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Lake Worth, FL - In harness racing there are purses and prizes to be won when competing, whether it's going for over $1 million in the Hambletonian Trot, or just a local fair race for $2,500, there is always a prize that awaits the winner. Perhaps for the first time ever in horse racing history there will be races held on Wednesday (April 1) and what does the winner of the race get when they arrive in the winner's circle? You guessed it, a case of 12 rolls of toilet paper. And this is no April 1 Fool's Joke! Olympia of Palm Beach Training Center, formally known as the South Florida Trotting Center, will be holding five qualifying races Wednesday morning. Due to the Coronavirus-19, the public is not allowed to attend, but track management is hopeful to have live video and droning of the trotting races. Sam Stathis owns Olympia of Palm Beach Training Center. He has his Celebrity Farms Stable there and has entered seven of his horses in the qualifying races. "We wanted to have a prize for the winner of each race," Stathis said. "and we wanted to have some fun with it. At first the races were going to be for non-winners of a ham sandwich, but due to the hoarders grabbing up all the toilet paper, we switched the prize from a ham sandwich to a 12-pack of toilet paper. Maybe I'll thrown in a six-pack of Corona beer too!" Usually qualifying races are held to determine if a trotter or pacer can go in a specified time to meet the standards set by racetracks. There are never purses or prizes for qualifying races. "Right now," Stathis explained. "While everyone else is building bunkers and waiting for the world to end from Coronavirus-19, we take this virus very seriously and recommend and practice social distancing. It's ironic in a sport where we want to get fans to attend, this time we want them to stay away for everyone's protection. But in turn, we are trying to keep our horses exercised, keep moral up and show the world that we can have some fun with this incredible sport." Of the 12 horses that are competing in the five qualifying races, there is one unique standout performer. His name is Celebrity Maserati. The oldest horse in the field at age ten, Celebrity Maserati, was a top stake winning trotting colt at age two and three, amassing $198,000 in earnings for Sam Stathis's Celebrity Farms and has a record of 1:53. Over the years he has had some injuries that kept him from racing, but not from breeding horses. Over the years Celebrity Maserati (sired by Andover Hall), has bred numerous mares, enough in fact that he not only has three of his sons and daughters competing in the qualifying races, but in the third race Celebrity Maserati starts from post three with Stathis driving and its daughter, Celebrity Serena, starts alongside him in post three. The other "Celebrity" horses that Celebrity Maserati has sired include recent 1:54.3 winner at Pompano Park, Celebrity Miracle (race two), and Celebrity Bianca, whom also starts in race two. Another Celebrity horse, Celebrity Titan, who is sired by Yankee Glide, starts in the first race. He is a brother to Celebrity Miracle. The fourth and fifth races are for pacers and features $101,000 winner Jimi Wind Ricks in the fourth race against $49,000 winner Sweet Deisel. The fifth race spotlights $77,000 winner Rose Run Slider against $43,000 winner Roll With Angel. Some of the sports top harness racing drivers will be competing in the qualifying races including Scott Zeron, Jim Meittinis, Dan Daley and Fern Paquet, Jr. To get a program proof and to watch the video and droning of the qualifying races that will begin at 11:00 am Wednesday, go to www.olympiapalmbeach.com and look for the special links on the home page. Ann-Mari Daley will also be doing Facebook Live of the races from the starting gate. By Steve Wolf, for Olympia of Palm Beach    

The USHWA Youth Membership Committee is pleased to introduce the third in a year-long series of harness racing 2020 Racetrack Reviews below by Edison Hatter.   While most harness racing remains on indefinite pause due to widespread COVID-19 concerns, the sport's loyal fans and supporters are looking forward to the day when it is safe for everyone to get back to the races. Edison Hatter, Rosecroft Raceway's Wednesday night racecaller, is understandably disappointed by the hiatus during his first season of announcing, but the 20-year-old turned his attention to the important business of promoting his track's visibility as a family-friendly destination, writing the following USHWA Youth Racetrack Review. Expect to hear more about Edison in the coming months, in a major harness racing publication. The USHWA Youth Membership Committee welcomes inquiries from young racing fans and participants who would like to review their favourite or local harness track, focusing on what makes the track a youth- and family-friendly place. We will be circulating a Racetrack Review every month of 2020. Please contact USHWA Youth Membership Committee chair Melissa Keith for additional details and/or to apply to review a racetrack this year.   Family Friendly Fun & Racing At Rosecroft The Spring 2020 meet at Rosecroft Raceway marked the 71st year of live harness racing in Fort Washington, MD. Rosecroft has a spacious outdoor apron where fans of all ages can watch drivers and horses race around the 5/8ths mile track. Additionally, the winner’s circle is located directly in front of the apron, so fans can get up close and personal with the winning horse after each race. Children often enjoy hanging out behind the winner’s circle and sometimes even snag an autograph or a pair of goggles from a winning driver if they are lucky. Rosecroft Raceway (Edison Hatter Photo) The biggest day of the year for Rosecroft is in November or December when the $100,000 Potomac Pace is contested. Previous race participants have included Endeavor, McWicked, American History, and many other big names in harness racing. Likewise, the biggest night of racing at Rosecroft also brings out some of the biggest drivers in the country, including Tim Tetrick, Joe Bongiorno, and Matt Kakaley. Each year, drivers take time before the big race to sign autographs in the grandstand for fans both young and old. A unique family friendly event at Rosecroft is the “I Want To Be A Driver” event, held several times during each meet. Participants in the event get a behind-the-scenes look at harness racing at Rosecroft, get to spend time in the paddock, and learn more about harness racing and strategy from a driver. As part of the event, participants even get to be part of an exhibition race, get to sit in a sulky with one of our Rosecroft drivers, and compete against other participants. Another point of youth Rosecroft can boast is one of the youngest announcers and one of the younger race handicappers in the country. At just 20 years old, I announce every Wednesday night card at Rosecroft and am one of the youngest race callers in the country. I am exceedingly grateful to Rosecroft for giving such a young person such a tremendous opportunity. Furthermore, our track handicapper, Russ Adams, a.k.a the Hanover Hustler, is just shy of 30 years of age and is one of the younger track handicappers in the country. Finally, Rosecroft even has some of the youngest drivers and owners in the country, including driver Declan Donoway and owner Katie Van Vleit, both just into their 20s. For more information about Rosecroft and our product, visit www.rosecroft.com.  By Edison Hatter

WA thoroughbred, harness racing and greyhounds racing prizemoney will be reduced by 20 per cent from next Monday as coronavirus containment measures severely hit industry income. Racing and Wagering WA CEO Richard Burt said TAB turnover had plummeted by at least 50 per cent and expenditure cuts were need to ensure the racing industry survived. Victorian, NSW and SA racing have also announced stakes cuts in recent days. “Unfortunately our business, like so many, has been hit by the pandemic crisis,” Burt said yesterday. “In view of the impact on RWWA income, the decision has been made to reduce overall expenditure. “This will help sustain WA racing and boost the industry’s long-term future. “RWWA has adopted reductions across all aspects of our own operations, and distributions to the three racing codes. “To ensure business continuity, there have been funding changes to RWWA internal operations, with a significant reduction of expenses as we face declining income. “Race prizemoney and associated bonuses will be reduced by 20 per cent from next Monday.” Ladies of Pacing Awards Luncheon at Victory Lounge, Optus Stadium. Credit: John Koh/The West Australian Burt said social distancing and constraint restrictions had impacted seriously on RWWA’s income through WA TAB turnover. “National and international sports, and overseas racing, have all but shut down,” Burt said. “There’s been closure of 330 WA TAB outlets, which provided 50 per cent of this state’s TAB business.” Burt said some feature events would retain stakes levels which were specified by the Racing Bets Levy Act. He said betting operators paid premium rate levies when thoroughbred race meetings had a $100,000 event, or there were $30,000 races at harness and greyhound fixtures. The higher payments benefited racing. Richard Burt. Credit: Alan Chau/The West Australian, Alan Chau “Funds gained from stake money cuts, and reductions of RWWA administrative costs, will be held and used to support the racing industry over coming months,” Burt said. “RWWA is prepared to back continued racing with 80 percent stakes levels, though TAB income is down by at least 50 percent. “We will support key elements of racing to ensure it survives the crisis.” Burt said RWWA aimed to have funds in hand to later revive racing if there was a shutdown, and ensure the WA racing industry’s long-term future. “RWWA appreciates racing industry participants’ co-operation in these unprecedented circumstances”, Burt said. “We are taking necessary measures to help get us through the challenges to our industry.” By Ernie Manning Reprinted with permission of The West Australian

