Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 15 of 15

The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association today announced that Board President Dave McCaffrey is stepping down from his position on the board and closing up his stable to take a new job as the Executive Director of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "This is an opportunity for me to stay in Illinois and still fight for horsemen," said McCaffrey. "The partnership between the ITHA and the IHHA is groundbreaking in the horse industry and rock solid. Without knowing that, I would not leave." Over the last few years, the IHHA and ITHA have worked lockstep on many issues including the passage of important gaming bills. "Thoroughbred horsemen are very excited to have Dave come on board to work in a leadership role as Executive Director," said ITHA Board President Mike Campbell. "Dave's depth and breadth of knowledge and experience will only help to strengthen the horse racing industry as a whole. The partnership that has been formed between Thoroughbred and Standardbred horsemen is now stronger than ever. This is not one breed against another; our industry is much stronger when all horsemen pull together." McCaffrey was elected to the IHHA Board of directors almost 20 years ago and has been the President of the board since 2008. During that time, he continued to train Standardbred horses capturing several awards including seven training titles at Maywood Park. In 2015 McCaffrey was inducted into the Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame. During McCaffrey's tenure, he saw the successful passage of two gaming bills that would have arrested the decline of the sport and helped place the industry on solid footing. Those bills were unfortunately vetoed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. The IHHA and ITHA have vowed to continue the fight for a gaming bill that will fund Illinois horseracing and breeding programs. Horse racing and breeding in the Prairie State contribute millions of dollars every year to Illinois economy. In 2008 McCaffrey was part of a team that helped pass legislation to fund horse racing through a casino impact fee. In 2011 he helped win the release of $141 million collected through that impact fee and owed to the Illinois horse racing industry. He was also able to see the state of Illinois fund recapture for several years and has continued to beat the drum about the deleterious effects of that law. "Recapture has hobbled horsemen for years," McCaffrey said about the ill conceived bill that requires horsemen to pay racetracks a fee if track handle dips below a certain level. "However, I'm proud that the IHHA negotiated contracts with Balmoral and Maywood Park that waived a large portion of recapture over the course of five years. That alone allowed harness horsemen to race for an extra $10 million dollars." Mike Campbell agrees with McCaffrey that Illinois' recapture law hurts Thoroughbred and Standardbred horsemen and he vows to work with harness horsemen to address the problem. "We are stronger when trainers, owners and breeders are united," said Campbell. "A rising tide lifts all boats and recapture is definitely an area where all horsemen need to work together to ensure that the business models of horseman are sustainable and taken into account equal to that of the tracks." Board of Directors First Vice President Marty Engel assumes McCaffrey's post as President. Standardbred owner and Trainer Joe Cassano was runner up in the 2015 board election. He will fill the Board vacancy. "David has been a phenomenal leader during difficult times," said Engel. "We will miss him but we are happy to see him move to a position where he can continue his work for the horsemen of Illinois and continue the relationships that he has built over the years." Illinois Standardbred and Thoroughbred horse racing have seen declines as the state of Illinois fails to keep the sport competitive with other horse racing states. Indeed, many other states like Indiana and Ohio have seen their programs blossom as Illinois' industry contracts due to state negligence. "My frustration with the state of Illinois knows know end," said McCaffrey "But Illinois horsemen refuse to give up. They are the reason that I work for a solution. Illinois' horseracing families deserve to live and work in a fair and competitive horse racing state and we will continue to fight the good fight." Mack Communications 1015 Maple Ave, Suite 200 Downers Grove, IL 60515 630-357-7552 Fax: 630-541-3212      

CHICAGO – Balmoral Park's closing hasn't meant total disaster for the harness racing industry that was clustered in south suburban Crete. Horses and horseman from the historic Balmoral Park race track have migrated about an hour north to the Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney, just outside of Chicago. The 125-year-old racetrack, which hosts thoroughbred racing in the spring, fall and winter, reached an agreement with the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association to keep harness racing in Illinois. Harness racing started at the track at 3501 S. Laramie just a half mile north of I-55 on Cicero Avenue this weekend, and will resume in the summer. Hawthorne says it's saving thousands of Chicagoland jobs and hundreds of small businesses, many in the rural area around Crete in the south suburbs. The historic Balmoral Park and Maywood Park in Melrose Place, the only two harness racing venues in Illinois, recently closed after their bankrupt owners requested too few racing dates for 2016. Many of those affected didn't know whether they'd be able to stay or if they'd have to relocate to be closer to other horse racing tracks, such as Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind. At one time, Illinois had five harness racing tracks, which also included Sportsman's Park, Washington Park and Aurora Downs. "This is a pivotal year for Illinois racing," Hawthorne President and General Manager Tim Carey said. "Race tracks are closing, competition from other states has never been stronger and there is no definitive timeline for gaming reform in Illinois that would allow us to truly compete on the national racing circuit. But we have an obligation to the people who work in this sport and we're doing all we can to keep it going." Hawthorne spent 70 days planning how to convert the track from thoroughbred to harness racing, which included removing over 11,000 tons of sand. They were able to get it ready in just 72 hours. "Hawthorne has really shown a commitment to Illinois racing in agreeing to host a January harness meet," Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association President Dave McCaffrey said. "There is a twinge of excitement among horsemen and hopefully we're going to have a good product for players to bet on: full fields, stakes series, top drivers. It’s sad that Maywood closed and now Balmoral is closing, but there is a lot to be thankful for with the new opportunity at Hawthorne and fans should be excited for what’s coming." Winter racing will take place five nights a week at Hawthorne until February 6. Ten races will take place a night, starting at 7:20 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Admission costs $2. Weekly promotions include $2 beer, hot dogs and nachos on Friday, $22.95 all-you-can-eat buffets from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, and second chance drawings for a $500 prize after the 7th race Sundays. For more information, call (708) 780-3700 or visit By Joseph S. Pete Reprinted with permission of the site

