary leg of the Miss Versatility for older trotting mares comprise the undercard features for the day, while three-year-old pacers take center stage in the $350,000e Cane Pace-the first leg of the Triple Crown for pacers. The $125,000 Reynolds Stakes for two-year-olds closes out the stakes schedule at Tioga, with trotting divisions on Thursday, September 4, and pacing divisions on Friday, September 12. Vernon Downs kicks off their stakes season on Sunday, June 8, with New York-sired three-year-old trotters contesting the $500,000e Empire Breeders Classic (like the pacers, separate events are held for each sex). If eliminations are necessary, they will take place on Friday, May 30. New York Sire Stakes events cover the early summer months, leading up to the first of two big nights at Vernon on Friday, August 29. The $700,000e Harry Zweig Memorial Trot for three-year-olds once again serves as the centerpiece of the Vernon Downs stakes schedule, with top open trotters sharing the spotlight that night in the $200,000e Crawford Farms Trot (formerly known as the Credit Winner). Two-year-olds of both gaits and sexes contest the $100,000e Simpson Stakes on Friday, October 24, leading up to a blockbuster Closing Night program, featuring a trio of rich events on Saturday, November 1. Two-year-old trotters wrap up the Kindergarten Classic series with a $200,000e final, and top distaffers compete in a pair of $200,000e events as well-trotters in the Muscle Hill, and pacers in the Artiscape, which moved to Vernon after being raced at Tioga in past seasons. Nomination forms and more information can be found at www.tiogadowns.com and www.vernondowns.com. by James Witherite, for Tioga Downs
2013 was a dynamic year for super horse Captaintreacherous and his trainer Tony Alagna, winning 13 out of 16 races and bagging over $2,000,000 in purse money. It was truly an unbelievable season that saw the 3 year old son of Somebeachsomewhere travel throughout the continent, winning at Mohawk Racetrack in Canada and at Balmoral Park, Pocono Downs, The Red Mile, Hoosier Park, Tioga Downs and The Meadowlands in the USA. After a well deserved break, the 4-year-old Captaintreacherous returned home to Tony Alagna’s farm at the end of January, in anticipation of a great 2014 season. Will Captaintreacherous, driven by Tim Tetrick, win another $2,000,000 in 2014? That’s tough to predict, but even if Captaintreacherous won half that amount, it would be still be an unbelievable achievement which rarely happens. Captaintreacherous is the Lebron James of horse racing, all they do is win. Trainer Tony Alagna, (Anthony P. Alagna is his full name), has been working with horses his entire life. Tony would help his family after school, on weekends and during the summer when he wasn’t in school. Ever since Tony can remember, his dream was to run his own stable and have a fleet of world class horses. With the wonderful success of 2013, it’s interesting how some in the industry welcome him as a new comer when he’s been here all along. Tony views that opinion as odd and explains, “People view you as you’re an overnight sensation when you’ve been in the business your whole life. My parents trained horses when I was a kid, my mom still trains in Chicago.” “Sometimes people are surprised of the success I’ve had in the last four years on my own…. It’s hasn’t been a four year plan, it’s been a lifetime of work and goals to get to this part.” says Tony. “I like to tell people I’m the oldest new comer around.” Prior to running his own operation, Tony trained horses for other stables for 16 years, including working for Irv Miller and Fox Valley Standardbreds. “It’s been a lifetime of being around the horses and learning to get to the stage I am at now.” Tony admits. When it comes to a horse’s personality, they’re just like humans, each one is unique. Tony says “They’re like kids, each one has their own learning curve”. As to what it was like when Captaintreacherous joined Alagna Stables and how his learning curve was, Tony said “…he’s really an easy horse who makes us look good.” “He’s very schedule orientated” Tony says. “During the racing season he doesn’t get any days off, we jog him every day. He’s very simple, when he’s done he is ready for lunch. For what he likes to do, he is very ritual like. He is what the doctor ordered, as far as we are concerned, being the first great son of Somebeachsomewhere.” Once