It's rare to see a sporting club increase its activity during the coronavirus pandemic but there is one Bathurst facility ready to do just that. The Bathurst Harness Racing Club will play host to all meetings in the western zone of NSW due to an initiative from the governing body to contain the spread of the virus. Starting April 1, all harness racing in the state will be conducted at just six venues - Menangle and Penrith (metropolitan), Wagga (southern), Bathurst (western), Newcastle and Tamworth (northern) - with participants only permitted to race in the region in which they are located. The changes will be carried through until at least the end of this racing season on August 31. Bathurst Harness Racing CEO Danny Dwyer threw his full support behind the decision and said the move hearkens back to similar measures introduced during the 2007 equine influenza spread in Australia. "I think it's the way to go. When equine influenza was happening racing was split into zones and ... you ended up racing with closed pools of horses," he said. "It makes sense to keep horses based in one area. If there was a positive test in, say, Sydney then those other areas areas are still able to go ahead without shutting down the whole state. "The other part of it is that with the venues they've chosen, pretty much nothing else goes on at those places. If we were still at the Showground that would have been an issue." Meetings will be serviced by regional specific stewards and approved HRNSW club personnel and movements between regions will be accepted only with approval from the HRNSW Integrity Division. Owners will not be permitted to attend training stables outside the region in which they reside for the purposes of strict biosecurity. The move also means Bathurst will play host to all Carnival of Cups meetings for the western region. All non-TAB events have been cancelled for the remainder of the season. The Treuer Memorial (Bankstown), the Renshaw Cup (Penrith) and the Carousel (Club Menangle) will be rescheduled after the easing of restrictions by government if suitable dates are found. HRNSW confirmed the Riverina Group 1 Championships will not be conducted in the current climate. Another change announced by HRNSW on Monday was that all drivers must only wear one set of colours for all race meetings in the state. Bathurst's Gold Crown carnival went ahead following a negative COVID-19 test on an industry member. Racing takes place at Bathurst this Wednesday night. By Alexander Grant Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate  

Hanover, PA - Pick your catastrophe. We face a world health crisis worse than any we've seen for over a century. Meanwhile, the Governor of Pennsylvania is engaging in some state budget buccaneering that would, if the General Assembly permits it, destroy a two-century-old, native horse racing industry that brings $1.6 billion in economic impact and 20,000 jobs to the state. If this succeeds, what will happen in other states? And, finally, a long list of Thoroughbred and Standardbred industry participants face a reckoning that, looking at their conduct as alleged, you would think they never expected. This last situation is in the forefront of the minds of our Board of Directors as we work through our "annual meeting from home" this week and next. We all abhor the allegations in the indictments and criminal complaints, and we roundly condemn all conduct of the kind. At the USTA, however, there is an obligation to forego the luxury of performative outrage and, instead, to concentrate on what concrete steps our mandate requires us to take. Our record in dealing as an association with cheating and horse abuse is excellent. Now I write to call for concrete action that will move us forward in the right direction. In this editorial, I offer some recommendations. Others will join in, I hope, offering additions and corrections. At last, I hope, everyone of good will in harness racing will contribute time and money to the work that must be done. We can resolve to embrace change and to bear its cost, because we know that only then can our racing sport thrive in the modern era. The Narrative We love horses. This is our narrative, its beginning and its end, and it consists of countless stories of courage, hope, and love for horses that totally contradict the acts of a criminal few. Perhaps our very survival as a sport requires us now to make sure that the world learns about our true selves. When a horse puts its nose ahead of another horse's nose, evolution is at work. Taking the lead is part of a horse's social nature, so (unlike dog racing, for example) horse racing is entirely natural, and horses thrive on it. Horsepersons can tell inspiring stories of horses that found a way to win against unplanned-for adversity, just as we must overcome adversity now. Caring well for horses, and we do care well for them, involves trying to understand these beautiful creatures that cannot communicate with us in human terms. But those of us who employ their intelligence to understand and communicate in something like horse terms become better people for it. There are wonderful stories of lives that have been transformed, not merely economically, but in a deeper way, by the bond with the horse, an animal that evolved along an entirely different strand of the net of creation from humans. Horses can teach us things about courage and beauty, even love, that we would otherwise never learn. Some people do not know that our award-winning writers and photographers have been telling the story of harness racing in Hoof Beats since before the USTA was founded. But today the USTA has more powerful resources for telling the story of harness racing than it has ever had: our website is the most visited in harness racing and is closely watched by other breeds, and our social media presence is a serious force on the internet. Our Communications Department is unrivaled among breed associations, and our ability to put these resources to use is limited only by the cooperation of our membership. Finally, the USTA Board of Directors is meeting as I write, by means of a series of teleconferences, and advanced communications is under discussion. As the USTA and the membership find new and more effective ways to tell the true story of harness racing, we can correct the cultural narrative and propel our sport into its rightful place in the future. "The Feds" In the United States, the federal level provides the services that a central government should provide, while the states retain authority over every other matter. Federal prosecutions are usually the best way to address criminal activity occurring in multiple states. Although the conduct alleged took place in several states, the indictments and criminal complaints under discussion issue from the Southern District of New York, one of the most sophisticated offices within the United States Justice Department. We must not fall prey to the ignorant notion that there is any magical connection between the Justice Department and the Horseracing Integrity Act which, if it ever were to see passage, would be governed by the Commerce Department. As Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (representing state authority), has pointed out: nobody needed a Horseracing Integrity bill to make these prosecutions happen. The laws that make the allegations in the indictments illegal, and the federal, state, and private agencies that built these cases already exist, and we should build on the existing system to prevent cheating and horse abuse, and to incentivize best practices in our sport. The serious problems that the Horseracing Integrity Act poses for harness racing have been explained elsewhere. Yes, we have problems of our own to solve, but instead of throwing this poorly-considered federal Hail Mary, instead of ignoring the states' established knowledge and experience in regulating horse racing, and instead of relying on some unspecifiable federal magic to solve our problems, our effort must be to support and extend the growing cooperation among state racing commissions. The state racing commissions themselves called for this over a year ago, by proposing a dedicated unit among key federal and state agencies to investigate racing matters and, where appropriate, to refer them for prosecution. This call was ignored by those proposing so-called racing integrity bills at the federal level, but individual state racing commissions are continuing nevertheless to strengthen their ties with state and federal enforcement agencies. An even more significant development is taking place. "Interstate compacts" provide a contractual structure that enhances cooperation among states regarding regulations and enforcement. This is not a new concept: for years an interstate licensing compact has existed, simplifying licensing for owners, trainers, drivers, jockeys, and other licensees across the country. In a similar but more important way, an interstate medication compact would bring about consistent medication regulation nationwide. (We don't use the word "uniform," because Standardbred and Thoroughbred medication rules can't be uniform. They must differ in a few areas because the two breeds have different performance models.) Interstate medication compacts are working their way through several state legislatures, and we may be approaching passage of a multi-breed medication compact in one of the leading racing states. If this happens, I believe that the other racing states will quickly follow suit. Reading legislative bills (and enacted statutes) can be extremely tedious for most people. But someone has to do it. And if you read the Horseracing Integrity draft bill, you will discover something very surprising: recognition in the bill's own language of the primacy and importance of interstate compacts and, by implication, state authority. It's almost as if the federalization special interests felt compelled to acknowledge that the states have already done all the work and already have all the know-how regarding medication regulation. Section 4(e) of the draft bill says that the whole federal house of cards collapses if, "after the expiration of five years following [the effective date of the Act]," an interstate compact is established. Amazingly, the draft then goes on, in subsection 4(e)(2), to recite important steps that we should take to develop an interstate medication compact. Let us not wait five years enduring some sort of expensive and pointless federal intermission before we do what should have been done in the first place: to fully establish the breed-specific medication compact that is presently evolving in the states. The Ethical Climate We can achieve a radically new regulatory process that will render extinct the criminal activity of a few horsepersons and veterinarians, and we can do it without having to purchase any expensive federal snake oil. The type of criminal activity under discussion was, in the past, often veiled by certain legal concepts and, to some extent, aided by a certain "don't ask don't tell" attitude within the industry. We now have the opportunity, maybe our last, to change this permanently. First, the days of turning a blind eye to suspicious activity are over. They never should have existed. I offer, as a good counterexample to horsepersons who failed, in the past, to report suspicious activity, the American bar. If a lawyer becomes aware of an ethical infraction and fails to report it, he or she becomes guilty in turn of another serious ethical infraction. In other words, the legal community has a self-policing system that can be expected to work much better than the "don't ask don't tell' system that we have tolerated in racing. In grade school, if you told on someone, you were a "rat." Unfortunately, this way of thinking persisted into adulthood among some horsepersons. It was never valid. We must police ourselves, because our obligation is not to be a "stand-up guy." Our obligation is to ensure the health and welfare of our horses, and to preserve the integrity of our industry. Second, we must recalibrate our internal affairs. No longer can we be excused for leaving investigation and enforcement up to our chronically underfunded racing commissions. But rather than pouring more of our money into the state commissions, we should develop private investigative capabilities that support the regulators' powers and we should demand the commissions' formalized cooperation with the investigations that must be carried out. Much of the investigative work that went into the current prosecutions was carried out not by the FBI, but rather by a private firm called "5 Stones intelligence" or "5Si." We have contracted with investigative firms in past years, but never did we make the sort of commitment that was made to 5Si. Maybe this should be the model going forward: use the power of private investigations wherever necessary to support the work of the racing commissions. Indeed, as Ed Martin pointed out, the current prosecution demonstrates the way to protect racing. No federal Hail Mary is necessary. Third, all licensees in racing should be required to consent to investigation by any racing authority, in any public or private place, at any time, and also to consent to all appropriate, effective corrective action pending a hearing. If you want to participate in our industry, this comes with the territory. I'm aware of a case in which a trainer was caught doing something blatantly wrong to a horse, behaved extremely guiltily when caught, and then influenced a veterinarian to lie about the matter. The USTA suspended this individual and never looked back, but the state racing commission did nothing about it, because it thought that its hands were tied. Let us untie the hands of the racing commissions and other racing authorities, including the USTA, which has always been a powerful investigative force in harness racing. Where are the large sums of money going to come from that will be needed for all of this? This is something that we will have to figure out, and now the discussion has begun. But I can tell you this: the funding we come up with to make effective the work of the state regulators is sure to be less than what the Horseracing Integrity Act would cost us. According to the testimony of a Thoroughbred witness before the Congressional subcommittee that is presently considering the Horseracing Integrity Act, the cost to the Standardbred industry would be about $13.8 million. Even if we had to put that much into the existing system to make it work effectively, at least we would know where the money was going. Conclusion and Invitation Times of peril are also times of opportunity. We're aware, we're outraged, we're worried. But we're also energized as perhaps never before. Now is our chance to do things that probably could not have been done before. The USTA will act. I invite industry stakeholders to join the USTA in developing a comprehensive template that will protect real integrity, support the health and welfare of our horses, and permit the beautiful narrative of horse racing to continue uninterrupted. Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association

