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HINSDALE, Ill. - The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA) applauds the signing of gaming legislation by Governor Pritzker today. The legislation will revolutionize and reinvigorate horse racing in Illinois leading to the creation of thousands of new agriculture jobs. "We've been working on this legislation for what seems like forever," said IHHA Executive Director Tony Somone. "Our team has never lost sight of the working men and women who earn their living in Illinois horse racing. We continued to work until literally the last minutes to make sure that horsemen would have the ability to prosper into the future because of this gaming package. A new day is dawning for our industry." Illinois horsemen have fought for years for casino-style gaming at racetracks which has been used by other horse racing states to boost purses and revive the breeding industry. Over the years, Illinois harness racing - once a premier harness destination in the United States - has been decimated as horsemen moved their farms and employees to other states that offered more opportunity because of slot machines at racetracks. "Because of this bill, I can stay in Illinois to raise my family," said IHHA Board Member and harness racing driver and trainer Juan Franco. Not only will horsemen see their purse winnings grow with the introduction of casino games at racetracks, the widely despised and unfair practice of purse recapture will end with the passage of this legislation. Furthermore, horsemen will have guaranteed live racing opportunities that will enable them to call Illinois home all year long. "The passing of this Legislation in Illinois is game changing for horseman," said IHHA Board Member Angie Coleman. "It's going to put us back on the map as a major player in harness racing in North America. It will attract the top horses, drivers, trainers, grooms and breeders which in turn equates to jobs in Illinois." Securing added money specifically for Illinois-bred horses will also rejuvenate horse breeding which is one of the linchpins of horse racing's economic impact in agriculture. "We're going to see a resurgence in Standardbred breeding," said IHHA Board Member Ed Teefy. "It will take a few years to get the numbers up because there's a lot that goes into a breeding farm and the industry will be hungry for employees to work at those farms." In 2018 there were 124 Standardbred horses foaled. That's down from a peak of more than 2,000 foals in the 1980's. From foaling to the racetrack, a racehorse directly impacts numerous different jobs such as breeders and their farm help, grooms, trainers, and drivers. They indirectly employ many more like blacksmiths, veterinarians, hay and grain farmers and dealers, and truck and trailer dealers. Jobs at the racetrack like tellers, bartenders, servers, marketing and accounting people, and the track crews will all exist and prosper because of this legislation.   "The ripple effect of our industry on Illinois economy is wide and difficult to grasp sometimes," said IHHA President Marty Engel. "It was one of our missions to make sure that our economic impact was understood as valuable." Another achievement of the legislation is language that will allow for a new Standardbred only racino to be opened somewhere in the Chicago region. Currently, Standardbred racing only happens at Hawthorne Racetrack which splits it's time between Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing. The Illinois State fairs at Springfield and DuQuoin and the County fairs up and down the state, long a staple of the industry, will see a significant increase in purses as this legislation has earmarked purse dollars specifically for Illinois Conceived and Foaled races. County Fairs are the training ground for many horses and aspiring horsemen and the boost to purses means that more young people will see the opportunities to make a living. This will lead to more horses being bred and eventually racing and creating more demand for agricultural services like veterinarians and blacksmiths, as well as agriculture products like grain and hay. "This gaming bill is going to have a tremendous impact on horseracing which has an immense impact on agriculture across the state," said Somone. The IHHA also extends their sincerest gratitude to former Governor Jim Edgar for his longtime dedication to horse racing in Illinois. His knowledge of the industry and his experience in Illinois government were vital to the passage of fair legislation that included horse racing.   Mack Communications 540 W. 35th St. Suite 201 Chicago, IL 60616 312-940-3638      