Tony and the ownership group saw his pedigree, it was love at first sight. “We only looked at the horse because it was the pedigree we loved. Secondly, when we saw the horse, he was the complete package…. He’s a great individual and a great athlete.” Tony says. Once they brought him back to the farm and turned him out Tony admits “…he had a presence about him. It was something special from the get-go. Whenever he stopped, he would look at you. Like he was looking for you and you weren’t looking for him. There is just a special presence with a great horse. We spent a lot of money, with the hope of, if he showed up the possibilities would be endless and we are blessed it turned out that way.” With a well deserved vacation over, it’s time to get back to the fun of racing. For 2014, Captaintreacherous will not be ready to race until June and as for any races Tony and the ownership are looking to enter Captaintreacherous, it is too soon to say. Tony points out what they’re going to do and states, “Like we did last year, we are going to pick and choose our spots. We haven’t marked down any dates; we want to try (and) win major stake races and continue to add to his already strong resume.” Captaintreacherous came back to Alagna stables “much bigger and stronger.” according to Tony. “He really filled out and he’s more mature…. We had to let out his harness, it’s much bigger than last year’s. He’s a very entertaining horse, that’s one of the reasons why we did the stall camera. I told everybody that this horse is very entertaining during the day…. He’s so playful it’s a lot of fun for people to watch. I know some people who cannot believe his antics throughout the day.” As to who can challenge Captaintreacherous this season, there are a few Tony thinks can have a breakout year which should make this year quite intriguing. Tony notes, “There are a lot of great horses coming back this year. Foiled Again is coming back and (trainer) Ron Burke has some great horses coming back, there’s Sweet Lou…. There is plenty of competition, we hope our horse is going to continue to do the work he’s done and do us proud.” Tony is proud of Captaintreacherous and hopes to one day guide the sons and daughters of Captaintreacherous to the same level of success. There is still a lot of racing to do, but Tony being one for charting things out, has already given some thought as to which mares he would like to breed with Captaintreacherous. “My long term goal with this horse is, someday train Captaintreacherous’ sons and daughters out of fillies I have in the barn right now. I don’t feel like we are setting up ourselves for having 2 or 3 years of success, rather hoping we set up ourselves for 10 years of success. We bought fillies last year and bought fillies this year, with Captaintreacherous in mind as the stallion. American Ideal and Western Ideal fillies, we think, will compliment Captaintreacherous with him being from Somebeachsomewhere.” Getting to know Tony was great. Tony considers his entire home to be his man cave! He has everything spread out so it’s all accessible at any time for convenience. Since Tony travels extensively throughout the racing season, his form of unwinding is coming home to relax. He does enjoy going to New York City to watch a show, but other than that Tony considers himself very low key. For fans, Tony wants to help promote the sport and deliver top class entertainment. Tony asserts, “It’s our responsibility as trainers, owners and drivers to do our part to keep the positive flow going. We need to make ourselves more accessible to the fans, I think we need to bring down all the stereo types we have within the industry. There are so many things we need to try do to bring the fans back to the track because there’s more competition… we need to make it family orientated, where it’s a fun night out and not just about gambling.” It’s thanks to people like Tony Alagna, Tim Tetrick, Mike Hamilton and Scott Zeron that fans can continue to enjoy great experiences at the races. by Roderick Balgobin for the Supernova Sports Club www.supernovasportsclub.com Twitter: @ScSupernova