Darren, let’s go way back to where it all started for you. What was it that ignited your love for the sport of horse racing? I was five years old and it is one of my earliest lifetime memories. Grand National Day 1973 when Red Rum beat Crisp in probably the best horse race you’re ever likely to see. I remember my Dad saying ‘what do you want to bet in the National?’. He used to get the ‘Horse & Hound’ and ‘The Field’, two magazines. There was a photo of Spanish Steps on the cover of one of them, and I said ‘I’ll back Spanish Steps’. I had 10p each-way on him, and he finished fourth. Red Rum beat Crisp as we all know. I always remember my Great-Grandfather, he was a first-world war veteran, he lived with us, I was 12 when he died. Now he backed Crisp, and I always remember him cursing Red Rum. I was just captivated by the whole thing, remember in those days we would have watched this in black and white. My Dad and my Mum bought me a rocking horse, and on a Saturday afternoon I used to sit on this rocking horse. My Great-Grandfather would have a bet, we used to watch ‘World Of Sport’ so we’d see the racing, and he used to love the wrestling afterwards. I was just hooked from five-years-old. When I was in primary school, I’d be rushing home to watch the last race on the television. Jumping came first obviously, it was the Grand National and the Cheltenham Festival. I quickly got into flat racing as well, and I was just hooked. Most lads in the summer holidays would be playing football on the green, not me I’d be sitting at home watching the racing. It wasn’t betting, I wasn’t interested in betting. It was just the spectacle and the sport itself. You used to have a football bag or a sports bag, and I was more into football then than I was now. I’m not that into it now, but in those days I used to be a big Manchester United fan. I always remember having a Man U sports bag to take to school, but I used to write the names of racehorses on mine. I had Red Rum, Spanish Steps, Sea Pigeon and Greville Starkey. When you decided race calling was the career path you wanted to go down, how did you go about turning that dream into a reality? I suppose the race calling bit came seriously when I was in High School. Your career teachers would be asking what you’d like to do as a living, and I was captivated again by Peter O’Sullevan. I just thought ‘god, that’s an exciting job’. I remember my Dad wrote to Peter O’Sullevan when I was 10 or 11, and got a letter back in which he gave me some advice. On a Saturday afternoon and in the school holidays, I’d be watching the racing with the volume turned down to practice the commentary. On a Friday night I would draw the colours out for Saturday’s racing. I would get the felt tip pens out and I had a list of the owners. I would practice and then record myself doing the commentaries during my high school days. Living in North Wales, we used to pick up RTE radio, the Irish radio. I’d listen to Michael O’Hehir doing the Irish racing on a Saturday afternoon, and in the 80’s they recruited Aussie Jim McGrath. That was the first time I’d heard ‘Aussie Jim’ around about ’84. I thought ‘God, he was bloody good’, so that’s where I got the interest in race calling from. My Mum and Dad would go to the careers advisors at school, and they used to put me off saying ‘that’s not a job, that’s not a career’. I’d love to go back there now and stick two fingers up at them! Can you remember the first race or race meeting you called? Describe the emotions you were feeling leading up to it? When I left school, I got a job in a furniture store and funnily enough the guy in charge of the store was an ex-jockey. The guy in charge of the printing company who did all the work for the furniture shop became a friend of the proprietor, and one of his jobs was to print racecards at the local harness racing track. There was a grass field and they used to race there from late-May to early-September, once a week on a Wednesday night. I wasn’t really into it but he came in one day and said they were looking for somebody to replace their regular commentator who was missing a couple of meetings to go on holiday. He asked whether I’d be interested to go there and have a bit of a trial. I went there and I think the trial might have been the day Reference Point won the Derby. The first race I called was a three-runner harness race, and I was shaking in my boots. That was my first broadcast, and I started getting a few harness meetings as a result of that. I used to go from North Wales to York on a Saturday night. I would get the train to Manchester and a lift from there. I’d get £15, that’s all it was, but I just wanted the experience. Then what happened was when a neighbour of mine heard a promotion on BBC Radio 2 looking for an amateur sports commentator. So I entered this competition, and the country was split into eight regions. There were five regions of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. What you did was chose your sport. There were eight events and fortunately horse racing was on that list. I went to BBC Radio Wales HQ in Cardiff, and Steve Ryder was one of the judges. He hated horse racing, absolutely hated it. I’d won the regional final and so had qualified for the National final in early-December. It was at The Oval, and my late Grandfather came with me. Along with Steve Ryder, John Inverdale was another one of the judges. In the National final I had to call Nashwan in the King George, then there was a tie-break and I had to do a piece of radio commentary on a Wimbledon final. Well that was an absolute disaster. I had no interest in it whatsoever, and finished third. But as a result of that, I started getting work every now and then for BBC Radio Wales. I called the Welsh National won by Bonanza Boy. I used to do some of the Saturday meetings at Chepstow over jumps, and by doing that I bumped into some of the guys who used to work for the old Excel service which was just about to be taken over the Press Association. One of the guys who used to work for them was Mark Slater, and through him I met Martin Harris and then Dougie Frazer. Now they said to me ‘when there’s a lot of racing in the summer, our boss is sometimes looking for extra cover so we’ll take your name’. This was in February. I then heard nothing till about June, and got a phone call out of the blue inviting me to a trial at York. I was full of cold, but I went and he invited me back on the Saturday. Mid-July they started giving me regular work and I was on their rota. They had five regulars, four of them had regions and there was me filling in the gaps. One week I could be in Scotland, and then the next down at Lingfield. I used to do about five or six days a week and that lasted for about two years. I started getting work for the Racing Post and the Sporting Life. I had to leave harness racing for about two years, and then I went back to it. I read that SIS were looking to recruit about two of three commentators. Wolverhampton had a harness track on the outside and they wrote to SIS on my behalf saying they should look at me, so that’s how I became a racecourse commentator in 1998. You are now a well respected commentator, and out of the many races you have had the pleasure of calling, which one gave you the greatest sense of job satisfaction? Well certain races you always remember. Obviously doing my first Grand National for BBC television, that meant an awful lot. When I got that gig with the BBC I was part of the commentary team when Amberleigh House won in 2004. When I was a kid I always said I had two ambitions, to be a race caller and to call the Grand National. I had to pinch myself that day. I’ll be honest, I was shaking in my boots, I really was. I was as nervous as hell, it’s the most nervous I have ever been in my life. Everywhere you looked, it was Grand National day and I thought ‘bloody hell, millions are going to listen to me this afternoon’. I remember parking up at Aintree that day thinking ‘now come on, shake yourself. This is what you’ve always wanted in your life.’ The night before I had a missed call from Graham Goode. He said to me ‘you’ll be fine tomorrow, just take a deep breath’, and I’ll never forget that. It was a monumental day. I so wanted to get those words out: “there crossing the Melling Road”. I got a lot of satisfaction out of that, a lot. Given the current situation we find ourselves in at present with the coronavirus, would you agree this is a huge blow for the industry? Well it is, but at the end of the day we’ve got to give ourselves a reality check. There are people dying out there. Admittedly, we’re a massive industry, but what is sport? Sport is a great triviality isn’t it? In the grand scheme of things, that’s all we are. We tend to get wrapped up in our little cocoon, in our own little world, wondering when racing will return. On the topic of the coronavirus, the flat season schedule is up in the air at the moment. How would you like to see it reintroduced when the time comes? Well first of all let me just say, regarding proper racing, it’s a good job we got three-quarters of the season done. It’s a major blow to racing that our biggest event can’t take place next week. Let’s not make a big issue out of this, the National is the biggest event, not Cheltenham. Regarding the flat season, it’s very important for the bloodstock industry that the three-year-olds have their chance on the big stage in the classics. At the end of the day, the bloodstock industry is a cog in the wheel. I’m convinced what will happen is that when racing does return, and I don’t think there will be an explosion of meetings, I think the BHA and the European Pattern Committee will need to discuss a revamped pattern for the 2020 season. They’ll have to work back from the Autumn I.e. Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe and Champions Day to try and salvage the season. Let’s say for example we’re in a position to resume racing in July. Races like the Eclipse would obviously fall by the way side. A starting point for the pattern would be the Guineas with a three-week break to the Derby. If they could get the Derby run by early-August, I see no reason why the Juddmonte at York couldn’t take place. You could always reschedule the King George to September. I certainly think you could try and save a few of the=ose weight-for-age races. Out of the many racecourse you’ve visited, which is your favourite and why? Major soft spot for Aintree, because I just love the National. At the end of the day, the National is our shop window, don’t care what anyone says. Whether you’re the biggest flat aficionado going, the Grand National is our shop window. One of my pet hates is when people run scared of the National. People almost want to stand there and apologise for the National, there’s no need to do that at all. We should be proud of it, it’s the race that sells British racing. It’s the only race that matters to the man in the street. To youngsters coming through wanting to gain a position in racing media, what golden piece of advice would you give them? Follow your dreams, follow your ambitions. Devote an awful lot of time, seek as much advice as possible but most of all practice. Practice. You’re luckier in the age we live in that you always have access to race footage. Back in my day we were relying on BBC, Channel 4, ITV to show racing. We had no racing channels. By Liam Hedgecock Reprinted with permission of Sportsbyte Sunderland