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA) is urging lawmakers during these last few days of session to pass gaming legislation that includes horse racing. Proposed legislation would reinvigorate Illinois' horse racing industry and lead to the creation of thousands of new agriculture jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in sorely needed revenue for the state. Former Illinois Governor and racehorse owner Jim Edgar is confident that if gaming expansion includes horse racing, thousands of new agriculture jobs will be created across the state. "This gaming bill is a jobs bill for the horse racing industry," said Edgar. "One racehorse directly employs three people like grooms, trainers, and drivers and indirectly employs many others like hay and grain farmers, veterinarians, blacksmiths, equipment dealers and more. The ripple effect of horse racing on the agriculture industry is tremendous." In addition to allowing existing racetracks to add slot machines, proposed gaming legislation would permit the construction of a new Standardbred racetrack in the metropolitan Chicago area. "All of the racing has moved east to states that have invested in horse racing," said IHHA President Marty Engel. "Agriculture is number one in Illinois and horse racing fits hand in glove with agriculture. There is no reason Illinois can't have a robust horse racing industry if gaming legislation is passed into law." Standardbred horse breeding numbers are at an all time low in Illinois with only around 140 foals bred in 2018. At the height of horse racing in Illinois, more than 2,000 Standardbred horses were foaled in Illinois. Many Illinois horsemen have moved their breeding farms and training facilities to states like Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania which allow casino at racetracks. In fact, Illinois is only one of a very few horse racing state in the country that does not allow casino gaming at racetracks. In other states, money from those casino games is used to boost purse winnings for horsemen. Over the last few years, horsemen have fled the Land of Lincoln for greener pastures. Members of the IHHA are optimistic that horse racing in Illinois would swiftly rebound if racetracks were allowed slot machines. "Ohio had virtually no professional horse racing industry ten years ago," said IHHA board member Angie Coleman. "Since allowing casino gaming at racetracks, Ohio has seen a horse racing boom. New tracks have been built and thousands of agribusiness jobs have been created to support the industry there." Rita Williams, an IHHA Board Director and longtime horse breeder in Illinois says that it will take a couple of years to get the breeding numbers back up but there will be tremendous enthusiasm for Illinois-bred horses. "There are lots of incentives to race Illinois-bred horses in our state," said Williams. "Existing laws and rules benefit Illinois-bred horses and if the purse money increases, you can bet that trainers, drivers, grooms, and breeders will want to get in on the action." In addition to a new racetrack and casino gaming at existing racetracks, this proposed legislation will also guarantee live race dates, a fair percentage of the profits from gaming at tracks to horsemen's purses and the elimination of recapture. A certain number of live races will be earmarked for Illinois-bred horses, further supporting Illinois agriculture.     Mack Communications

HINSDALE--As Gov. JB Pritzker takes the helm in Illinois, horsemen throughout the state, are urging his administration to include harness racing and its enormous contribution to the agribusiness industry when they explore new avenues to expand gaming.   "With more than $1 billion in contributions to the agribusiness economy of our state, horse racing must be included in any conversations about gaming," said Tony Somone, Executive Director of the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA). "Ours is the only segment of the gaming industry that has significant room to grow and provide real and sustainable jobs in agriculture."   Former Governor Jim Edgar who is a part of Governor Pritzker's transition team is aware of the economic impact that horse racing can have in Illinois having raced his own horses for many years. "Horse racing and the thousands of jobs it creates remains an important part of the agricultural economy of our state," former Governor Edgar said. "Ensuring its viability in the overall gaming environment is in the best interests of the state of Illinois."   Studies show that every race horse employs as many as ten workers across Illinois. From grooms and trainers to breeding farms, grain dealers, veterinarians, track officials and many more, horse racing is a solid job creator that has been badly neglected in Illinois in recent years.   "It is true that horse racing is struggling in Illinois because of casinos, but we know that with additional gaming assistance, other states have seen their horse racing industry rebound to previous heights of employment and business," said Marty Engel, President of the IHHA. "We earnestly hope that Gov. Pritzker sees fit to include horse racing in any gaming legislation that emerges in the months ahead. We are one segment of gaming that will more than pay its way through the creation of new and sustainable jobs throughout our economy."   In the last decade, legislation in Illinois has allowed the development of slot machines at taverns and the construction and opening of the 10th casino in Des Plaines. Illinois horsemen have survived despite all of those changes but not without losing thousands of good agribusiness jobs to places like Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and virtually every other horse racing state that has actively worked to grow the sport.   Engel added, "Make no mistake; horsemen will come back to Illinois to race if the prizes or purses are competitive with other states. And they will bring jobs with them. We have seen it happen throughout the country in states that have boosted their purses with money from slot machines. Those states now offer purses much larger than Illinois and their horse racing industries are booming as a result, adding tens of thousands of jobs." ###   Mack Communications 540 W. 35th St. Suite 201 Chicago, IL 60616 312-940-3638      