Nichols, NY -- Horsemen are now able to access all information for Tioga & Vernon Downs live and stakes racing season on each track's website. The 2014 season at Vernon Downs will begin on Friday, April 11 and conclude with a stakes-laden card on Saturday, November 1. The $200,000e Artiscape (mare pace), Muscle Hill (mare trot) and $200,000e Kindergarten Trotting Classic final have been scheduled for the closing night card as a logical springboard to the 2014 Breeders Crown at The Meadowlands. Friday, August 29 is another red-letter day at Vernon, with the $700,000e Zweig Memorial three year old trot and the newly christened $200,000e Crawford Farms Open Trot (formerly known as the Credit Winner) sharing the spotlight. The first leg of the 2014 $50,000 Tioga/Vernon Drivers' Challenge is scheduled for that evening, as well. Tioga will begin, as has been the custom each year, on Kentucky Derby day (Saturday, May 3). Season highlights include the $200,000e Roll With Joe Open Pace on Sunday, June 1 and the $350,000e Cane Pace-the first jewel of pacing's Triple Crown-on Labor Day, September 1. The second half of the Drivers' Challenge is set for that Labor Day card at Tioga as well. Visit tiogadowns.com and vernondowns.com for stakes nomination forms, live racing calendars and other pertinent information. by James Witherite for Tioga Downs
NICHOLS, NY - The holiday season was a little brighter for hundreds of area families thanks to the generosity of the Southern Tier Harness Horsemen's Association. The group, whose members compete at Tioga Downs, made a $10,000 donation in December to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, which serves a six-county region in and around Tioga Downs. "This donation has become a yearly tradition for our organization and we are thrilled to support the Food Bank especially during the holiday season," said Guy Howard, president of the S.T.H.H.A. "We have a great working relationship with Tioga Downs and Jeff Gural, and since they are such strong supporters of the Food Bank, we are happy to follow their lead and join them with our support." The ninth season of live racing at Tioga Downs is scheduled to begin on Kentucky Derby Day, May 3, 2014 (pending regulatory approval). by Justin Horowitz for Tioga Downs
East Rutherford, NJ - For the past year, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment has been conducting out of competition testing on horses racing at The Meadowlands, in part to determine if any trainers are using illegal substances, but also to gather information pertaining to what racehorses are being given prior to their races and to implement rules to keep the horses safe. This testing, performed in a joint effort by The Meadowlands and other jurisdictions, is in the form of blood samples taken from horses racing at The Meadowlands. We had heard rumors that a substance known as Cobalt was being used because it was difficult to detect and was not being tested for. A large number of these samples have revealed the presence of Cobalt in the horse's system. In two cases there were massive amounts present when the samples were analyzed by the lab at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. In both cases those trainers are no longer allowed to participate at our three tracks. After a lengthy process, including researching into what Cobalt is and what it does for the horses and discussions with many veterinarians, The Meadowlands has determined that when an excessive amount of Cobalt is administered to a horse, it can be very harmful. When used in excess, the affects of Cobalt can be, but are not limited to: cardiovascular issues, potential nerve problems, thickening of the blood and thyroid toxicity. Based on this information, The Meadowlands has determined that in excessive levels, Cobalt is both a performance enhancing substance and detrimental to the health and well-being of the horse. We are quite certain that trainers and veterinarians using Cobalt were well aware of this. Therefore, going forward The Meadowlands has established a threshold level of four (4) times the standard deviation above the normal level of Cobalt. If a blood sample reveals that a horse has a Cobalt level higher than four (4) times the standard deviation above the normal level, the trainer of that horse will be deemed unable to participate at The Meadowlands, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs. The odds of a horse having a Cobalt level that exceeds this threshold without having been administered an excessive amount of the substance are roughly 1 in 10,000. "We are committed to providing the most integrity-driven product in harness racing," said Chairman Jeff Gural. "We