Two drivers are recovering in hospital after a sickening fall in the main event at the Inverell harness racing meeting on Sunday afternoon. The field in the 2020 Inverell Cup had travelled only a short distance when the pole horse stumbled and fell, with the incident causing a chain reaction that brought down several other runners and completely disrupted the field. Reinswomen Elly Chapple and Sarah Rushbrook were seriously injured and were airlifted by helicopter to hospital. Both are reported to be in a stable condition with multiple fractures as well as other injuries. Fellow reinsman Brad Elder, of Maitland, who was also involved in the fall, but escaped unharmed, said it was alarming to see it all unraveling. "I was on the back row drawn beside Sarah. I saw her get catapulted out when the one in front of her went down. It looked like she was thrown about five metres up into the air," Elder said. "I fell out, but I was a bit lucky and didn't even get a mark. I got up and ran to the number one horse who was the first to go because it was still down on the track. I just sat on his head waiting to get help," he said. "His driver was okay. I think he landed on the horse beside him, which was being driven by Elly, who got caught up in it all. It was nasty. Let's just hope both the girls get better quickly." Elly Chapple Local ambulance paramedics stabilised the pair at the track before transporting them to Inverell airport where the Westpac Life Saver Rescue helicopter was waiting with a doctor on board. They were further treated by the Critical Care Medical team before flying to Lismore Base Hospital. Sarah Rushbrook's older sister Rebecca, posted yesterday afternoon that after being thrown from the sulky, Sarah went into the railing. "Her right femur is broken upper midway and she has a broken tailbone and a bunch of cracked ribs. She hit her head, but the helmet did its job," Rebecca's post said. "After surgery we'll know if the broken vertebra is pressing on her spine. If this is the case, Sarah will be transferred to the Gold Coast which will be awkward as she will be there on her own with the border closures. "She is in good spirits and already talking about when she can get back in the gig." Rebecca said one of the doctors who'd examined Sarah had English as a second language, referring to the sport as "chariot racing". "Watching how tough she is I think it's fair enough to call her a Gladiator!" Rebecca posted. Sarah Rushbrook Inverell Harness Racing Club shared a message on behalf of Julie and Dean Chapple, parents of Elly, expressing thanks to the community for the unbelievable support. "We received so much help on the track and later travelling to Lismore. Thanks goes out to the clerks of the course Dwayne Dixon and Col Mathers along with club secretary Kerry Miller-who is a nurse in her working life away from harness racing." Elly Chapple was still undergoing scans yesterday but is believed to have a broken elbow. All horses escaped serious injuries. The incident forced the final two races on the Inverell program to be abandoned. Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Following is a letter sent to U.S. Trotting Association President Russell Williams and his response to five prominent harness horsemen — George Segal, Marvin Katz, Steve Stewart, Myron Bell and Richard Alan Arnold — who called for action from the industry because it “owes a debt and profound obligation to two essential and dependent constituencies without whom our sport cannot exist: the Wagering Public and our beloved Standardbred Race horses.” Letter to Russell Williams from Segal, Katz, Stewart, Bell and Arnold March 19, 2020 Mr. Russell Williams President United States Trotting Association 6130 S. Sunbury Road Westerville, OH 43081-9309 Dear Mr. Williams: As Owners, Breeders and caretakers of Standardbred race horses, we owe a debt and profound obligation to two essential and dependent constituencies without whom our sport cannot exist: the Wagering Public and our beloved Standardbred Race horses. Both are totally dependent on the integrity and good faith adherence to the tenants of our sport by the vast majority of our sport’s participants who understand the need for honesty and humanity. In addition, both require exclusion of cheaters who violate them. Harness Racing has a devoted following to whom we all owe a duty of transparency and integrity. The work of a cheater doping horses in the shadows of the shed row is neither transparent nor honest. And worse, it is an unconscionable abuse of our noble charges. This chemical subterfuge, though apparently practiced by a distinct few undermines our sport and requires those honest participants who are in the vast majority standing up and saying enough. Although, the wagering public and our racehorses are both essential to our sport, there is one very important difference. The public can vote with their pocketbooks by moving away from the sport if they are displeased. But our beloved race horses cannot choose to leave if they are abused. For those of us who breed, raise, train, race and care for these magnificent animals, know that horses love to interact and develop relationships with humans who treat them well; and these noble beasts excel at performing in the manner they were bred to do. Those loveable characteristics of the racehorse makes it criminal to abuse these wonderful creatures or stand silent when others are doing so. The recent indictments of 29 members of the Horse Racing Industry by the Department of Justice was both shocking and depressingly disappointing. Common sense tells us these 29 individuals who were indicted are unlikely to be the only participants in our sport who may be responsibly charged with violating laws protecting our wonderful racehorses and the Betting Public. A crisis is upon us and make no mistake, the general public is watching. Two very different newspapers, the Washington Post and the (Louisville) Courier Journal, each published sobering editorials regarding Horse Racing and the doping indictments: “Horse Racing Has Outlived Its Time” Washington Post, March 13, 2020 “Horse Racing Doping Scheme Leaves No Option” Courier – Journal, March 10, 2020 In response to these clarion calls the time for action is now. It is time to stand up for our great sport and to protect our race horses from potential harm by the unscrupulous who would destroy and abuse both for potential gain. In this time of crisis the undersigned call for the following concrete steps to be taken immediately: 1. For the U.S.T.A. to actively and publicly condemn the type of activity alleged in the DOJ indictments and proactively work with other industry groups to propose and obtain comprehensive regulation to prevent the mistreatment of our horses through doping and other unethical activity. 2. For the U.S.T.A. to reinstate its Tip Hotline for persons of integrity to report suspected cheating – SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING. 3. For U.S.T.A. to form an industry committee to investigate the extent of the doping problem in our sport, including, if necessary, hiring private investigators and provide its findings to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. 4. For all of us to commit to the betting public, our race horses and each other to speak up – disassociate ourselves from cheaters and to shun those who we know are dirty trainers and vets or owners who associate with them. In many ways 2019 was one of the greatest years in our sport’s history. But recent developments make it clear either the vast majority of us who love this sport and these magnificent creatures we call race horses, stand up for what is right or, the pride we now feel for being involved in this noble and enjoyable venture may turn to the shame we will bear for being associated with an enterprise that expired through our neglect. Yours very truly, George Segal       Marvin Katz       Steve Stewart       Myron Bell       Richard Alan Arnold cc: U.S.T.A. Board of Directors Williams’ response to Segal, Katz, Stewart, Bell and Arnold   March 30, 2020 Dear George, Marvin, Steve, Myron, and Richard: Your timely and eloquent letter is most welcome. I respectfully refer you to an item that was recently posted on the USTA website (http://ustrottingnews.com/the-way-forward-some-initial-steps/). In it, I offer some recommendations and invite all harness racing stakeholders to join the effort to preserve all that is best about our sport. Your letter, representing the views of some of our industry’s leaders, is the first contribution to that effort, and sets the perfect tone for the industry conversation that we must have. Most of your concerns are answered in detail in the website post. The Tip Hotline is being restarted as you recommend. As my website post makes clear, a major investment in investigative capability and sweeping changes to the regulatory process will be needed. Given the magnitude of this, I’m glad to report that we already have a committee in place to handle these matters. It is the Executive Committee of the USTA Board of Directors, and it represents all harness racing interests. In my quarter-century on the USTA board, we have never had such a skilled, cooperative, and active board and executive committee as we have today. I cannot thank you enough for your letter. Please expect to be called upon to assist with and contribute to our work. Very sincerely, Russell Williams President, U.S. Trotting Association