Rudy is not a small man. At 48 years old, his grin comes easier than a reach to the floor to retrieve the Balmoral Park Harness Racing Program that fell when his attention was turned, momentarily, to an interloper. Introductions were made by a track employee. Rudy, a regular, agreed to a chat, saying, "I'll tell you everything you need to know." Except his last name. The Beecher resident makes "three or four hundred (dollars) a day" betting harness racing, so a degree of discretion is his preference. "This is definitely one of the most comfortable facilities in the country to bet horses," Rudy said, sweeping a hand first toward the bar and rows of tables overlooking Balmoral's mile oval, then the other over a booth outfitted with a sofa, club chairs, five TVs each featuring a track elsewhere in the country and a betting machine. "They don't charge for the booths during the week. You can't beat that." Judging by the afternoon crowd on Preakness Saturday, Rudy's love for the 89-year-old Crete facility has not seemed to migrate to younger, or fairer, gamblers. "Yeah," he said with a shrug, "this ain't the place to come watch women." Tom Kelley, a Tinley Park resident who has worked at Balmoral for 29 years and is the director of publicity at Balmoral and Maywood Park, couldn't argue. "Unfortunately," he said, "it is an older, male crowd. "The key to getting the live racing product to survive is going to be generating a younger crowd." Whirlaway started here Balmoral Park, then called Lincoln Fields, opened in 1926, with the backing of the manager of Churchill Downs and several partners from the Kentucky Jockey Club. In 1936, Lincoln Fields would bring the first photo-finish camera to Illinois, and in 1940, Whirlaway, who went on to win the 1941 Triple Crown, won the first race of his career there. Lincoln Fields hosted thoroughbred racing until 1942, when World War II restrictions moved its schedule (or "meet") to Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero. A move to Washington Park in Homewood, and a grandstand fire at Lincoln Fields, delayed the return of racing to Crete until 1954. The next year, it was sold and rechristened Balmoral Park. Three ownership groups have since come and gone. Harness racing — horses pulling a sulky and driver, rather than carrying a jockey — arrived in 1973. Thoroughbred racing left for good in 1991. But business was good, at least until casino gambling started drawing away customers in the 1990s. "We'd draw 8,000-10,000 at Sportsman's on Saturday nights in the '80s," Kelley said of the now-shuttered Cicero track. "Now, we do 2,000, 2,500." Balmoral Racing Club Inc., which operates Balmoral and Maywood, filed for bankruptcy in December, the result of a reported $82 million lawsuit brought by four Illinois casinos seeking restitution for fees levied against the casinos by then-Governor Rod Blagojevich. The fees were extended through 2008 only after a Blagojevich associate sought a $100,000 campaign contribution from Balmoral's majority owner. The ownership group is now reportedly looking for buyers for its properties. Beyond that, Kelley and other Balmoral employees are anxiously watching the status of two gambling bills under consideration in the Illinois House, one of which would bring slot machines to race tracks. The legislative session ends Sunday. "If we get slot machines here, we generate more revenue," Kelley said. "Part of that goes to the purses. Bigger purses means we get better drivers, horses and trainers." Even if slots never come, the pursuit of revenue — and customers — goes on. Something for everyone To that end, on Memorial Day weekend, Balmoral launched its Miller Lite Saturday Nites, promotion, which will run through August. The evenings will feature live music — heavy on country acts — a $2 food menu and $2.50 bottles of Lite, MGD and Coors Light. The track, open seven days per week for simulcast wagering and Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 31 for live harness racing, has more than a dozen promotions lined up through October. Among the highlights are: • June 13: Runnin' with the Horses 5K (run the grounds, finish on the track while horses warm up for the night's racing). • June 13: Brewhaha Beer Festival (featuring craft beer from local brewers). • June 21: Father's Day Prime Rib Buffet • July 11: Bark at the Park (bring your dogs to Balmoral). • July 25: Pepe's Taco Eating Contest. • Aug. 15: Elvis Night (featuring Curt Lechner). • Sept. 12: Super Night (all Illinois-bred horses, racing for estimated purses totaling more than $1.3 million). • Oct. 17: Wine Tasting with Cooper's Hawk. An evening at the track can be inexpensive. Grandstand admission is free, as is parking, unless you choose the valet ($5). Bets can be as little as 10 cents. Of course, there are higher-end options. Luxury suites, with food and drink options ranging from pizza and soda to fine dining and a full bar, can be had from $14 to $70 per person. There are buffet and casual dining options. Corporate outings can accommodate as many as 1,000 guests. Fun? You bet! And then there's the main entertainment. "It's all about trying to make money," Rudy said. "The problem is, it's a thinking man's game. People like to sports bet, and they just pick a side. Here, you've got eight, 10 or 12 sides." Mike Antoniades, a Worth resident and the racing analyst at Balmoral and Maywood, tries to simplify things for the track newbie and the smart money alike. "Here's the difference between a night at the races and a night at the casino," he said. "There's a 20-minute space between races. It's more a social event than a gambling event. "At a casino, they're not going to let you sit 20 minutes before your next bet. There, it's a slot every six seconds. Your exposure is enormous." But, if mindless action is your game, you could merely bet the recommendations Antoniades makes for each race, noted in the program. "It's documented over 20 years, if you play the things I say, you'll stay about even," he said. Or you could take a flier on Antoniades' pick for the easiest "fun" bet to make. "Without question, it's the 10-cent superfecta," he said. A superfecta requires the bettor to correctly pick the first four horses and their order of finish in a given race. With a quick pick, a bettor could avoid studying the race program altogether, and could win more than $100 on an average race at Balmoral if his or her numbers come in. But, if you want to do the picking yourself, Antoniades said, "Look at the UDRS (Universal Drivers Rating System) numbers." Listed beside each driver's name, those numbers, he said, "Equate with a batting average in baseball. Bet the .300 hitters." That squares with the suggestion of Casey Leonard, who eclipsed the 1,000-win mark in 2013, just four years after becoming a full-time driver. "Betting the top drivers, that's a huge angle," Leonard said. "In thoroughbred racing, the horse's talent plays the biggest part. With us, track position is much more important. A lot of races are won or lost in the first quarter-mile." But gambling just one of the deals But, hear lifelong horsemen tell it, concentrating only on gambling is missing the point of a night at the track. "These horses, the good ones, have a distinct determination," Leonard said. "They have a competitive nature that you really don't see in other domesticated animals." Dave McCaffrey, the president of the Illinois Harness Horseman's Association, is equally passionate about the people behind the horses. "It's very family-oriented among horsemen," McCaffrey, a trainer with more than 30 years experience, said. "We've got third- and fourth-generation trainers and drivers." McCaffrey ticked off the reasons he loves harness racing: it's less expensive to get into than thoroughbred racing; the horses, standardbreds, are sturdier and less prone to injury; an owner can be a driver, while a thoroughbred owner, "unless you're 100 pounds and have an incredible amount of experience," could never be. But, on this warm spring day, McCaffrey settled his gaze on the picnic tables in front of the grandstand and pondered the months ahead. "In the summer, this becomes a great outdoor sport," he said. "You can stand on the apron of the track, eat a cheeseburger and hear the hoofbeats go by, hear the screams of the crowd. "It's very much a spectator sport, with a tremendous amount of excitement and nuance." By Phil Arvia Reprinted with permission of the Daily Southtown newspaper