set out on a mission when taking over The Meadowlands to not only provide our customers with that integrity-driven product, but to do what is best for the horse and for the industry. This threshold of Cobalt being implemented for horses competing at The Meadowlands, Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs is just one step toward achieving what we set out to achieve. If you are found to be giving your horses an excessive amount of this substance, you are not racing at any of our three racetracks, plain and simple. This is not about catching trainers that are cheating, this is about keeping our equine athletes safe and healthy and providing our betting public and all of our participants a product that is on a level playing field." by Rachel Ryan for the Meadowlands
December 17, 2013 - In addition to providing handicappers an opportunity to show off their handicapping skills and provide race fans with some wagering ideas during the year, one of the major goals of HANA Harness has been to raise awareness and funds for standardbred rescues. Thanks to our handicappers, who have been willing to handicap lengthy contests for nothing more than satisfaction in knowing they are helping unwanted horses and our sponsors who have allowed HANA Harness to donate $in excess of $7,000 over the past two years. While HANA Harness is thankful for last year's sponsors, we would like to specifically thank this year's sponsors for their donations, for without their assistance, we would not be able to donate funds to this year's worthwhile rescues. Thanks to our Gold Sponsors, the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness (Balmoral and Maywood Parks), Illinois Harness Horseman Association, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. In addition to these sponsors, recognition also goes to our Silver Sponsor, Red Shores Charlottetown for their donation to Canadian Standardbred Rescue. HANA Harness looks forward to hosting another handicapping contest in 2014. We welcome sponsorships from racing organizations, tracks operators, horsemen associations, suppliers, and owners. If you wish to be considered for possible sponsorship opportunities in 2014, you may contact HANA Harness at firstname.lastname@example.org to be contacted when the time is appropriate. by Alan Schott for HANA
December 8, 2013 – With one race remaining in HANA Harness’ 2013 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs, handicapper Richard Scott, who has led a majority of the way in the contest, remains in front with a seemingly comfortable lead of $736.45 with a net loss of $134.40. With only the Cleveland Classic remaining on the docket, it will take some Hail Mary handicapping for anyone to wrest the top spot from Scott. With donations being made to the designated horse rescue charities of the top three, the real race is for the place and show spots which are currently held by Earl Paulson and Rusty Nash. Hoping to crack into the top three are handicappers Anne Stepien and Dennis O’Hara with Garnet Barnsdale having a slight chance to make the top three. In this week’s action, with the Reynolds 3yo filly pace being cancelled, the Reynolds 3yo colt pace was the sole contest. Rusty Nash was top dog for the week with a profit of $6.80. Here are the contest standings at the conclusion of action on December 8, 2013 with one week to go. Pos Handicapper Week Gain Net Profit Behind Last Pos Days Missed 1st Richard Scott ($7.00) ($134.40) 1st 6 2nd Earl Paulson ($30.00) ($870.85) ($736.45) 2nd 7 3rd Rusty Nash $6.80 ($929.07) ($794.67) 3rd 4 4th Ann Stepien ($25.40) ($1,062.35) ($927.95) 4th 1 5th Dennis O'Hara $2.10 ($1,226.35) ($1,091.95) 5th 2 6th Garnet Barnsdale ($30.00) ($1,457.74) ($1,323.34) 6th 10 7th Gordon Waterstone ($30.00) ($2,070.60) ($1,936.20) 7th 4 8th Mark McKelvie ($30.00) ($2,379.79) ($2,245.39) 8th 9 9th Sally Hinckley ($30.00) ($2,700.50) ($2,566.10) 9th 0 10th Ray Garnett ($30.00) ($3,210.43) ($3,076.03) 10th 3 Ten grace days permitted. After ten days, there is a penalty of $30 per race. This Week’s Contest Schedule Saturday, December 14, 2013 – Northfield Park; $130,000(Est.) Cleveland Classic - Open by Allan Schott for HANA