Guelph, ON Mar. 30, 2020 - Equine Guelph has opened a FREE offering of their online Sickness Prevention in Horses course ($85 value - free with coupon code) in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.   TheHosePortal.ca course is based on the Canadian standard for equine biosecurity.  While many are at home for the next few weeks, this is an ideal time to learn online and develop your own action plan and backup arrangements.   Maintaining health is everyone’s responsibility. Biosecurity is a word and practice not well understood by an unsettling number of public riding facilities.   How many people wipe down the chains and snaps on cross-ties with disinfectant because they understand this is one of many practices that can reduce the risk of disease spread?  This is just one of the simple take-aways from Equine Guelph’s free Biosecurity Calculator online healthcare tool.   Other agricultural industries such as poultry and dairy follow strict protocols to ensure the health of their animals.  Every person entering a facility has to log in and out.  They follow the rules of National Codes of Practice and Biosecurity.  The horse industry also has a National Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines and a National Farm and Facility Level Biosecurity standard for the Equine Sector.      Those who have read and follow those guidelines may well lament over the number of facilities that immediately introduce an unknown horse into it’s herd with complete optimism that nothing will go wrong.  In this time of heightened alert, all reliable sources of education to prevent sickness are our salvation.  We all can and must take steps to safeguard health of both humans and animals.   Just what do you say to someone who comes back from their boarding barn search with the complaint, “Oh, it’s a lovely facility but they want to quarantine my horse for the first month - that will be inconvenient and I want my horse to have group turn-out.”?  The COVID-19 outbreak has made us all keenly aware of the importance of physical distancing as a crucial way to prevent the spread of disease.  Asymptomatic (no evidence of symptoms) does not equate to no health risk to others.   Our minds should instantly become more at ease when a facility has a quarantine protocol, wants to see vaccination records or even wants to see results from a strangles swab.  Horses are social, herd animals and being with their herd mates is an important component of their welfare but there is also an important balance to strike in safeguarding herd health.    If a horse enters a stable (perhaps travelling from a ‘hot spot’ – e.g. auction or yearling sale to name but two) asymptomatic upon arrival but they happen to be carrying a transmittable disease – what then?  They can pass the disease on to the entire herd.  That is inconvenient, costly and in the worst-case scenarios deadly. It is also a preventable welfare issue for the horses that suffer from the disease.   In this unprecedented time of social distancing, people are becoming acutely aware of the importance of carefully monitoring health and following quarantine protocols.   Monitoring for fever, cough and signs of sickness is daily news at the moment.   In a recent  article run by the Toronto Star regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Amy Greer, Canada research chair in population disease modelling at the University of Guelph  was quoted “It’s possible that Ontario will never experience the level of community transmission that the model estimates — just as it’s also possible that the province is on the cusp of a wider outbreak.  From a public health perspective, that’s always the challenge,” said Greer,  “If we do a really good job, people say, ‘Well you were overreacting, because nothing happened.’”   Well-run equestrian facilities and well informed horse owners closely monitor horses that have recently traveled.  Temperatures are taken daily along with a thorough horse health check.  Feed buckets, water buckets, tack, stall-cleaning equipment are not shared.  Hoses are never allowed to touch down into the buckets when they are refilled.  New arrivals may be able to see but not touch other horses.  Ideally, a separate quarantine barn is utilized.   For existing residents, such as horses returning home from being on the show circuit (higher risk location) best practices are to turn them out together but separate from the herd that does not travel.     Dr. Scott Weese, infection control expert at the University of Guelph has been very busy with his Worms and Germs blog as of late, providing advice for the FAQ’s coming in from animal owners. Weese was recently interviewed by TVO What we know — and don’t know — about how COVID-19 affects animals.  Weese is also featured in many resources in Equine Guelph’s biosecurity resources.   Maintaining health is the responsibility of everyone.   Arm yourself with scientifically proven information.  Ensure you have a written plan in case you get sick or injured to ensure ongoing care for your horses.   Stay safe everyone during this COVID-19 pandemic.  When it is all over may we all emerge strong, informed and vigilant in biosecurity best practices.    Equine Guelph’s Resources for Equine Health & Biosecurity: Equine Guelph’s Biosecurity Calculator - free online healthcare tool Equine Guelph’s Sickness Prevention online short course - Special FREE offering! Equine Guelph’s Health & Disease 12-week online course   Equine Guelph HEALTHflash Alert – COVID-19 - Caring for your horse during a pandemic    COVID-19 resources helpful for horse owners and caretakers     Notes to Editor: Equine Guelph is the horse owners' and care givers' Centre at the University of Guelph in Canada. It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups. Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government - for the good of the equine industry as a whole. For further information, visit www.equineguelph.ca.   Story by: Jackie Bellamy-Zions - Equine Guelph   Photos:  (images available upon request)    Photo Caption: Have you created an action plan to care for your animals?   Web Link(s):  Story web link: https://thehorseportal.ca/2020/03/protect-your-herd-equine-guelph-announces-a-free-offering-of-online-sickness-prevention-course/   Other web links:   FREE offering of Equine Guelph's Online Sickness Prevention in Horses course https://thehorseportal.ca/course/sickness-prevention-in-horses-s20/   National Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines https://equineguelph.ca/pdf/tools/codeofpractice/equine_code_of_practice%20(1).pdf   National Farm and Facility Level Biosecurity Standard for the Equine Sector  https://www.equineguelph.ca/pdf/tools/CFIA_ACIA-7979460-v1-Equine-Standard-English-PDF-Final.pdf    Toronto Star article: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/03/10/social-distancing-could-go-a-long-way-toward-slowing-down-covid-19-researchers-say.html?fbclid=IwAR29CXayus3I2LUofg6A7Xg-Z8520SicukLH-0moAC8KM5RmG9J87W__UQ4   Worms and germs blog by infection control expert, Dr. Scott Weese https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/   TVO story with Dr. Weese: https://www.tvo.org/article/what-we-know-and-dont-know-about-how-covid-19-affects-animals   Equine Guelph HEALTHflash Alert – COVID-19 - Caring for your horse during a pandemic   https://www.equineguelph.ca/news/index.php?content=666   COVID-19 resources helpful for horse owners and caretakers https://thehorseportal.ca/covid-19-updates-resources/   Equine Guelph’s Biosecurity Calculator https://www.equineguelph.ca/Tools/biosecurity.php   Equine Guelph’s Sickness Prevention online short course https://thehorseportal.ca/course/equine-biosecurity-standard/   Equine Guelph’s Health & Disease 12-week online course https://courses.opened.uoguelph.ca/search/publicCourseSearchDetails.do?method=load&courseId=17916       Jackie Bellamy-Zions Communications Equine Guelph Guelph, ON  N1G 2W1 519.824.4120 ext. 54756 jbellamy@uoguelph.ca  