DOVER, Del. --- Tony Morgan picked up three-wins and now needs only 10 more winning drives to reach 15,000 in his career, on Monday, March 16 at Dover Downs. Corey Callahan won four races. Morgan drove 9-1 shot, Yanklet Hanover, to victory in the first of two $15,500 3,4&5-Year-Old Filly and Mare Winners-Over paces. He moved Yanklet Hanover three wide to get the lead heading to the final turn and led the way down the lane for a 1:52.3 triumph, her second in her last three starts. Dave McCaffrey trains the Western Ideal-Yankee Scramble four-year-old for Z Tam Stables .It was her third win this year in eight starts and 12th lifetime for the $59,952 career winner. Fashion Showdown (Corey Callahan) roared down the lane to finish second with Hit By Lightning (Vic Kirby) third. Early leader Spin Vision finished off the board ending a five-race wins streak. In a second $15,500 4&5-Year-Old co-feature, George Dennis made it to the winner's circle for a third time driving owner-trainer Jeff Clark's second winner, Annabeth, sitting second and capturing the passing lane for a 1:54.1 success, A daughter of Shadow Play-Get Out Ammanda, the win was her first of 2015 and eighth lifetime winning $ 59,340. Morgan's 14,990th win came guiding. Bob Bailey's Maby Bonkey to victory in 1:55 in one of two 3,4&5-Year-Old female paces. Morgan found room along the inside to send the Voracious Hanover-Elegant Artist mare, trained by Ryan Bailey, to her second win this year in eight races. A Wild Money Maker (Kirby) was next with Trindle Hanover (Jonathan Roberts) third. Springforth took the shortest route to the finish line giving George Dennis his second of three wins, all via the passing lane, a 1:53 decision in a $14,000 female pace. Jeremes Sweetheart (Kirby) led until the final strides and finished second. Embassy Seelster (Callahan) was the show horse. Brees Creek puts a two-race win streak on the line in the $20,000-$25,000 Claiming Handicap Tuesday feature race. Monday through Thursday post time is 4:30 p.m. There is no Friday, Saturday and Sunday racing. Parking and admission to Dover Downs is free. A 'Two-for-One Entre' is feature on Thursdays until closing day, April 9, in the Winners Circle Restaurant. Reservations are suggested. Call 302-674-4600. Simulcasting of leading harness and thoroughbred racing is located in the Dover Downs Race & Sports Book. Marv Bachrad