The USTA District Five Harness Racing Awards Banquet will be held on Saturday (Jan. 20) at Poe’s Catering on the Hill in Springfield, Ill. If you have questions regarding the banquet or would like to purchase tickets, please contact Tina Schrock at 217.416.0006 by Monday (Jan. 15). The following awards will be given out at the banquet: 2017 Illinois Horse of the Year Fox Valley Gemini 2017 Divisional Champions 2-Year-Old Colt Pace-Fox Valley Gemini 2-Year-Old Filly Pace-Fox Valley Jazzy 3-Year-Old Colt Pace-Captain Rhett 3-Year-Old Filly Pace-Fancy Creek Jolene Aged Horse Pace-Evergreen Elite Aged Mare Pace-Bucklegirl Bobette Pacing Sire-Yankee Skyscaper Pacing Broodmare-She’s Redhot 2-Year-Old Colt Trot-Vic’s Pizza 2-Year-Old Filly Trot-Maui Mama 3-Year-Old Colt Trot-Louscipher 3-Year-Old Filly Trot-Anna’s Lucky Star Aged Horse Trot-Tricky Nick Aged Mare Trot-Ants Iner Pants Trotting Sire-Cassis Trotting Broodmare-Yankee Victory OM 2017 County Fair Point Winners 2-Year-Old Colt Pace-Mr It Aint Fair 2-Year-Old Filly Pace-Ryans Mistress 3-Year-Old Colt Pace-Sirius Speedway 3-Year-Old Filly Pace-Prettyfaceuglyways 2-Year-Old Colt Trot-Majistic Caprice 2-Year-Old Filly Trot-Drinks On Betsy 3-Year-Old Colt Trot-Lougazi 3-Year-Old Filly Trot-Lous Game N Match Mid-Western Illinois Racing Association Point Winners 2-Year-Old Colt Pace-Who Deen E 2-Year-Old Filly Pace-Skeeter Machine 3-Year-Old Colt Pace-Decorated Dune 3-Year-Old Filly Pace-Prettyfaceuglyways 2-Year-Old Colt Trot-Krispy K 2-Year-Old Filly Trot-Drinks On Betsy 3-Year-Old Colt Trot-Photo Phred 3-Year-Old Filly Trot-Lous Game N Match Stallion Stakes Awards 2-Year-Old Colt Pace-Corner Blitz 2-Year-Old Filly Pace-Richess Hanover, Yankee Skyscaper 2-Year-Old Colt Trot-Cassis, Malabar Aqua 2-Year-Old Filly Trot-Cassis, Pizzazzed

The Illinois Racing Board Feb. 28 conditionally approved transferring $500,000 of its "surplus" operating funds to bolster purses at the state's three remaining tracks. The tracks agreed to the details of the transfer. Horsemen's groups, however, raised some concerns and said they need more information before they decide whether to support enabling legislation. The ensuing lengthy discussion prompted IRB chairman Jeffrey Brincat to reiterate, "I never thought it would be so hard to give away a half-a-million dollars."   The proposal, eventually approved on a vote of 8-1, would provide $259,662 for the purse account at Arlington International Racecourse, $120,406 for Hawthorne Race Course, $37,475 for downstate Fairmount Park and $120,406 for harness purses at Hawthorne.   "Anything we can do to increase purses, we're all for it," said Hawthorne president Tim Carey. Hawthorne eliminated its stakes schedule in 2016 to maintain overnight purse levels.   "Fairmount purses are at the poverty level," said that track's president, Brian Zander. "Any little amount is appreciated."   Arlington general manager Tony Petrillo noted Arlington trimmed $500,000 from this year's stakes schedule to reallocate money to the overnight purse structure. "You have our full support," he said.   Board staff said the money is surplus from the appropriation for the current fiscal year because of economies and a reduced need for regulation due to a dramatic decline in harness race dates after the demise of Balmoral and Maywood Park.   Representatives of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the Illinois Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Foundation both said they support the idea of hiking purses. But they urged the money be used to fund races written for Illinois-bred horses, which carry awards for owners and breeders.   And the ITHA, echoing sentiments expressed by the harness horsemen's group, said its members need further assurance that the redistribution of IRB funds will not result in a demand for more detailed scrutiny of their internal finances.   Dan Sullivan, outgoing president of the IBTOF, said breeding numbers in Illinois have declined precipitously, threatening the availability of horses in the near future.   "If we don't keep the numbers up," Sullivan told the commissioners, "you won't have a job to do in another three or four years, maximum."   ITHA president Mike Campbell added, "The reality of it is that we've got to enhance the Illinois product."   Sullivan and Campbell argued the state's tracks are not meeting their legal obligation to card two Illinois-bred races per program, which led to a protracted debate over the difficulty of matching horses to fields in conditions likely to fill.   "The statute says we're entitled to two races a day and here's the funding to support that," Sullivan said.   The ITHA and harness horsemen again raised fears that switching funding from the IRB operating account to horsemen's purses might open their organization to demands for internal records. Board staff said there is no intent to do that and nothing in the proposal that would trigger expanded oversight.   The lone "no" vote was cast by commissioner Robert Schiewe Jr., who questioned the legality of the transfer and the allocation among the tracks. His motion to table the discussion until the March meeting failed on a vote of 2-7.   The funds transfer is contingent on approval of legislation changing the purpose of the IRB appropriation from "regulation" of racing to "regulation and promotion" of racing. IRB staff said "promotion" would cover using operating funds for purses, which would promote the popularity of the state's product and generate more handle.   The legislation is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. By Bob Kieckhefer Reprinted with permission of The Bloodhorse

