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SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The New York State Gaming Commission announced the adoption of three new wagering rules that will provide bettors more options in the sport of harness racing in New York. The rules were adopted by the Commission at the November 30 meeting and will take effect on upon publication in the State Register. Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said that he hopes the new wagering rules will provide increased opportunities for bettors while also increasing interest in the sport. “The new Pick Six and Super High Five wagers can create large jackpots for the lucky winners and increase fan interest in our sport. Lowering the number of runners allowed for triple wagering will also be beneficial since triples are one of our most popular wagers,” said John Matarazzo, Director of Racing Operations at Saratoga Raceway. The rules adopted are as follows: Pick Six Jackpot The Pick Six Jackpot rule, also known as the “Rainbow or “Jackpot” wager, will appeal to bettors by providing a larger prize when there is only one winning wager from a pool. If there is more than one winning ticket, then the major portion of the day’s pool is paid out to those who selected six of six winners, and the minor pool is added to the carryover. The carryover gets paid out when there is a unique winning ticket, or when there is an intermediate or final distribution approved by the Commission, which would occur at the end of a race meeting. This new wager parallels the Commission’s Thoroughbred racing pick-six jackpot rule.     Jackpot Super High Five Pools The new wager option requires the selection of the first five finishers in a single race in the correct order of finish. The entire pool would be paid to the bettor with a unique winning ticket, if there is only one winning ticket. If there is not only one winning ticket, the net pool would be split into a major pool and minor pool. The major pool would be a carryover in the next Jackpot Super High Five pool and the minor pool would be divided among all winning wagers. Additionally, the rule provides for contingencies in the event of dead heats and races with fewer than five entrants. Triple Wager The new rule amends the triple wager rule for harness racing, which requires the selection of the first three finishers in a single race in the exact order of finish by reducing the number of entries in a race for which the triple is permitted from six to five.  by: Chelsea Siegal  

Empire City Casino by MGM Resorts has requested and been granted approval by the New York Gaming Commission (“the Commission”) to resume live harness racing operations at Yonkers Raceway beginning Monday, June 22, 2020. Racing will begin with a three-night weekly schedule on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Post time is 7:05 pm nightly. Qualifying races will begin on June 15, 2020. Spectators will not be permitted but races will be simulcast, and available for viewing and wagering at Extensive health and safety protocols will be in place in accordance with guidelines issued by the Commission. Protocols include, but are not limited to, capacity limitations and distancing measures, temperature checks and health screenings, installation of no-touch fixtures and disinfectant stations, equipment usage and cleaning protocols, mandatory use of face masks, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the racing area.  As always, the health and safety of our customers and employees remain our top priority. For more information, please visit Taryn E. Duffy Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs (914) 457-2431 |  

The NYS Gaming Commission has apparently removed the sixty (60) day cap, that limited its ability, and that of its judges, to now allow discretion to extend the length of time a harness racing horse need not qualify, to account for unexpected events that interfere with the opportunities for otherwise horses to race. It is anticipated that the Gaming Commission will factor in the track closings that interfered with opportunities for otherwise eligible horses to race due to the forced shutdown of NYS tracks . The text of the proposed amendment adopted by the NYS gaming Commission on May 19th, 2020 is as follows: Section 4113.5(a) of Title 9 of the NYCRR would be amended as follows:§ 4113.5. Unqualified horses.(a) A horse shall be deemed unqualified and must qualify once before being allowed to start in any overnight pari-mutuel event for the following reasons:(1)The horse does not show a charted line of a current performance meeting the qualifying standards at the track for the class of race. Current performance shall be defined as a start within 30 days of the date of the race to which declared. Official workouts shall be acceptable as qualifying performances for this paragraph for horses with previous satisfactory races. The commission may extend the qualifying standards from 30 to as many [as 60] days as appropriate to account for [appropriate reasons, including]track closings, equine sickness, inclement weather or other unexpected events that interfere with the opportunities for otherwise eligible horses to race. NB. The basic thirty (30) day rule was previously amended by the NYS Gaming Commission to a forty five (45) day rule but that has not yet emerged from the Office of Regulatory Reform (ORR) which must approve. That has not happened yet and that is why the 30 day rule is still in effect. The amendment to 45 days is expected to get the OK from the ORR , the only frustrating question is when. The NYS Gaming Commission

NEW YORK -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that harness racing across the state will be allowed to reopen as of June 1 without fans. As the state moves forward with their phased reopening, Cuomo said they are also looking to open economic activities without crowds or gatherings. "If you can have economic activity without a crowd, that's great," he said. "We can do that in this state horse racing tracks and we're going to do that." Cuomo said there will be be guidelines for the actual participants. The horse racing venues that will be opening up are as follows: - Aqueduct Racetrack - Batavia Downs - Belmont Park - Buffalo Raceway - Finger Lakes Racetrack - Monticello Raceway - Saratoga Race Course - Saratoga Raceway - Tioga Downs - Vernon Downs - Yonkers Raceway Cuomo added the reopening of the Watkins Glen International racetrack, which will be able to open on June 1 without fans. When asked about baseball, the governor said there is a large number of maintenance staff and support staff that has to be accounted for. He questioned about social distancing measures.  