With the start of Spring only a week away let’s take a look who has fared well on the local harness racing circuit the first couple of months of the 2015 Winter. The leading stable as we go into Thursday’s action may be a bit of a surprise. It’s Brett Wilfong (pictured) who is off to a hot season start, The Donovan, Illinois horseman has had 21 of his horses finish first as we head into the middle of March Brett’s 13 winners at Maywood Park ties him for the top spot with Perry Smith, who took last year’s training title at the half-mile track. Wilfong’s 8 victors at Balmoral Park has Brett tied for third best at the Crete, IL big track with Jim Ellison. Balmoral’s defending trainer champion Nelson Willis is on top there with 14 winners, followed by Bob Phillips with 9. Perry Smith rounds out the current Balmoral Top Five with 6. At Maywood Wilfong and Smith are followed by trainers Angie Affrunti and Gary Fatland, both with 7. Dave McCaffrey, Terry Leonard and Albert Kopiec each have 6. Wide Open Features: Friday’s co-features at Maywood Park are a pair of medium level conditioned paces, one for colts and geldings and the other for fillies and mares. Both have no-clear cut favorite. The Maywood morning line has two Tom Simmons trainees as the early choices The pair will race uncoupled because of different ownership. Long Term (Date Hiteman), a winner last week stepping up in class, opens at 2-1 while his stable-mate Real Hero (Casey Leonard), a nose short last time,  is at 5-2 first flash odds. Expect Desperado Alibi (Brian Carpenter), coming off a game win last week and with the pole position Friday, to also get plenty of play at the betting windows. The same goes for Don’t Worry B Happy (Mike Oosting) who is listed at generous 10-1 odds in the program. The Willis trainee proved best at Friday’s class two weeks ago. Also going postward in the non-winners of $8,000 in their last 8 starts are Some Heart Throb (8-1, Kyle Wilfong) and Total Sin (12-1, Lavern Hostetler). The 10th race for distaffers is another where 3 or 4 horses could be vying for most of the public’s choice. Last week’s front-stepping winner Incredible Filly (Tim Curtin) is listed at 3-1, Melodie Hotspur, a bridesmaid in her last four outings, is next at 7-2. Financial Effort (Casey Leonard) follows at 9-2 with Molly Go Lightly (Mike Oosting) at 6-1. The latter got bottled up behind a wall of horses and finished full of pace but much too far back to reward her backers. Steph’s Place (Todd Warren) who steps up after popping for her new barn a week ago is at 8-1. The 6-year-old ICF mare was claimed for $4,000 by Smith in her last February start after capturing 5 of her first 6 outings for the Terry Leonard Stable. She’ll start off at liberal 8-1 odds. Completing that field are ER Monica (15-1, Dean Magee), Misspanderosajones (12-1, Ridge Warren), Sealark Hanover (15-1, Sam Widger) and Gimmeazzzmooch (10-1, Dale Hiteman). By Mike Paradise

HINSDALE, Ill. - Juniors and seniors from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences took the reins this month at Maywood Park in Chicago's near west suburbs when they job-shadowed local harness racing trainers for a day. All students participating in the shadow days are seniors and juniors who gain hands on experience by working directly with trainers and horses. High School Junior Paulina Arellano studies animal science and hopes to one day work in the horse racing industry. Paulina said that during her trip she and the other students "learned a lot about what exactly happens to the horses, trainers, and workers off the horse track." In 2010 The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences embarked on a Standardbred breeding program spearheaded by local horse owner Denny Pietranduono. The school's first yearling was sold in 2013 for $6,200 at public auction. The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association is a vocal supporter of the breeding program at the High School and was eager to help students learn more about horse racing. "It was a great opportunity to spend time with young people who are excited to learn about the horses and the sport," said IHHA President Dave McCaffrey. "Even though Standardbred trainers are part of the agricultural community in Chicago, we don't always think about them that way. These students were a reminder that even in a big city, agriculture and agribusiness employs people and supports the economy." Arellano said that her favorite part of the trip to Maywood Park was when students were allowed to jog a horse around the track. "To me, it was like heaven," she said. "Because I love race horses and working with them." McCaffrey said that the IHHA is excited to participate more with students in the animal science program at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. "It's great to see the passion in the students' faces," he said. "I think it helps remind us of why we got into the business in the first place." Andrew Mack