March 28, 2020 - The weekend Solvalla feature was the V75 Gold Paralympia (purse to winner 300,000SEK, 2140 meters autostart, 12 starters) and 2.2/1 Disco Volante (7g Scarlet Knight-Glorify-Super Arnie) was a gate to wire winner for harness racing driver Ulf Ohlsson, trainer Stefan Melander and owner Stall Courant AB. Disco won for the fifth time in six 2020 starts and raised his life earnings to 4,192,915SEK. The victory was career win 24 in 59 appearances. He overcame that belief of some that he could only win at 1640 meters, a distance that he won four straight races entering this contest. Race time was 1.10.9kr (mile rate 1:54). Reckless (10m Ready Cash-Haver-Supergill) rallied for second with trainer Bjorn Goop the pilot. Gareth Boko (7m Make It Happen-Vanilla Boko-Pine Chip) was third, reined by Marc Elias for trainer Conrad Lugauer. The next leg of the Paralympic qualifiers is at Jagersro on April 4. Legs of the Paralympic Trot 2020 Saturday March 28 - Solvalla Saturday April 4 - Jägersro Saturday April 11 - Romme Saturday April 18 - Umåker 'Last chance' Final will be held at Åby Saturday April 25. On the same card fast class mares contested the STL Mares Pixies (220,000SEK to the winner, 1640 meters autostart, eight starters) with victory to late closing and 22/1 I Love Paris (10f Steinlager-Marie Dulcinea-Egyptian Gentleman) handled by her trainer Bjorn Goop. The victory increased her life earnings to 3,938,294 with this her 14th career win. Unique Juni (7f Uptown Yankee-Staro Unique-Supergill) was second for Jorgen Westholm and Hevin Boko (6f Going Kronos-Welat Boko-Garland Lobell) took third for Rikard N. Skoglund. The favorite and leading Ultra Bright made a miscue. Earlier on the program were four year old divisions of the Margaretas, each for 300,000SEK to the winners, each raced over 2140 meters autostart. In the filly division 2.2/1 Alaska Kronos (4f Trixton-Illinois-Donerail) scored timed in 1.13.9kr for Orjan Kihlstrom, trainer Daniel Reden and owner Stall Zet. Ganga Bae (4f Muscle Hill-Alexia As-Conway Hall) took second for Jorma Kontio The colt division of four-year olds saw 15.8/1 Untion Face (4m Joke Face-Croix d’Am-Love You) score for trainer/driver Adrian Kolgjini over the Kilhstrom teamed Digital Summit (4m Super Photo Kosmos) clocked in 1.12.7kr. The two three-year old divisions were won first by the filly Clockwork (3f Zola Boko) at 10.3/1 odds and clocked in 1.14.5kr for reinsman Ulf Eriksson. The male division saw 3.4/1 Forever Melon (3g Infinitif-Easter As-Dancers Victory) score in 1.15.7kr with Orjan Kihlstrom up. The main SWE race programs as also being offered by PMU while the FR tracks are closed due to Covid19. PMU is offering an e-Quinte+ wager each day on one SWE race. Thomas H. Hicks  

Thoroughbred racing is set to lag behind its sister codes when New Zealand racing finally gets the green light to return. The billion-dollar racing industry has been in lockdown like the rest of the country since last week and faces a rocky resumption even when restrictions are eased. Racing bosses in all three codes — thoroughbred, harness and greyhounds — are confident they can race safely, with strict protocols, if and when the country returns to Covid-19 alert level 3. That would obviously be without crowds but the problem for thoroughbred racing isn't the lack of people, it is the almost certain lack of fit horses. Confusion has reigned in the code since last week when the Ministry of Primary Industries initially ruled that training tracks could stay open for compliant trainers but then changed their mind. But in between those two decisions New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing put out its own conditions for training which were poorly written and saw many trainers and some track bosses think they had to shut down even though the MPI hadn't changed its stance. Some leading trainers had already decided to cease training but others wanted to continue. Once major training tracks like Cambridge closed all but a tiny percentage of the leading stables were automatically closed down. The latest NZTR recommendations suggest people can train at their own properties with people who live there (family or staff who reside on the property) but galloping or fast work is prohibited, although there is no clarification on how that will or can be policed. The spluttering shutdown means even if New Zealand returns to level 3 in late April and racing was technically allowed to go ahead the next day, there will be next to no horses ready to race. Racing's lost month after comeback Senior trainers yesterday estimated it will take at least a month for horses who are being walked, cantered or exercised on treadmills to get up to anything like race fitness. So the new trackwork and training restrictions leave the thoroughbred industry hamstrung to the point that racing may not resume until June even if the country returns to Level 3 by May. That is a month of lost income for not only most people in the racing industry, horse owners through stake money, the TAB through turnover and the Government through the taxes paid by racing, at a time the Government could probably do with very cent. When racing does return there are also grave fears among the thoroughbred industry as to how much money the TAB will be able to contribute to stakes as they have faced the double blow of racing being halted along side almost all sport, the latter a massive provider of revenue for the TAB. When thoroughbred racing resumes it could be with mini meetings of six races of small fields, all over shorter distances than usual because of the horse's lack of recent racing. It will almost certainly be restricted to zones, as most racing in Australia now is, to reduce travel and therefore risk of Covid-19 spread inside the industry. NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry admits mistakes were made last week and with only a skeleton staff working on extreme pressure some are forgivable. But the trainers spoken to by the Herald yesterday are still largely confused by what lies ahead and are hoping for more direction as New Zealand gets closer to the first lockdown removal deadline, albeit aware that may be extended. Other codes better off Greyhound racing will be the easiest of the three codes to get back on track while harness racing looks set to be well ahead of thoroughbreds because the majority of harness horses are trained on private tracks. The rules sent out by HRNZ yesterday say trainers can work horses at their home properties as long as they don't use staff who live outside the property and working should be kept to half speed. While that will reduce race-ready fitness many harness trainers jog their horses for up to 40 minutes below half speed most days of the week anyway and because they are allowed to do that they could have them ready to race a week or two after a return to Level 3. And harness racing has the added advantage of racing on all-weather tracks so they can race at any level through winter, whereas once the wet weather sets in many galloping trainers will be reluctant to race their better horses. That could see a track like Auckland's Alexandra Park holding meetings as early as mid-May should the country revert to Level 3 when we all hope it does, even if those meetings are only six or seven races containing small fields. Michael Guerin Courtesy of the NZ Herald