The 2017 Illinois conceived and foaled stake schedule has been announced by Hawthorne Race Course and the Illinois Harness Racing Horseman’s Association.   A series of Late Closing events have also been scheduled for the “Summer Meet” which will begin on Thursday, May 11th and continue through Sunday, Sept. 24th. Payments are due for the three-year-olds by Feb 15th while those looking to stake two-year-olds will have until April 15th to get their payments in.  The nomination fee of $300 for each of the eight scheduled Late Closing events will be due on April 1st. As was the case last season the ICF three-year-olds will have a single payment of $1,750 due while the state-bred two-year-olds will have a single payment of $1,250 due for these “added money” events.   The single staking payment will keep horses eligible to all four legs of the stakes series and the final or consolation. There is no nominating fee due for the aged stake events The top 10 highest point earners in the four legs will make the finals which will be contested on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 23rd.  The consolations are scheduled for closing night Sunday, Sept. 24th. Stall applications have been mailed to all horsemen who participated at Hawthorne in 2016 and can also be found on our website at . Stall applications are due no later than April 1st and stalls will be assigned by April 15th. A complete list of the 2017 ICF Stakes, the 2017 Late Closing events as well as the 2017 purse structure and conditions can also be found at the website. Purses are expected to increase by 30 to 40% across the board from 2016 levels. Additionally Illinois conceived and foaled horses will also have the chance to race for added bonus money in 2017. For those conditions restricted to Illinois bred horses, the purse will be increased by 10% of the scheduled purse for an open condition. State-bred horses will also receive a 50% allowance when racing with open horses.             Click here for the 2017 stake schedule and Late Closing Series schedules.             Please make all nominating checks payable to:  Hawthorne Race Course C/O Horseman’s Bookeeper 3501 S. Laramie Ave Cicero, IL 60804 (708) 780-3700   ABOUT HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE Founded in 1891, Hawthorne Race Course is the 4th oldest racetrack in the nation and the oldest sporting venue in Illinois.  Located in Stickney, Illinois on the edge of Chicago’s city limits, the 126 year old facility hosts thoroughbred racing in March and April and again in October through Dec. Standardbred harness racing is conducted in May through September.  The family-owned and operated business has been an innovator in horseracing for more than 100 years and features the nation’s most rewarding players program.  For additional information: | | @ClubHawthorne.      

HINSDALE, Illinois - The thrill of thundering hooves may soon be a thing of the past at Illinois county fairs. But for at least one more year, harness racing enthusiasts can watch the ponies prance at more than two dozen tracks across Illinois. "The IHHA is funding several races and horsemen will continue to put on a great show for fans who come to the county fairs with horse racing," said IHHA President Marty Engel. Many horsemen will compete in the races however, knowing that the purses for winners might not even cover their travel expenses, let alone feed, veterinarian, and training costs. "The crippling budget impasse in Springfield is affecting everyone in Illinois," said Engel. "County Fair racing will go on this summer, but it will be scaled back and the impact on the rest of the industry is plain. All of our talent is leaving Illinois for greener pastures." County fair harness racing has long been a staple of the industry, acting as a sort of minor league for the bigger Chicago racing circuit. Illinois horse breeding incentives, prize money and funding for drug testing have all been slashed in the last few years, leading to a ripple effect that has traumatized the industry in Illinois. "It is the definition of pennywise and pound foolish," said Stanadardbred horse trainer Clark Fairley. "The state hopes to save money by cutting funding for horse racing at County Fairs, but they are slowly gutting an industry that generates millions of dollars in taxes, not to mention all of the good agriculture jobs." At the heart of the issue is horse breeding. Not since the 1950's has Illinois bred so few Standardbred horses. In 2002 there were 2,409 foals born in Illinois. That number dropped to 1,390 foals in 2010, 907 foals in 2014 and 796 foals in 2015. The effect is felt throughout the economy from truck and trailer dealers, to hay and grain farmers to blacksmiths, grooms and veterinarians. At the same time, the number of foals born in other states has climbed and the horse racing industries in states like Indiana and Ohio have added jobs and revenue. "We have a talent drain in Illinois," said Engel. "Jobs and revenue are pouring out to other states. Our state needs jobs and tax revenue, and Illinois is just not investing." The IHHA is urging legislators to pass a budget that invests in agribusiness like horse racing. "These are real jobs that generate real revenue for the state," said Fairley. "The state needs to invest in the people and businesses of Illinois." ### Date County City June 13 Clark Martinsville June 21 Perry Pinckneyville June 21 & 22 Greene Carrollton June 24 & 25 Jasper Newton June 26 Henry Cambridge June 29 & 30 Schuyler Rushville July 5 Macoupin Carlinville July 6 Knox Knoxville July 10 & 11 Wayne Fairfield July 13 Marshall-Putnam Henry July 20 Menard Petersburg July 26 Fulton Lewiston July 26 7:00 pm Champaign Urbana July 26 & 27 Edgar Paris July 31 - Aug 2 Logan Lincoln July 31 - Aug 4 Effingham Altamont August 1 White Carmi August 2 - 5 Coles Charleston August 5 Williamson Marion August 6 & 7 Brown Mt. Sterling August 9 & 10 Boone Belvidere August 16 & 18 Cumberland Greenup August 20 Whiteside Morrison August 20 & 21 Union Anna September 3 & 4 Christian Tri-Co Pana September 7 DeKalb Sandwich   Mack Communications 1015 Maple Ave, Suite 200 Downers Grove, IL 60515 630-357-7552 Fax: 630-541-3212      