November 25, 2013 – While Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment had a stellar opening, the same cannot be said of the handicappers in this past week’s racing action in HANA Harness’ 2013 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs. The ‘top’ handicapper was overall leader Richard Scott who had a net loss of only $14.50 for the two races on this past week’s slate. Rusty Nash and Anne Stepien are the only other two handicappers who cashed any tickets. Overall contest leader, Richard Scott remains on top with a net profit of $33.60, $670.45 ahead of second place handicapper Earl Paulson. After this week, there are only three races remaining in the contest which concludes December 15, 2013. Here are the contest standings at the conclusion of action on November 23, 2013. As of November 23, 2013 Pos Handicapper Week Gain Net Profit Behind Last Pos Days Missed 1st Richard Scott ($14.50) $33.60 $0.00 1st 6 2nd Earl Paulson ($60.00) ($636.85) ($670.45) 2nd 7 3rd Rusty Nash ($36.60) ($776.87) ($810.47) 3rd 4 4th Ann Stepien ($57.90) ($924.90) ($958.50) 5th 1 5th Dennis O'Hara ($60.00) ($1,060.45) ($1,094.05) 4th 2 6th Garnet Barnsdale ($60.00) ($1,187.74) ($1,221.34) 6th 9 7th Mark McKelvie ($60.00) ($2,139.79) ($2,173.39) 7th 8 8th Gordon Waterstone ($60.00) ($2,233.60) ($2,267.20) 8th 4 9th Sally Hinckley ($60.00) ($2,785.50) ($2,819.10) 9th 0 10th Ray Garnett ($60.00) ($3,429.03) ($3,462.63) 10th 3 Ten grace days permitted. After ten days, there is a penalty of $30 per race. Contest Schedule This Week Saturday, November 30, 2013 – Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment - $500,000 TVG FFA Series Trot Final; $500,000 TVG FFA Series Pace Final, $534,500 Governors Cup (2yo Open Pace), $394,950 Three Diamonds (2yo Filly Pace), $494,750 Valley Victory (2yo Open Trot), $456,150 Goldsmith Maid (2yo Filly Trot), $172,500(Est.) Nadia Lobell (3yo Filly Pace), $253,000(Est.) Moni Maker (3yo Filly Trot) Sunday, December 1, 2013 – Dover Downs - $330,000(Est.) Progress Pace (3yo Open Pace) by Allan Schott for HANA
November 18, 2013 – Handicapper Anne Stepien took top honors this past week in HANA Harness’ 2013 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs by scoring a net profit of $151.10 for the week which included races from Maywood Park on Friday and the Matron Stakes at Dover Downs on Sunday. Stepien is the only handicapper to score a net gain for the week as she moves closer to one of the payoff positions in the standings. Despite losing ground this week, overall leader Richard Scott remains in front with a net profit of $48.10; $624.95 ahead of second place handicapper Earl Paulson. With a month remaining in the contest, it seemingly will take a huge effort to unseat Scott from the top of the standings. Overall contest leader, Richard Scott remains on top despite his losing performance this week, showing an overall net profit of $106.75, leading the pack by $574.10. As we see from McKelvie’s performance this week, no position is solidified with seven contest dates remaining. Here are the contest standings at the conclusion of action on November 17, 2013. Pos Handicapper Week Gain Net Profit Behind Last Pos Days Missed 1st Richard Scott ($58.65) $48.10 1st 6 2nd Earl Paulson ($109.50) ($576.85) ($624.95) 2nd 7 3rd Rusty Nash ($123.50) ($740.27) ($788.37) 3rd 4 4th Ann Stepien $151.10 ($867.00) ($915.10) 5th 1 5th Dennis O'Hara ($27.50) ($1,000.45) ($1,048.55) 4th 2 6th Garnet Barnsdale ($91.50) ($1,127.74) ($1,175.84) 6th 9 7th Mark McKelvie ($360.00) ($2,079.79) ($2,127.89) 7th 8 8th Gordon Waterstone ($109.80) ($2,173.60) ($2,221.70) 8th 4 9th Sally Hinckley ($207.90) ($2,725.50) ($2,773.60) 9th 0 10th Ray Garnett ($270.10) ($3,369.03) ($3,417.13) 10th 3 Key Hits Garnet Barnsdale – $15 Trifecta Key ($30 Total) paid $223.50; Dennis O’Hara - $4 Exacta Box ($24) on the Galt Trot paid $118.40, $5 Trifecta Key ($30) on the Matron 2yo Filly Trot paid $55.00, $5 Trifecta Key ($30) on the Matron 3yo Colt Trot paid $99.50; Earl Paulson - $15 Exacta Box ($30) on the Matron 2yo Colt Pace paid $147.00; Richard Scott - $.50 Trifecta Key ($24) on the Galt Trot paid $67.25; Anne Stepien - $1 Trifecta Box ($24) on the Cinderella Pace paid $91.80, $2 Trifecta Key ($20) on the Windy City Pace paid $130.80, $5 Exacta Box ($10) on the Windy City Pace paid $99.50; Gordon Waterstone - $3 Exacta Part Wheel ($9) on the Abe Lincoln Pace paid $55.20 Contest Schedule This Week Saturday, November 23, 2013 – Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment - $50,000 TVG FFA Series Trot; $50,000 TVG FFA Series Pace by Allan Schott for HANA .