HINSDALE, Ill. - The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association is urging harness racing horsemen to participate in upcoming yearling sales, reminding everyone that funding for the Illinois bred stakes program for 2015 should be very similar to 2014. "The earnings potential for two-year-olds in 2015 should be substantial," said IHHA President Dave McCaffrey. "We believe that the Illinois breeding program is the lifeblood of the harness racing industry and we will do everything we can to ensure that our breeding program is able to continue." While horsemen in Illinois have experienced difficulty over the years because of a lack of new revenue sources, the IHHA is still hopeful that legislation approving slots at racetracks will become law in the near future. In the meantime, Standardbred breeders in Illinois continue to breed great young horses and hold yearling sales throughout the summer. "Illinois has a long history of breeding champion racehorses," said Hall of Fame Standardbred breeder "Doc" Walker. "People may be tentative about certain aspects of our future but horsemen can be confident that there will be yearlings to buy this summer and plenty of stakes races to enter them in during 2015." Horsemen should expect the usual stakes races in 2015 including the Super Night races, the Cardinals and the Violets. The stakes races at both the Springfield and DuQuoin State Fairs will be run as well as the County Fairs throughout the state. Funding for Illinois bred stakes races that comes from the Illinois Department of Agriculture is slated to remain at current levels. Foal crops have been similar the last few years so nominating payments should also be comparable. "There will be ample opportunity for horsemen to race young Illinois bred horses in 2015," said McCaffrey. "The breeding programs are important to the viability of the horse racing industry here and have a positive impact on the Illinois economy," said Bob Flider, Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. "I'm very pleased that my department will be able to continue funding the stakes races at existing levels in its current budget." The current contract between the IHHA and the racetracks is for racing four nights a week through June 30, 2015. After that is still to be determined but both groups anticipate a schedule of somewhere between two and four days per week beginning July 1, 2015. "There will be harness racing in Illinois in 2015 and there will be an Illinois bred stakes program," said Duke Johnston. We understand how important it is to both horsemen and the racetracks. "It is vital to the industry that the Illinois breeding programs stays strong and the horse population stays consistent."   Supported by industry leaders: Dave McCaffrey, President Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association; Duke Johnston, President Maywood and Balmoral Park; Robert Flider, Director Illinois Department of Agriculture.   by Andrew Mack, for IHHA  

DOVER, Del.----. Feel Like A Fool closed strongly for a 1:51 victory in the $27,500 Delaware Special on Thursday, Feb. 19 at Dover Downs. George Dennis piloted Kovach Stables' Feel Like A Fool to his first win of 2014 coming from off-the-pace to score a 1:51 triumph in this week's feature pace. Mustang Art (Ron Pierce) rolled away to take a fast early lead in :26 and continued to lead until deep stretch when the Bobby Clark-trainee, Feel Like A Fool, an Art Major-Fool That I am gelding, came on to edged People Are Crazy (Vic Kirby) for the win. Mustang Art held on for third. The $17,500 4&5-Year-Old Open went even faster Lindwood Player and Corey Callahan streaked home in a lifetime best 1:50.4 for Mike Casalino and meet-leading trainer Dylan Davis. The win was the third in-a-row for The Panderosa-Direct Player five-year-old who now has banked $224,799 in his career. Mr Dennis (Pierce) finished second nosing out Jeremes General (Allan Davis), third. Owner-trainer Ed Gannon's Artists Rally with Trace Tetrick finished even faster posting a 1:50.3 lifetime best. The Real Artist-Spunky Gal gelding nipped Dirty Devil (Callahan), who had won two straight. Bad Man Sam (Kirby) was third in the $15,000 Male Winners-Over pace. In the first of three $14,500 paces, Just A Jolt, a Village Jolt-Just Wait Kate gelding, driven by Trace Tetrick, trained by Jim King for owner John Dayton recorded a lifetime record 1:52.1 in a $&5-year-old pace. Chesapeake Bay (Pierce) was runner-up. Shark On Board (Frank Milby) was the show finisher. Crissman Inc.'s Fancy Colt, reined by Tony Morgan, made it three in-a-row and five in his last seven, notching a 1:52.2, for trainer Tim Crissman, in another winners-over pace. Encoding Z Tam (Callahan) took second with Coopers Beach (Jonathan Roberts) third. Fancy Colt is an Always A Virgin from Fanciful Hanover gelding. Howard Taylor's Spinfiniti was the first of four Corey Callahan wins. The No Spin Zone-Hurricane Jenny four-year-old trained by Josh Green won his fifth in six starts taking a $12,000 4&5-Year-Old Male pace. Two races later Callahan steered Crusher Man at 55-1 to a 1:53 win in another $12,000 pace. Trainer Trish Foulk co-owns the gelding with Nanticoke Racing. Corey Callahan won his fourth race of the day, another $14,000 pace, driving Z Tam Stables' Wilbur's Z Tam, trained by Dave McCaffrey, to a personal record equaling 1:52 win. The Charley Barley-Artha Ray gelding won by a nostril beating race favorite Sea Harrier (Tetrick) who had a three-race win streak ended. Teresa's Beach (Bret Brittingham) was the show horse. Jonathan Roberts and trainer Dylan Davis had two wins apiece. by Marv Bachrad, for Dover Downs  