Message to legislators: Fix horse racing first, create jobs The Illinois Harness Horseman's Association today decried legislation that would legalize fantasy sports gambling while at the same time, lawmakers have failed to support the horse racing industry which employs 14,000 people. "Horsemen in Illinois are suffering at the same time that the sport is flourishing in other states," said Illinois Harness Horseman's Association President Marty Engel. "We're grateful to legislators who passed gaming legislation in 2012 but Governor Pat Quinn vetoed that bill. Let me be clear, because of legislative inaction in the last four years, the industry has suffered greatly." Meanwhile, Illinois legislators are currently considering legalizing fantasy sports gambling. That legislation however, will do nothing for horse racing and will grow no new jobs. Horse racing, on the other hand, is a proven job creator. One horse creates jobs for as many as 10 people over its career. That's because horse racing is a labor intensive industry. Racehorses require concentrated care from the breeding process to weaning and training and all of the way through their retirement. The 16,000 jobs that have been lost since 2002 are in part a result of fewer foals being born. For example, in 2002 there were 2,409 foals born in Illinois. That number dropped to 1,390 foals in 2010, 907 foals in 2014 and 796 foals in 2015. Thousands of Illinois horsemen have left the Land of Lincoln for states with healthy horse racing industries like Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Many other local horseman have joined the ranks of the unemployed. "People aren't buying Illinois racehorses anymore because of the uncertainty in the state," said Standardbred horse breeder Rita Williams. Horse racing states often incentivize breeding programs by offering special races and higher winnings for horses bred in-state. People don't want to buy Illinois horses if they are going to race them in Indiana or Ohio because Illinois bred horses can't compete for as much money as horses bred in those respective states. Illinois also offers breeding incentives but without bigger purses from slot machines, people won't compete here. "It's safer to buy Indiana or Ohio horses," said Williams. "People aren't certain that Springfield will act to restore our sport in Illinois. A lot of breeders are going to Indiana to breed their horses, it just makes more sense for horsemen to go to other states in which horse racing thrives." If legislators continue to ignore the plight of horse racing, more trainers, breeders, blacksmiths, hay and grain farmers, grooms and other industry workers will move to states like Ohio where horse racing has exploded at the same time that Illinois horse racing has imploded. Comprehensive gambling legislation that passed out of the General Assembly in 2012 would have allowed racetracks to diversify by installing slot machines on their property where people already come to gamble. Profits would be used in part to boost purses for live racing, supporting thousands of jobs in the process. Most other horse racing states have already installed slot machines at their racetracks, increasing their purses and leaving Illinois horse racing at a disadvantage. The high purses attract horses, trainers and drivers. Consequently, the breeding in those states flourishes. Horsemen implore legislators to tweak the current Illinois horse racing laws and allow them to compete with other horse racing states before legalizing fantasy sports betting. "It is tempting for legislators to go after new, quick money from fantasy sports and ignore the current broken gaming landscape in Illinois," said Engel. "But if we are serious about growing jobs and getting our state back on track, legislators should work to let horse racing prosper again. The landscape has changed but horse racing is a proven job creator. We've seen it succeed before and it is succeeding in other states. Let's put these Illinoisans back to work again." Mack Communications 1015 Maple Ave, Suite 200 Downers Grove, IL 60515 630-357-7552 Fax: 630-541-3212          