November 10, 2013 – Mark McKelvie, winner of the 2012 handicapping contest has been quiet for a while in HANA Harness’ 2013 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness, IHHA, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs showed triple digit profits at Hoosier Park and Vernon Downs on Friday evening, but when he wakes up, he wakes up as McKelvie scored an eye opening net profit of $1,000.40 on the American National card at Balmoral Park Saturday evening (November 9). (Editor’s Note: The contest uses USTA-posted prices. If using out of state prices, McKelvie would have had a net profit of $1,011.30). As a result of his performance, McKelvie moves into 7th place. Overall contest leader, Richard Scott remains on top despite his losing performance this week, showing an overall net profit of $106.75, leading the pack by $574.10. As we see from McKelvie’s performance this week, no position is solidified with seven contest dates remaining. Here are the contest standings at the conclusion of action on November 9, 2013. Pos Handicapper Week Gain Net Profit Behind Last Pos Days Missed 1st Richard Scott ($186.00) $106.75 1st 6 2nd Earl Paulson $28.50 ($467.35) ($574.10) 3rd 7 3rd Rusty Nash ($166.40) ($616.77) ($723.52) 2nd 4 4th Dennis O'Hara $52.50 ($972.95) ($1,079.70) 6th 2 5th Ann Stepien ($23.50) ($1,018.10) ($1,124.85) 5th 1 6th Garnet Barnsdale ($240.00) ($1,036.24) ($1,142.99) 4th 9 7th Mark McKelvie $1,000.40 ($1,719.79) ($1,826.54) 9th 8 8th Gordon Waterstone ($92.00) ($2,063.80) ($2,170.55) 7th 4 9th Sally Hinckley ($151.90) ($2,517.60) ($2,624.35) 8th 0 10th Ray Garnett ($240.00) ($3,098.93) ($3,205.68) 10th 3 Ten grace days permitted. After ten days, there is a penalty of $30 per race. Key Hits Mark McKelvie - $30 Win wager in the American-National for 2yo pacing colts paid $237.00, $15 Exacta Partial Wheel ($30 total) in the American-Nation for 3yo trotting colts paid $843.00, $30 Win ticket in the American-National for 3yo pacing fillies paid $117.00; Dennis O’Hara - $15 Trifecta Partial Wheel ($30) in the American-National for 3yo pacing colts paid $250.50; Earl Paulson - $15 Exacta Box ($30) in the American-National for 3yo pacing fillies paid $142.50, $15 Exacta Box ($30) in the American National pace for 4yos & up paid $126.00; Anne Stepien - $15 Exacta Box ($30) in the American-National pace for 4yos & up paid $126.00. Contest Schedule This Week Friday, November 15, 2013 – Maywood Park - $180,000(Est.) Windy City Pace - 3yo Open; $73,000(Est.) The Cinderella – 3yo fillies pacers; $110,000(Est.) The Galt – 3yo Open Trot; $89,000(Est.) The Abe Lincoln – 2yo Open Trot Sunday, November 17, 2013 – Dover Downs - $165,000(Est.) The Matron – 2yo colt and gelding pace; $149,000(Est.) The Matron – 3yo filly trot; $140,000(Est.) The Matron - 3yo colt and gelding trot; $173,000(Est.) The Matron – 3yo colt and gelding pace; $124,000(Est.) The Matron – 2yo filly trot; $160,000(Est.) The Matron – 2yo filly pace; $159,000(Est.) The Matron – 2yo colt and gelding trot; $123,000(Est.) The Matron – 3yo filly pace by Allan Schott for HANA