Hinsdale, IL - For the second week in a row, live harness racing in Illinois has been cancelled because of a contract dispute between the owners of Maywood and Balmoral Park Racetracks and the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA). The central conflict surrounds the question of what rights do the horsemen have in directing their own bank account known in racing as the purse account. "At the core of this dispute is who decides how to spend money that is clearly earmarked for purses, which essentially are paychecks for the people who make horseracing possible." said IHHA President Dave McCaffrey. "Those people are grooms, trainers, drivers, veterinarians, blacksmiths, farmers and breeders. Our purse account currently has over $5 million and we want to start racing for that money." The current impasse exists because the racetracks have proposed an immediate, substantial cut to purses so that purse money can be dribbled out over the next couple of years. The IHHA has countered saying that horsemen would rather race for similar money as in 2013 at least until the end of the next legislative session. "It's very difficult for horsemen to make a living at the current purse levels," said IHHA board member Mike Knicley. "A decrease in purses now will only make it more difficult to stay employed in this industry." The IHHA believes that the very people who provide the horses to race, have a better understanding of the impact that purse levels have on the day to day operations. They say that the racetracks miss the point on the effect that an immediate purse cut will have on the quality of life for horsemen. "It's like cutting someone's hourly rate from $12 to $9," said McCaffrey. "People have to be able to make a living right now. Our money is being held hostage and those purses are paychecks for our families. The bottom line is that the $5 million is our money; we're not asking for increases, just to use our money to add some stability." McCaffrey emphasized that other factors may play a role later in 2014. "Things can change very quickly in Springfield," he said. "We don't know what the legislature will do in the next year, but we do know that hardworking people in racing need to have control of their own money. The question is, do we allow the racetracks to chop purses now so they can race for a couple of more years by having their "labor force," the ones who put on the show, working for miserable wages, or do we race for 2013 purses now and try and maintain a decent existence?" While the future for Illinois horse racing is uncertain, a gambling bill is gaining steam again in the Illinois Legislature. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has said in the past that once a pension bill is passed, he will be able to turn his attention to gambling expansion. Pension reform legislation was signed by the Governor in December 2013. Illinois horseman can only hope that the much needed relief that a signed gaming bill will bring does not come too late.   submitted by the IHHA

Time is quickly ticking away in regard to the Advance Deposit Wagering saga in Illinois. With a racing crisis looming, a spokesman for Governor Pat Quinn has issued a positive statement in regard to the situation. The current agreement sees a portion of funds from ADW funnelled to the Illinois Racing Board so it can regulate live horse racing in the state. That agreement is scheduled to expire on January 31, therefore leaving the future of Illinois horse racing in limbo. The earliest possible time that state legislators can vote on an ADW bill – which has already passed the Senate – is January 29. There has been some talk this week that the deadline may be extended into early February, but arrangements are not officially in place for that scenario. According to an article by the Belleville News-Democrat, a spokesman for Quinn has said that the governor supports the bill which would see a new three-year extension on an ADW agreement. "The governor supports extending advanced deposit wagering," said Gov. Quinn’s spokesman, David Blanchette. "The governor intends to sign it if it reaches his desk." Last week, Illinois Harness Horseman’s Association President Dave McCaffrey issued a press statement in which he said that it is imperative that Illinois legislators take time to pass the ADW bill so the Illinois Racing Board can continue to regulate horse racing in the state. “Without ADW funds, the IRB cannot sufficiently carry out its responsibilities,” McCaffery said. “Consequently, harness racing would see a 95 per cent reduction in racing dates, from 251 racing days in 2013 to just 13 racing days in 2014. Such dramatic cuts will effectively kill Illinois horse racing and the thousands of jobs it creates.” (With files from the Belleville News-Democrat)

Illinois legislators will reconvene in Springfield on Wednesday to hear Gov. Pat Quinn’s State of the State address. It also is imperative that they pass legislation allowing Advance Deposit Wagering. ADW allows horse racing fans to bet on horse races online. This is not a new law. ADW has been legal since 2009 but is due to sunset Jan. 31. A percentage of ADW wagers fund the Illinois Racing Board, which regulates horse racing. Without ADW funds, the IRB cannot sufficiently carry out its responsibilities. Consequently, harness racing would see a 95 percent reduction in racing dates, going from racing 251 days in 2013 to 13 days in 2014. Such dramatic cuts will effectively kill Illinois horse racing and the thousands of jobs it creates. We simply want to do what we love and earn an honest paycheck. But this bill, which is supported unanimously in the horse racing industry, must pass first. Illinois horse racing employs more than 15,000 men and women, including drivers, trainers, bartenders, blacksmiths and more. These are real jobs throughout Illinois. It is reasonable to assume then that the Illinois General Assembly would be eager to promote and nurture an industry that provides revenue and jobs in a state that is hungry for those things. Our racing season is scheduled to begin Feb. 5. We urge all lawmakers to encourage leadership to call this critical piece of legislation on Wednesday and show your support with a “yes” vote. Casey Leonard Harness driver, Harvard Dave McCaffrey President Illinois Harness Horseman’s Association 

"The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association strongly denounces the failure of the Illinois General Assembly to pass an extension of Advance Deposit Wagering today. That failure will very likely result in the loss of many of Illinois' agribusiness jobs and millions of dollars in state revenue. "Without Advance Deposit Wagering, the Illinois Racing Board will not have the money required to operate and Illinois harness racing dates will be cut to the bone with only 13 days of liveharness racing in 2014. Thirteen days of live racing absolutely cannot employ the 20,000 men and women who currently work in Illinois' horseracing industry. "We still hold out hope that on January 29th, just days before the harness racing schedule typically starts, legislators will pass an ADW extension. Much damage will already be done however, as horsemen will undoubtedly have already shipped horses to other states with more favorable horseracing environments." Dave McCaffrey President Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association  