Harness Racing was halted about two weeks ago at The Meadows, shut down because of social-distancing measures and the threat of coronavirus. But horses need to exercise, and it takes humans to train them and care for them. That continues at The Meadows and all over the country. The lack of competitive racing also threatens stakes racing and the big-money purses that go with it. The Meadows is no exception. While stakes racing isn’t scheduled until the Pennsylvania Sire Stake series starts May 2 at the North Strabane Township track, other events such as the Currier & Ives for 3-year-old pacing fillies (May 22) and for pacing colts (June 20) also are in question. The Adios eliminations are scheduled for July 25 with the final set for Aug. 1. Until further notice, racing has been limited to one harness track in the country, Cal-Expo in Sacramento, Calif. The California Horse Racing Board approved the track to begin racing last Friday. Racing will be held there Tuesdays and Wednesdays through April 22. The Meadows’ return to racing might be determined by the reopening of the casino and return to work by state employees because race judges are employees of the state. Races cannot be contested without judges. For now, keeping horses active and their handlers healthy is a main objective. “Most days, (horses) are coming out and exercising,” said Ron Burke, the top trainer in the world. “We’ve turned some out, so they are put in paddocks. But there’s not enough paddocks for all the horses. “The horses have to come out and either jog lightly or some days they go closer to race speed. So, when races pick up, they are fit and ready to go. Basically, with a barn bigger like ours, we’re able to simulate races.” Jim King, Jr., one of the top trainers in the country, has his horses at his farm in Delaware. He has a number of stakes-eligible horses. He’s attempting to strike a balance. “It kind of changes every day,” said King. “We don’t know what is going on ourselves. There is no change in what we do with the horses. Jim King, Jr. “I had a half-dozen ready to qualify. In fact, I dropped them into qualifiers, but they didn’t draw in. They were that close. A couple more were a few weeks away. I had to finish getting them ready and once they are ready, I’ll back off. My other horses will keep going with an abbreviated schedule. They’re jogging, not as far as usual and only training once a week.” Dirk Simpson, who owns a significant stable of horses at The Meadows, said horsemen have been through racing lulls in the past, pointing to planned weeks off and a layoff in 2018 because of a deadly virus. Racing at The Meadows was shut down for more than one month early in 2018 because the virus was contracted by a handful of horses in late January. “The first week, it’s just kind of normal business,” Simpson said. “We’ve been down before. You think it’s OK and things are going to be the normal. We’ve survived it before. “Now, we’re into two weeks and there is no sign of racing. I’m thinking, my own personal point of view is that at some point the state will open it back up. We can operate with a small group of people. The governor will eventually allow (state employees) to go back to work. Dirk Simpson “I’m trying to be optimistic. Two years ago, we were shut down a month and my barn was hit hard. We just weathered through it. You get 60 days; it’s a totally different thing to tackle. If this goes longer than three weeks, it would be a hardship – first the smaller stables and then the larger stables. It’s scary right now. I’m staying as positive as I can.” Neither Burke, King nor Simpson have laid off any workers. None has reported anyone who has become ill with the virus. The entire harness racing industry is looking forward to getting back on the track. “We need the end date,” Burke said. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near finding the end date. “We’re trying to keep people from congregating and they’re good at it. It’s not like we have cubicles we’re sitting in to watch our horses. Once on the track, those horses keep you separate.” Burke is stressing to employees to maintain social distancing, washing their hands and staying healthy. “We need to stay healthy because the horses need us to take care of them,” he said. King has 3-year-old filly pacer, Lyons Sentinel, who’s coming out party came at The Meadows, to be concerned with. Lyons Sentinel won nearly $900,000 as a 2-year-old. “She was a little behind most of them (his other horses) anyway,” King said. “She’s training but nowhere near. … She’s six weeks from qualifying anywhere. I have to keep the horses moving, not race read but moving enough so I can have them race-ready in 10 days.” Burke thinks the harness racing industry could return faster to close to normal operations than other industries. “It could be done under any system they want, 40 to 50 people,” Burke said. “Horses have to exercise anyhow. There are ways. It would take some adjustments. The way we prepare, you’d have to cut the number (of people) and change the way you go to the paddock. You could put the horses together and we could separate people. “We should be able to get back about the quickest of any industry. We don’t need interaction. People can bet from their phone and on computers. I have a little hope for whatever social-distancing requirements there are, we can manage it.” Reprinted with permission of The Observer-Reporter

When Kurt Sugg looks back on his childhood, some of his fondest early memories of harness racing involved climbing into the family's Ford Ranchero and accompanying his father, Ivan, on trips to the county fairs in Ohio. Sometimes, they would stop on the way to pick up driver Jeff Fout, then continue on their journey to the races. One horse in particular at that time, a pacer named On Bret, was the center of Kurt's attention. The reason was simple. On Bret found his way to the winner's circle on a regular basis. The colt won 13 of 19 starts as a 2-year-old in 1978, just as the then 9-year-old Kurt was becoming immersed in the sport. "I remember going to the fairs and (On Bret) would win all the time; at least it seemed that way when I was there," Kurt said, adding with a laugh, "I guess I got to thinking it was pretty easy back at that time. Being a kid, you don't realize it's not as easy as it appears. But from a child's eyes, that's the way it appeared to me." Kurt jogged his first horse that same year. "My toes just barely could touch the stirrups and my butt was just on the edge of the seat," he said. "This is kind of all I ever really wanted to do. After school, we were always down at the barn helping dad when we got old enough to clean stalls and harness horses and things like that. That's kind of where it started. "And I always liked the competitiveness. That really got me into it. I like being competitive." Eight years after On Bret's rookie season, Kurt won his first race as a driver. In the ensuing 34 years, he has added 4,319 more, plus 1,067 as a trainer. Not surprisingly, he has cited his father as the biggest influence on his career. Ivan was the 2003 Trainer of the Year after guiding No Pan Intended to the Pacing Triple Crown and was inducted into the Ohio Hall of Fame in 2006. "I didn't work for my dad back then (when No Pan Intended raced) so it was kind of different, but I was happy to see my dad have that success in the business, which I think he deserved," Kurt said. "He did this his whole life. "When I was a kid, we went to the horse sales and dad would buy some yearlings, but they were always on the cheaper side, and he developed them into good stakes horses. When he got some little better horses, he proved what he could do with his training ability. That was a thrill for me to watch." Last year as a driver, Kurt won 361 races, the second-highest total of his career and not far from the 375 victories he posted in 2016. His $2.78 million in purses in 2019, though, were a lifetime best. He was off to a strong start this season, with his 96 triumphs tied for seventh among all drivers in North America, before racing was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was second in the driver standings at Northfield Park, trailing only five-time national dash champ Aaron Merriman. "This was by far the best start to a year I've ever had," Kurt said. "Everything was going along very nicely for me. I'm anxious to get back to racing, but I understand we need to do what we need to do to protect ourselves and the whole nation as far as this goes. "We have a big farm here, so we can get out and move around. But, still, not being able to go and do anything is really tough." Kurt has 10 horses at the Wayne County Fairgrounds in Wooster and another five horses at home. "We can sit in the living room and look out the window and see the horses in the field, so we really enjoy that a lot," he said. Although the sport faces an uncertain time, Kurt said people in the industry will work together to come through it. "We're pretty competitive on the track but when it comes down to somebody needing something and the welfare of the horses, people are going to band together to help them out," Kurt said. "That's good to see." Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association