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

One of the things that quickly becomes apparent when looking at the harness racing breeding figures for 2015 in North America is the major decline suffered by Illinois. In 2014 Illinois had 699 mares bred which dropped to 492 in 2015, a reduction of nearly thirty percent in just one year. That may have been due to the talk about the future of both Balmoral Park and Maywood Park. Now with both of those racetracks closed to harness racing, the only track with any program in Illinois will be Hawthorne. The harness racing industry in Illinois looks in dire straights if the breeding trend from this year continues into 2016 With just one track and breeding numbers plummetting, the future in Illinois looks bleek. A couple of other states that had slumps much bigger than they would have anticipated were New York and Pennsylvania. New York dropped 341 mares served in 2015, a drop of just over twenty percent which again is not sustainable long term. With the great Sires Stakes program they have in New York, one can only surmise that the big service fees are finally biting the stallion owners where it hurts. The drop in Pennsylvania mares bred was smaller at just eleven and a half percent but yet again that is a number that will be setting off alarm bells at Hanover Shoe Farms. Canada showed an overall increase of twelve percent but it was all based around one province, Ontario which had an increase of nearly nineteen percent. A lot of that increase has been driven by an increasingly supportive government and a feeling that everybody is on the same page for once while some can be put down to mares returning from the USA now things look brighter in Canada. Below is a list of mares bred in North America in 2014 and in 2015, provided by David Carr of the USTA U.S. 2014 2015 California 19 13 Delaware 263 273 Florida 57 48 Illinois 699 492 Indiana 1788 1698 Iowa 246 197 Kentucky 55 14 Louisiana 3 0 Maine 144 108 Maryland 243 223 Michigan 33 66 Minnesota 124 125 Mississippi 36 2 Missouri 22 31 New Jersey 69 251 New York 1649 1308 North Carolina 4 3 North Dakota 0 5 Ohio 2594 2339 Pennsylvania 2184 1931 South Dakota 1 0 Tennessee 5 0 Texas 7 7 Virginia 16 11 Wisconsin 8 4       Canada 2014 2015 Alberta 309 322 British Columbia 15 9 Manitoba 63 59 New Brunswick 6 3 Newfoundland 3 1 Nova Scotia 20 12 Ontario 1666 2051 Prince Edward Island 368 317 Quebec 65 87 Saskatchewan 4 2

December 22, 2016 (CHICAGO) -- Hawthorne Race Course and the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association have reached an historic agreement to keep harness racing in Illinois in 2016. The agreement will save thousands of Chicagoland jobs associated with the sport, including hundreds of small businesses that would have otherwise ceased operations or relocated to Indiana and other states.   "This is a pivotal year for Illinois racing," said Tim Carey, president and general manager of Hawthorne Race Course, which will be celebrating its 125th year of racing next year. "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."   In September the Illinois Racing Board approved a proposal to bring harness racing back to Hawthorne. Since then the track has been preparing for an influx of horses and horsemen, and has developed an aggressive timeline to transform its dirt track thoroughbred surface into a crushed limestone standardbred surface. Hawthorne's fall/winter thoroughbred meet will close on January 2nd and harness racing will begin just 6 days later on Friday, January 8. During this period thousands of horses will be moving into and out of Hawthorne's 25 barns.   "Hawthorne has really shown a commitment to Illinois racing in agreeing to host a January harness meet," said Dave McCaffrey, president of the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association. "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." Hawthorne's winter harness meet will begin on Friday, January 8th and feature 10 races per night, 5 nights per week until February 6th. Opening weekend will feature live music, a craft beer fest, gate giveaways, betting bonuses and cash prizes. First post is at 7:20PM Wednesday thru Sunday and general admission is $2.   ABOUT HAWTHORNE RACE COURSE   Founded in 1891, Hawthorne Race Course is the 4th oldest racetrack in the nation and the oldest sporting venue in Illinois. Located in Stickney, Illinois on the edge of Chicago's city limits, the 125 year old facility hosts thoroughbred racing in the Spring and Fall/Winter, and standardbred harness racing in January and the Summer. The family-owned and operated business has been an innovator in horseracing for more than 100 years and features the nation's most rewarding players program.   For additional information: | | @ClubHawthorne.   Dakota Shultz, (312) 371-4104, Jim Miller, (708) 426-5210,

For the second year the Greene County Agricultural Fair will host the Downstate Classic for harness racing three year olds.  The Downstate Classic is a stake race for two and three year old harness horses.  The three year old trotters and pacers will go to post on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 at 7:00 pm at the Greene County Agricultural Fairgrounds in Carrollton, Illinois.  Each division (colt pace, colt trot, filly pace, filly trot) will each race for an estimated $16,000.00.  There will also be an Illinois Department of Agriculture four year old and up pace for a purse of $7,000.00.   These races make this racing card the premier racing event at the Illinois County Fairs in 2015. The Downstate Classic would not be possible at the Greene County Fair if it were not for the support of the family of the late Al Jeffers.  The Jeffers family has, for the second year, made a significant donation in the memory of the noted Southern Illinois horseman. With this donation, and the support of the Greene County Fairboard, the Fair was able to win a two year bid with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Downstate Classic, Inc. to host the series of races.   The 162nd Greene County Agricultural Fair will run from June 20th, 2015, to June 27th, 2015.  The daily schedule shall be as follows: Saturday - Volleyball/Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters, Monday  - Queen Pageant, Tuesday - Harness Racing, Wednesday - Harness Racing, Thursday  - Tractor/Truck Pulls, Friday  - Mud Drags/Doug Strahan & the Good Neighbors, Saturday - Demo Derby/Lick Creek.   All are welcome. 