As is my annual tradition, it's time for my annual 'Things to be Thankful For' list. I am sure I am missing some people so forgive me ahead of time. Here is this year's list with the entries in no particular order.  Captaintreacherous and Bee A Magician - Who would think we would be at the conclusion of the 2013 racing campaign and still have a debate about who may be  the recipient of Horse of the Year Honors?  Sure, Bee A Magician right now is in front, but a victory by Captaintreacherous in the TVG FFA Series Final against older horses would result in the Captain taking the honors away from this fantastic filly at the last possible moment TVG and the Meadowlands for the TVG FFA Series - With all due respect to the Cleveland Classic, without this partnership of TVG and the Meadowlands, most of the top FFA horses would have called it a season after the Breeders Crown.  This partnership is giving us two great races and shows what can happen when ADWs and tracks work together.  I could mention the Gural team at the Meadowlands for their efforts in bringing Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment to fruition but it is time we mention someone within Team Gural for praise.  For that reason, we are thankful for Nick Salvi, a man without a title but is everywhere.  In addition to his duties at the three Gural-operated tracks, he write press releases for the Breeders Crown, The Red Mile, and is seen at the sales and of course Lexington.  Did I mention that Nick is also Vice-President of the Grand Circuit?  Nick may not have made his mark as a driver/trainer, but the sport is richer having Nick on the business-side of the industry. Once again, we are thankful for John Manzi - Not only does he attempt to keep racing in the forefront as much as possible at Monticello Raceway, Manzi is another Press Release King.  Let's see from memory, in addition to writing press releases for Monticello Raceway, he writes press releases for the CKG Billings Series, NAADA, USHWA Monticello-Goshen  Chapter, Historic Track and others.  If there is a press release to be written, they know who to call, John Manzi. Brett Boyd, President of the MHHA - The situation in Michigan is becoming worse every year and most people wouldn't want to be stuck in a position of leadership, yet Boyd keeps fighting the battle on behalf of Michigan Harness Horsemen no matter how poor the odds are.  The horsemen in Michigan should be thankful they have someone like Boyd fighting for them and maybe he will be able to pull victory out of the lions mouth.  We should be thankful as well. Dave McCaffrey - The leader of the Illinois Harness Horsemen Association has been put through the screws this past year with the fight over ADW wagering in the Prairie State.  Would you like to be the leader of a group facing the possibility of only 13 days of racing in 2014 if the politicians can't be won over?  Neither would I but we are thankful McCaffery still is working on leading the harness industry in his state to a renaissance. . Bob Marks - Now a man without a portfolio since Peretti Farms has had its dispersal sale, we can say how much racing has been blessed to have Marks on our side.  From Top Trotter, to writing articles for Hoof Beats, to marketing Peretti stallions and yearlings, he has done it all.  Marks may be talking about life outside of racing but I don't think having Marks outside of racing is in our best interests.  While we are thankful for what Marks has done, hopefully someone ropes him in, at least on a part time basis, so he remains in racing. Heather Vitale - Ms. Sunshine is a wonderful spokesman for the sport with her hosting and producing Post Time and co-hosting PA Harnessweek with her partner in crime Steve Ross.  Despite being run down in the effort of putting together her Post Time show, she maintained her good nature.  When she is not producing these shows, she takes care of her two children and volunteers with non-profit organization.  Heather gives it all for the sport and the time has come for this regional treasure to be given national exposure, perhaps working the Hambletonian and Breeders Crown.  Jodie Doherty - In addition to raising children and being the backbone behind a small family stable, this young lady spends her time educating people on the plight of unwanted race horses and about those looking to take advantage of those good-natured people trying to help them.  She doesn't just talk the talk, she also walks the talk as she has her own barn of pensioners, including a thoroughbred horse. There are others who do similar work be it running rescues or have a higher profile to speak from but Doherty's pretty effective just the same. Horse Rescues (legitimate) - Harness racing and for that fact all of racing should be thankful for their respective rescues.  Yes, there is a flood of unwanted race horses but these rescues do their part by saving as many horses they can while constantly fundraising and struggling to pay the bills.  It's a thankless job but they are doing it.  We thank these rescues and those who volunteer their time helping them.  A thank you to their donors needs to be said as well. Monica Thors - She had put her racing stable on hiatus for the past three years working on a labor of love, the documentary I Am a Harness Racing Horse.  She battles to get this film telling the story of harness racing and its equine stars despite running into roadblocks when she shouldn't have to.  As the film is now in post production, she is slowly ramping up her racing stable for its return to the racing wars.  We are thankful for her spirit to never say no. Those tracks and horsemen groups which go the extra mile and support efforts to promote those groups who support horse rescue.  Yes, things are tight these days but there are ways to help bring attention and funds to these groups and even get some publicity out of it.  Yet it is surprising how many groups when asked to make a relatively small donation to help promote these groups say no.  I just hope those who say 'No' when asked are doing their part in other ways.  Otherwise, shame on them. Finally, we are thankful to all those who are doing what they can for Anthony Coletta who is battling to recover from a nasty accident at Harrah's Philadelphia.  From those who have the resources to do a lot to those who don't have the resources to do much, we are thankful that you are doing what you can. Allow me to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. by Allan Schott from View From the Racetrack Grandstand