Trainer Cran Dalgety’s Bathurst Gold Crown celebration party isn’t going exactly as planned, but it is going to be a long one. Two weeks in fact. That is how long Dalgety will be trapped in the Novotel Hotel at Auckland Airport after being forced into quarantine when returning from overseeing Dr Susan’s Group 1 $100,000 win at Bathurst on Saturday night. Dalgety, who trains the filly in partnership with Nathan Purdon, flew back from the successful Sydney campaign expecting to continue through to Christchurch and then into isolation at home in Canterbury. But the jovial horseman got a shock when he was informed of the new Covid-19 protocols at Auckland airport that meant if he didn’t have somewhere to self-isolate within a five-hour drive he had to go into forced quarantine at the Novotel, which is 50 metres from the Auckland Airport International Terminal. “I think I missed the cut off by a day of two,” laments Dalgety. “So basically I am in lock down in the Novotel, which could be worse, at least I got a nice hotel. “But the rooms are quite small and has no opening windows and I am only allowed outside for 20 minutes a day. I was hoping to be able to use the gym but we aren’t so I am going to try to get the running shoes on and make the most of the 20 minutes. “My daughter has sent me an exercise app so I can work out in the room, but there isn’t much room to do that either.” Dalgety gets food brought to the room three times a day but it is left at the door and he isn’t allowed to collect it until the staff member who drops it off is gone. For a country boy, and one who loves his fitness so much he has completed the famed Coast to Coast, this is a less than ideal situation. “It is not great but I understand the situation and I just have to make the most of it. “I have my phone and my laptop, so I can work a bit, but I have watched Dr Susan’s win on Saturday night plenty of times already.” Dr Susan has travel problems of her own as well as Dalgety was keen to get her to Perth for the West Australian Oaks but those plans have been shelved. “We could fly her but no groom cause it also would have meant whoever flew with her had to self isolate 14 days both there and on the way back, which is not practical. “So she has gone for a spell at Benstud, which is hardly ideal because she is fit and ready to race on. “Technically we could have kept racing her in NSW but she would have been rated a free-for-all grade horse and that is not fair on her. “The real shame is she is racing so well and could have gone there and then the Queensland Oaks but that carnival has been canned. So will have a break and we will have to look at next season.” Dalgety laughs when he thinks of how Dr Susan nearly threw away both her Group 1 wins this season, in the Victoria Oaks and on Saturday. Both time she galloped in the score up and caused false starts before recovering to lead throughout at the second attempt. “She does that when she is really well, she clenches her tail between her legs and gallops,” says Dalgety. “And you wouldn’t believe it it is hereditary. Her grand dam Sparks A Flyin (who won a NSW Oaks) did it and so did her dam Safedra. “I sent her (Safedra) to Luke McCarthy to be trained a few years ago and she was hot favourite for a $50,00 race in Queensland and she did the same thing and blew the start. “It is funny because Dr Susan is a lovely quiet filly most of the time but she gets too well for her own good some race nights.” Dalgety might be feeling the same for much of the next two weeks. So if you are a mate of the man in the colourful shirts don’t be scared to reach out over the next 13 days. Dalgety will have plenty of time on his hands.   HRV Trots Media - Michael Guerin

Three Victorian harness racing trainer-drivers who travelled interstate to contest the prestigious Gold Series finals at Bathurst, NSW, have been the first caught up in changed Victorian quarantine arrangements, announced Sunday. The three were racing in the rich finals of the Bathurst Gold Crown juvenile race series but have subsequently been caught up in the ever-changing and necessary requirements for racing under COVID-19 restrictions. Permissions were granted by both NSW and Victorian authorities on Friday for David Miles, David Moran and David Farrar to travel to Bathurst to drive and race their qualifiers for the Group One Gold feature events for two and three-year-olds. It's believed the trio was advised on Saturday afternoon, after they had already got on the road, that a change in the interpretation of the requirements meant they would need to go into isolation after their return to Victoria. They were further told that they would be permitted to complete their NSW engagements, but on their return, they would be stood down for a period of 14 days and would not be permitted to enter any Victorian racetrack for that period. They initially thought their stables would be shut down for the same period, but they've now been advised they will be permitted to continue preparing their teams, but cannot attend any race track for a period of 14 days and must receive a medical certificate before resuming. The David Miles-trained Focus Stride (Art Major-Sparkling Stride (Christian Cullen) was a boilover winner in the $100,000 Colts and Geldings Gold Chalice Final for three-year-olds. Focus Stride, an impressive winner of the $100,000 Gold Chalice David Moran's Lochinvar Chief was beaten a head, finishing second to Tasty Delight (Bettors Delight-Gentle Audrey (Artsplace) in the $100,000 Group One Gold Crown Final for two year old colts and geldings; and Dave Farrar had made the journey north with The Kew Legend to contest the Gold Crown Consolation, finishing sixth. Although disappointed, the affected trainer-drivers are philosophical about their predicament. "If that's what it takes to do for us to continue racing, I'm more than happy with the decision," Miles said. David Miles after his Bathurst win HRV yesterday released a statement advising that licensees who fail to comply with the requirements face significant penalties, including disqualification. HRV Stewards advised all industry stakeholders, effective immediately: All Licensed persons whom have competed interstate must not attend race or trial meetings in Victoria for a period of 14 days from the date of competition, and must provide a medical clearance to HRV within that 14-day period; Trainers, who are subject to the above restriction, will not be permitted to present a horse to start in a race or trial during this 14-day period; All persons are advised that should they fail to comply with these requirements significant penalties, including periods of disqualification, may be imposed under Australian Harness Racing Rule (AHRR). AHRR 238 states: A person shall not fail to comply with any order, direction or requirement of the Controlling Body or the Stewards relating to harness racing or to the harness racing industry.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

It is testament to the sort of man Father Dan Cummings was that after decades of enormous success in harness racing that is rarely the first thing which comes to mind when you think of him. Father Dan went to see his big boss upstairs on Saturday afternoon, taking his last breath after a battle with cancer that eventually moved to his lungs. There was little shock in his death, it had been coming for 15 months, since he was diagnosed with the illness and decided to not go down the treatment path. “He wanted to enjoy what time he had left and he did,” said his brother Peter after “Danny” passed away aged 75. “He made the most of his last year but when he got back from the sales he started to get worse and struggled with his breathing at the end.” That Father Dan made the most of his final year is hardly surprising because that was how he lived his life. He entered the priesthood straight out of school and upon being ordained spent much of his working life in the Dunedin diocese (the church’s region). A priest can affect a lot of lives in that time, especially one as popular as Father Dan and he was also at the centre of one of New Zealand’s great tragedies, being the parish priest at Port Chalmers when David Gray shot and killed 13 people in the Aramoana massacre in 1990. “That was a pretty intense time for Danny, being the parish priest during something that bad,” says Peter. But away from a life of service, Father Dan was Danny to his family. Danny loved animals, a love he got from his mother Joan who set up Tuapeka Lodge in 1965. While that extended to harness racing it was originally focussed on rodeo, where Danny held the New Zealand record for bulldogging, which is when a rodeo rider jumps from a horse on to a steer or calf and wrestles it to the ground. This would suggest Danny was a bit of a hard bugger. “He loved the rodeo and was very good at it,” says Peter. But after Mum passed in 1977 Danny (the third of eight children), Peter and sister Julie (Davie) took over the stud with enormous success. “Danny was the breeding and horse expert, I was the farmer and Julie managed it and sometimes prepared the yearlings,” explains Peter. Tuapeka Lodge generally kept their yearlings to 10, selling almost all the colts and keeping the fillies. Dan would train some, including one of their flagship horses in Maureen’s Dream, but it was mainly the colts who made Tuapeka Lodge the respected nursery that went on to prepare 10 yearling sales toppers. Many of them traced back to unraced mare turned superstar broodmare Sakuntala. The family bought her in 1974 and she left 13 winners from 18 foals, including Tuapeka Star who numbered the 1979 Tatlow Stakes at Moonee Valley among her 22 Australian victories and she went on to leave the great Iraklis. “He was one of our favourites,” remembers Peter of the stallion who won the NZ Cup and Miracle Mile and over $1million. He was one of two NZ Cup winners from the Tuapeka breed, the other being Monkey King, even though he wasn’t bred on the farm he was from a mare who was. Sakuntala’s progeny or their progeny have resulted in over 30 horses to win more than $100,000. But good horses alone do not legends make and Father Dan was a harness racing legend. He was ahead of his time with his website and yearling pics and as a man who commanded respect without trying. Come sales time he would be sitting on his lawn chair outside the stables of the Tuapeka Lodge draft, a parish priest to an entire industry. “He could be hard when he needed to be. He was very demanding,” laughed Peter. “He liked things done the right way but we never had a cross word and neither did Julie with him. “But he loved the horses and really enjoyed his involvement with Southern Bred Southern Reared in recent years.” Tuapeka Lodge will continue, with younger family members keen to help Peter and Julie. “I think we have a lovely bunch of horses to take to the sales next year,” smiles Peter. And they will have somebody looking over them from above. A legend. ** Father Dan’s funeral can not be planned yet because of the current Covid-19 restrictions.   by Michael Guerin

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