“The jury is still out on this one,” said Joe Faraldo, attorney for Standardbred Breeders Association of New York in pertaining to the passage of the casino gaming legislation in New York after yesterday’s elections. “It’s sort of like a wet kiss in the night,” Faraldo explained. “The legislation has been passed but no one has really seen this legislation and not enough people paid attention to the details.” “I am very pleased for us at Tioga and for Monticello and Saratoga that the legislation passed.” Said Jeff Gural, president and CEO of Tioga Downs, Vernon Downs and the Meadowlands. “It bodes well for the sport and obviously we are happy. It should give us a leg up on the competition for the future.” I was also pleased with the election results,” Gural added. “You never know how the people will turn out for an election. But the issue in New York was strong for more public jobs that the casinos will bring and it was not a moral issue about gambling.” Faraldo explained that the new legislation at best will allow Saratoga Raceway, Monticello Raceway and Tioga Downs the opportunity to have full-fledged casinos (slots and live table games). But Batavia Downs, Buffalo Raceway and Vernon Downs are excluded from any chance because they are too close to already established Indian casinos. Yonkers Raceway, as part of the legislation, is excluded from any consideration for live table games for seven years. It was also pointed out by Faraldo and Todd Haight, the General Manager of racing at Batavia Downs, that any revenue from live table games in New York, is treated the same as in Pennsylvania, and does not share a percentage with the tracks for purses or for the New York Sire Stakes program. “The legislation is wordy about a cap of agricultural and racing business,” Faraldo added. “There is a freeze at 2013 consumer pricing for purse levels and growth of the industry. Currently 25% net win sets what purse money is allotted to tracks and to the breeding program (NYSS). So when a Racino turns into a Casino and gets live table games, the cap is on 2013 levels. “This can mean that racing can get less revenue if more money is spent on live games than the slot machines,” Farado explained. “Most of the Racinos now have electronic table games for craps, roulette and some have blackjack but when those games are replaced by live games, then racing will lose out on revenue.” When might Tioga Downs, Saratoga Raceway and Monticello Raceway see their Racinos turn into Casinos? “It will take some time for the selection committees to come up with the rules and regulations,” Gural said. “At least a year or more from now and they won’t get started on it until it becomes law on January 1, 2014. I feel this will be great for us because the table games will bring a younger demographic to the casino and for racing. We still have a bidding process to go through for the three tracks but I am hopeful it will all work out in our favor.” “There is a lot of permitting and new rules that have to be developed,” Faraldo explained. “It could be one year, one and half years, even two years before the first full gaming casino comes about. That is a tough call. “I think the three racinos that could turn into full casino will most certainly benefit from it.” Faraldo added. “It may not be a home run for them but more like hitting ground balls, which is still good.” By Steve Wolf for Harnesslink.com