Horsemen left out of legislative session - Tens of thousands of jobs in limbo SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Over 20,000 Illinois horsemen are unsure about the security of their jobs today after the General Assembly adjourned without acting to extend online horse betting also known as Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW), a key funding source for the Illinois Racing Board. Without that extra funding, the Racing Board will have to dramatically curtail the racing season. “It’s beyond frustrating,” said Illinois Harness Horsmen’s Association President Dave McCaffrey. “Thousands of horsemen are unable to plan for their future. Working men and women, breeders, blacksmiths, trainers – no one in the industry knows if we will begin racing February first, February fifteenth or in July.” The Racing Board needed to come up with almost $800,000 to help plug a hole in their budget. The shortfall is left over from a failure to extend ADW in the 2013 Spring Legislative session. Interests in the horse racing industry, including racetracks, horsemen’s associations and ADW companies were charged by legislators with coming up with a plan that all of the racing industry parties agreed on. The plan that the industry put forward would have solved the problem by imposing a .9 percent surcharge on winning online wagers. The revenue from that surcharge would have funded the Racing Board for two years, while also extending ADW. The proposed surcharge on ADW would still be less than the surcharge imposed on bets placed at the racetrack or an off track betting parlor. “Nearly everyone in the Illinois racing industry supported this plan,” said McCaffrey. “We need Help somehow, from somewhere to settle this issue quickly.” The next scheduled day for legislators to reconvene for session is January 29th 2013, the day before racing typically begins. “Everyone in the horse industry is left in limbo,” said McCaffrey. “How can anyone plan to run a business when they don’t even know if the industry is going to be around? These are people’s lives that are at stake here.” There is some speculation that the General Assembly will come back to Springfield for a special session to pass pension reform in December, however, there is no guarantee that an ADW bill will be called or passed. “Horsemen need to race to make a living and we are doing everything we possibly can to make that happen,” said McCaffrey. “Horsemen are not multimillionaires. We’re talking about blue collar working men and women supporting families.” Andrew Mack  

Hinsdale, IL – The Illinois Harness Horseman’s Association (IHHA) today warned that potentially catastrophic changes to the state’s horseracing industry are on the horizon after September’s Illinois Racing Board (IRB) race dates meeting. Those changes include the shuttering of Maywood Park in the western suburbs and an extensive reduction in racing dates at Balmoral Racetrack in the southern suburbs. In a worst case scenario outlined by the IRB, live harness racing dates would be reduced from the 225 live race days in 2013 to a meager 13 live dates in 2014. “Thousands of horsemen would lose their jobs and have their lives turned upside down under this scenario,” said IHHA President Dave McCaffrey. The Racing Board passed four race date options during their last board meeting with a best case scenario keeping the race dates similar to 2013. The doomsday scenario would occur if the IRB does not receive $725,000 in supplemental funding from the state and an extension of Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) byJanuary 31 2014. “Harness racing in Illinois and all of the agribusiness associated with it would virtually cease to exist,” said McCaffrey. “Horsemen cannot make a living on 13 race dates per year. And neither can veterinarians, blacksmiths, breeders, grooms, hay farmers or truck and trailer salesmen.” Under the first and best case scenario, the IRB will receive $725,000 in “supplemental funding” and ADW will be renewed by January 31. The supplemental funding is required, says the IRB, to make up for a funding shortfall experienced earlier in 2013 when the General Assembly failed to extend ADW which allows online horse wagering. The IRB receives a substantial amount of revenue from ADW taxes. The General Assembly eventually passed an ADW extension in May of this year but it is set to expire again at the beginning of 2014. Scenario one would basically keep harness racing the same as it currently is. Maywood Park would host live races two nights per week from February 5 to December 31 and Balmoral would host races three nights per week from February 4 to December 31.   In scenario two, ADW would be renewed by January 31 but no supplemental funding would be provided for the IRB. This second option would allow Maywood to race two nights per week from February 19 to December 31.  Balmoral would race two nights per week from February 15 to December 31.   Under scenario three, the IRB would receive the $750,000 supplemental funding but no ADW extension would be passed.   The third option would close Maywood to live racing.  Balmoral would race only two nights per week on Friday and Saturday starting on February 15 and ending on December 1.    The fourth scenario is by far the worst and would happen if the IRB receives no supplemental funding and ADW is not renewed.   Scenario four would virtually end harness racing in Illinois allowing zero Maywood races and a meager 13 race nights at Balmoral in July, August, and September.   “We plan to work with the IRB and the legislature to find adequate funding to retain the tens of thousands of agriculture jobs that the horse racing industry provides to Illinois,” said McCaffrey. “We know that the Governor and General Assembly understand the tremendous value that horse racing provides to Illinois’ economy as a major agribusiness driver. Without a solution, there will be a lot of new people filing for unemployment.” The IHHA is also hopeful that the General Assembly will find the will to finally pass legislation allowing slots at racetracks during the fall veto session. To the tremendous detriment of Illinois racing, other states have allowed slot machines at racetracks drawing bettors, horsemen and horses away from Illinois to greener pastures. “We are definitely at a crossroads,” said McCaffrey. “The General Assembly has the power to save horseracing and the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars that it injects into Illinois’ economy, or they can let another major industry move to other states where it is allowed be successful.” Perhaps the only bright spot of the Racing Board hearing was the order handed down for racetracks to keep their backstretches open and operational under scenarios one and two.  Of course that victory would be eliminated if an ADW bill is not passed.   Illinois’ Veto Session begins October 22. Andrew Mack  

1 to 15 of 15