The 2014 Illinois harness racing champions were announced at the USTA District 5 Awards Banquet in Springfield last Saturday. The Pacing Division went as I thought it would however I did have a blemish in my trotting selections. The USTA voters named Itzaziam as the 2014 Aged Trotting ICF Horse champion, correctly hitting the bull’s-eye on him. He made $142,025 racing mostly in New York at Yonkers and took a mark of 1:54 flat. I missed badly on the trotter. In fact I lost track of him had no idea just how well the son of Harry’s Star Ranger did in 2014. I do remember him when he raced mostly as the fairs for trainer Nick Prather as a 3-year-old and at the age of 5 (unraced as a 4-year-old), earning a little over $25,000 in his Illinois campaigns before being sold to east coast interests as a 6-year-old. Itzaziam is currently owned by Melissa Guido Stables and Howard Siotorff of New Jersey but raked in the bulk of his 2014 purse money for former Chicago circuit driver Pat Berry, who shared ownership of the now 7-year-old bred by Donald Longfellow of Chrisman, Illinois. Berry drove Itzaziam to $73,500 open trot stake victory last April. (see photo) As predicted the Roger Welch Stable’s Earndawg ($217,105) was named the 2014 ICF Harness Horse of the Year and the ICF 2-year-old colt pacing champion. Mr. Leland’s Filly($177,243) is the 2-year-old filly pace winner, while the 3-year-old pacing champion were Unlocked ($178,390) in the colt division and My Little Bit ($153,857) in the filly category. Not surprisingly Al’s Hammered ($198,670) and Let’s Go Higher ($201,505) took the aged horse and aged mare titles, respectively. On the trotting side, the 2-year-old colt honor went to Fox Valley Qatar ($84,215), the freshman filly prize to Fox Valley Yoko ($95,492) the 3-year-old colt crown to her older brother Fox Valley Veto, while Bailey’s Wish ($140,248) annexed the 3-year-old filly award. The Steve Searle Stable’s Ants Iner Pants ($58,627) was named ICF champion aged trotting mare while Fox Valley Standardbreds made a complete sweep of both the stallion and broodmare honors with Sportsmaster (Pacing Stallion), Pizzazzed (Trotting Stallion), Pacific Sister K (Pacing Broodmare) and Yankee Victory OM (Trotting Broodmare). Congratulations go out to the 2014 County Fair High Point Winners: 2-year-old colt pacer Frosty Dune, 2-year-old filly pacer Fox Valley Aubry, 2-year-old trotting colt Kiss My Pizzazzed, 2-year-old trotting filly High Class Lady, 3-year-old colt pacer Tower Power, 3-year-old filly pacer Syd’s Lollipop, 3-year-old colt trotter Battleshoe Crown and 3-year-old filly trotter E L Trixie. For the first time, the Harness Horse Youth Foundation selected an entire family—the Giberson’s (Nick, Amy, Madeline, and Ethan) of Spalding, IL—as the recipient of its 2014 Service to Youth Award, the organization’s highest honor. By Mike Paradise The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

As the leading trainer on the circuit in 2014, like many of his colleagues, Perry Smith has had to become more than just a conditioner of horses in his endeavor to make a living in Illinois. “I’ve had to claim my own horses to try and go on in this business,” said the 63-year-old veteran trainer who had more winning horses (117) in last year’s combined Balmoral and Maywood trainer standings. “Looking for horses to claim for myself is what need to do for now days to keep going. “With the price of everything now days the profit margin of just training a horse for somebody on the Chicago circuit just isn’t there. Let’s face it those days in Illinois for trainers are over. For me to go on the best I can and try to make a profit as a trainer I’ve gone to claiming more horses for myself or with another owner. “I’m just trying to get by the best way I can and right now that looks like the best way for a (Illinois) trainer. All I can do is hope that things in Illinois will finally get better for horsemen.” Many of the leading trainers in Illinois such as Nelson Willis, Dave Mc Caffrey, Bob Phillips, Roger Welch, Joel Smith, Mike Brink, and Merv Chupp to mention just a few have become owners of a good portion of the horses in their stable in their attempt to make a go of it in our state. “I’ve been in the business a long time.” continued Perry. “Training horses is what I do. I’m not a young man anymore who is looking to make a career change and there isn’t anything out there waiting for me.” The recent subzero weather that hit the Midwest didn’t play havoc with Perry or his stable. “That severe cold weather couldn’t have come at a better time for me. We had good weather right up to the time we stopped racing. I’m in Florida right now taking a little planned vacation so the bad weather that hit the Chicago area didn’t affect the plans with my horses.” Live racing on the circuit resumes Thursday, January 29 at Maywood where Perry was the leading trainer and on Saturday, January 31 at Balmoral where Nelson Willis took the conditioner’s crown for a second time. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