Paulson Goes Wild at Hoosier Park in 2013 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge November 11, 2013 – While four of the handicappers in HANA Harness’ 2013 Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge sponsored by the Hambletonian Society, Chicago Harness, IHHA, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs showed triple digit profits at Hoosier Park and Vernon Downs on Friday evening, Earl Paulson went wild showing a profit of $585 to move from fifth to third, less than $20 away from second place by grossing over $1,000 for Friday evening. With his performance this weekend, Paulson is the top handicapper for the past two weeks straight. However, with Richard Scott showing a profit of $247.15 this week, he has opened up a lead of $768.87 on the rest of the handicappers putting him in a good position to be the overall contest winner as the opportunities to overtake Scott are starting to dwindle. Other handicappers besides Paulson and Scott who had a week in the black were Dennis O’Hara ($143.60), Mark McKelvie ($132.30) and Garnet Barnsdale ($64.70). This week’s contest also included the Lady Maud and the Messenger Stakes at Yonkers Raceway but the handicappers were less than successful with Gordon Waterstone doing the best, showing a net loss of $8.50 for the two races. Here are the contest standings at the conclusion of action on November 2, 2013. Pos Handicapper Week Gain Net Profit Behind Last Pos Days Missed 1st Richard Scott $247.15 $292.75 1st 6 2nd Rusty Nash ($178.45) ($450.37) ($743.12) 2nd 4 3rd Earl Paulson $585.00 ($495.85) ($788.60) 5th 7 4th Garnet Barnsdale $64.70 ($796.24) ($1,088.99) 4th 9 5th Ann Stepien ($224.25) ($994.60) ($1,287.35) 3rd 1 6th Dennis O'Hara $143.60 ($1,025.45) ($1,318.20) 6th 2 7th Gordon Waterstone ($58.00) ($1,971.80) ($2,264.55) 7th 4 8th Sally Hinckley ($252.15) ($2,365.70) ($2,658.45) 8th 0 9th Mark McKelvie $132.30 ($2,720.19) ($3,012.94) 10th 8 10th Ray Garnett ($126.95) ($2,858.93) ($3,151.68) 9th 3 Ten grace days permitted. After ten days, there is a penalty of $30 per race. Key Hits Garnet Barnsdale - $15 Exacta Box ($30 total) Simpson Memorial 2yo Filly Trot at Vernon Downs paid $310.50, $1 Trifecta Part Wheel ($16) in the Carl Erskine Trot paid $114.20; Ray Garnett - $5 Exacta Box ($30)in The Circle City 3yo Filly Trot paid $154.50; Mark McKelvie - $10 Win ($10) in the Simpson Memorial 2yo Filly Trot paid $109, $2 Trifecta Partial Wheel ($18) in the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby paid $241.80;Dennis O’Hara - $15 Exacta Box ($30) in the Simpson Memorial 2yo Filly Trot paid $310.50; Earl Paulson - $15 Exacta Box ($30) in the 2nddivision of the Simpson Memorial 2yo Colt Trot paid $151.50, $15 Exacta Box ($30) in the Simpson Memorial 2yo Filly Trot paid $310.50, $15 Exacta Box ($30) in The Circle City 3yo Filly Pace paid $145.50, $15 Exacta ($30) in The Carl Erskine Trot paid $103.50), $15 Exacta Box ($30) in the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby paid $151.50; Richard Scott - $15 Exacta Box ($30) in the 2nd division of the Simpson Memorial 2yo Colt Trot paid $151.50, $15 Exacta Box ($30) in the Simpson Memorial 2yo Filly Trot paid $310.50; Gordon Waterstone - $10 Exacta Box ($20) in the 2nd division of the Simpson Memorial 2yo Colt Trot paid $101, $10 Exacta Box ($20) in the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby paid $101 Contest Schedule This Week Saturday, November 9 at Balmoral Park – The American Nationals - $250,000(Est.) 3yo C&G Pace, $165,000(Est.) 3yo Filly Pace, $240,000(Est.) 3yo C&G Trot, $115,000(Est.) 3yo Filly Trot, $190,000(Est.) 4yo & Up Pace, $195,000(Est.) 4yo & Up Trot, $113,000(Est.) 2yo C&G Pace, $115,000(Est.) 2yo Filly Pace Allan Schott HANA Harness Coordinator