The 2014 Illinois champions will be announced at next Saturday’s USTA District 5 Awards Banquet in Springfield on Saturday, January 17. Here are my predictions for their pacing divisions. My trotting choices were posted on Thursday. Two-Year-Old Filly Pacer Mr Leland’s Filly She looks like a shoo-in for the honor. Trained by Erv Miller for Illinois owners Paymaq Racing (Long Grove) and Leland Mathias (Bethany) this Sportsmaster filly out of the broodmare Incredible Katie pulled own $177,243 in her freshman season. Mr Leland’s Filly won 6 of 10 starts and only lost once against strictly ICF competition. She annexed the $43,500 Loyal Opposition and Filly Orange and Blue Finals at Balmoral, and also took of the division’s Springfield and Du Quoin championships. Casey Leonard was her regular driver. Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer Earndawg This was a no-brainer. After playing second fiddle to his Roger Welch stable-mate King Of The Swamp and winning only 1 of his first 6 career starts, Earndawg went on to dominate this division for owners Bo De Long (Clinton, WI), Pat De Long (South Beloit, IL) and Earnest Miller Jr.. (Mount Horeb, WI) raking in $217,015. The son of Sportsmaster, out of the dam Pacific Sister K, captured 7 of his last 9 starts that included both his Orange and Blue elimination and its $186,000 Final, the $43,500 Cardinal; and a pair of open company stakes—Maywood Park’s $57,100 Abe Lincoln and Hoosier Park’s $40,300 Madison. He was also second in the $86,000 American National. Todd Warren was his customary driver. Three-Year-Old Filly Pacer My Little Bit She gets my support by winning a third (6-for-18) of her starts including Balmoral’s $48,500 Ann Vonian and the $52,000 Springfield Final, and earning the most money ($155,557) in her division. Trained by Erv Miller for Quaid Racing of Evergreen Park, she was also second in the $89,000 Maywood Filly Pace and the $142,000 Grandma Ann on Super Night and third in Du Quoin’s Time Dancer. Another daughter of Sportsmaster (out of Parade Of Love), she was driven by Casey Leonard. Three-Year-Old Colt Pacer Unlocked He was simply a notch ahead of rest of this ICF division for trainer Erv Milller and owners Megan Rogers Racing Stables of Chicago, Illinois. His only losses in 2014 against strictly state-bred competition came at Maywood. The son of Duneside Perch out of the Fighting Major dam Miss Major Power breezed in Balmoral’s $48,000 Incredible Finale and the $145,000 Langley on Super Night, and in both State Fair Finals at Springfield and Du Quoin, putting over $178,000 on his card and taking a mark of 1:49.1.. Dave Magee was Unlocked’s Illinois driver. Aged Mare Pacer Let’s Go Higher Spent almost all of last year on the east coast where she competed in high-level mostly at Yonkers and Saratoga and did very well for owner Jesse De Long of Clinton, Wisconsin and his trainer Heidi Rohr. The nare won 5 Opens at Saratoga, 2 at Yonkers and another at Vernon Downs. The daughter of Cole Muffler came back to her home state in September and proved best in her Lorna Propes elimination and its $118,000 Super Night Final. The 13-time season winner put over $200,000 on her 5-year-old campaign card. Aged Male Pacer Al’s Hammered This son of Droppinthehammer came back from serious tendon problems in 2013 to have a brilliant 2014 season as a 5-year-old for Crete, IL owner and trainer Bob Phillips. Al’s Hammered was the King of the Hill in Balmoral invites, winning 7 of them. He also had triumphs in the ICF division on Super Night in the $112,000 Tony Maurello Final, both the Broadway Preview and Rambling Willie stakes, and at Springfield. The horse was sold to Harry Von Knoblauch at the end of October and went on to face some of the best open pacers in the country at The Meadowlands. He ended last year with 15 wins in 27 starts and earnings just under $200,000. Illinois Harness Horse of the Year Earndawg You can make a case for a number of division winners to get this honor and wouldn’t get much of an argument from me. However, Earndawg did make more money ($217,015) than any of the other likely 2014 division winners and ventured out of state-bred competition and came away with stake championships in Maywood’s Abe Lincoln and a division of Hoosier’s Madison. He was also was the American National runner-up at Balmoral Park. The youngster won added money events on three different size ovals, a half, a seven-eight’s, and a full mile track to earn my vote. by Mike Paradise, for IHHA

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