With the vast open paddock space at harness racing's Goshen Historic Track, I reiterate that it would be doable to have qualifiers there and insure that all social distancing mandates, wisely put in place, are observed.   Goshen will not permit spectators, only one groom, perhaps a limited number of trainers will be present and certainly a very limited number of drivers will be on hand.   Goshen being a betting free Fair Track, any racing activity there is under the jurisdiction of the USTA.   In the past whatever charted lines were prepared were incorporated into the USTA data base and then used as part of the official breed registry records.   Records which are  relied upon for years as both accurate and reliable when inserted into official racing programs at pari-mutuel track in all of North America.   Even  assuming  there may be a waiver of the existing 30 day qualifying rule, some horsemen still want and need to tighten up their horses and further educate their babies. We understand that the coronavirus has changed everyone’s mindset as to what is or is not doable but we are confident that we can achieve and insure a safe environment and serve the future needs of racing. I hope we can get some further guidance and your approval to go forward.   I have spoken with the Goshen Historic Track and they will do anything to help harness racing and I know the Gaming Commission feels the same way. Joe Faraldo, President SOA of NY

As you are aware, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has issued several Executive Orders designed to combat the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Among the Orders is a requirement that certain employers reduce the number of their employees working at individual locations in the State by 100 percent effective March 22, 2020 at 8 p.m. The employment reduction requirements apply to all for-profit and not-for-profit employers in New York State, unless such business has been deemed an essential business or entity providing essential services. The Executive Orders themselves define the terms “essential businesses or entities” providing “essential services”. Yesterday the applicability of the reduction was extended through May 15, 2020. Review of the applicable Executive Orders continues to find that a racetrack operating for parimutuel wagering does not qualify as an essential business, accordingly, the Commission hereby suspends any previously approved race dates of operation through May 15, 2020, and will not approve any pending race dates of operation through May 15, 2020.  Should you disagree with the identification of your business as non-essential, you may file a request with the Empire State Development Corporation to be designated as an essential business through this website. However, animal care operations, including equine barn or facility maintenance, equine turnout and exercise, stall cleaning and enclosure repair, and farrier and veterinary care do qualify as essential business. As previously discussed in past correspondence, whether a racetrack remains open for training and barns remain open for stabling is a determination to be made by each racetrack and its horsemen’s organization. However, should a racetrack or barn area remain open there are certain standards that must be maintained. For facilities that remain open for training purposes, it is management’s responsibility to maintain the training surface in a safe condition. Failure to properly maintain the surface presents significant risk to the equine athlete and those engaged in exercising or training. Racetracks must not allow, by omission, any unnecessary risk relative to its racing surfaces. With respect to sanitary conditions, should any animals be maintained on racetrack grounds, the racetrack must continue to meet basic welfare responsibilities. These responsibilities include securing a reliable supply of products necessary to maintain the population and ensuring that the sanitary needs of the facility remain satisfied. These needs include the scheduled removal and disposition of refuse, manure and stained straw. Should you have any questions, please contact me directly. Robert Williams Executive Director New York State Gaming Commission

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has issued several Executive Orders designed to combat the Novel Coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak. Among the Orders is a requirement that certain employers reduce the number of their employees working at individual locations in the State by 100 percent effective March 22, 2020, which has since been extended through April 15, 2020. While the employment reduction requirements apply to all forprofit and not-for-profit employers in New York State, animal care (not racing) operations have been deemed essential and are exempt. For purposes of the Executive Orders, animal care operations include equine barn or facility maintenance, equine turnout and exercise, stall cleaning and enclosure repair, and farrier and veterinary care. Whether a racetrack remains open for training and barns remain open for stabling is a determination to be made by each racetrack and its horsemen’s organization. However, should a racetrack or barn area remain open there are certain standards that must be maintained Commission staff recently visited each licensed racetrack to review the procedures and processes that have been imposed during this extraordinary time. While we were pleased to find basic health and safety precautions being followed, it is appropriate to underscore best practices. Resources We need to remain mindful that we remain under a public health crisis and pandemic situation. Accordingly, the health and safety precautions advised by the State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control should be diligently followed. The following websites provide credible guidance regarding Novel Coronavirus practice and overall community safety measures. We strongly recommend these sites be regularly accessed and materials thereon reviewed. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the U.S. Trotting Association both maintain webpages dedicated to dissemination of Novel Coronavirus-related information. Those pages may be accessed at the links below: Distancing and Cleaning All facilities that remain open must practice social distancing, and proper cleaning and sanitizing, in accordance with the guidelines and recommendations provided within the aforementioned websites. We also strongly encourage each facility to post signage – in English and Spanish – detailing handwashing procedures and social distancing protocols in prominent locations. Focused cleaning efforts should be targeted on door and stall handles, railings, flat door handles, shared practice equipment and other frequently touched surfaces. Racetrack Access There must be tightly controlled access to racetracks or barn areas that remain open, with the racetrack and backstretch areas closed to all non-essential personnel. Only certain licensed racetrack employees, trainers, veterinarians, farriers and stable workers should be afforded access. No visitation by owners, friends or family should be permitted. This control starts with upgraded security controls and procedures that underscore and enable limiting gate access.  Operational Concerns For facilities that remain open for training purposes, it is management’s responsibility to maintain the training surface in a safe condition. Failure to properly maintain the surface presents significant risk to the equine athlete and those engaged in exercising or training. Racetracks must not allow, by omission, any unnecessary risk relative to its racing surfaces. With respect to sanitary conditions, should any animals be maintained on racetrack grounds, the racetrack must continue to meet basic welfare responsibilities. These responsibilities include securing a reliable supply of products necessary to maintain the population and ensuring that the sanitary needs of the facility remain satisfied. These needs include the scheduled removal and disposition of refuse, manure and stained straw.  Dormitory Concerns For those facilities with dormitories, there needs to be a vigilant monitoring of dormitory areas, with required regular daily visitation by assigned personnel to provide support and screening of those domiciled. Designated quarantine rooms should be set aside for the sole purpose of providing residents a safe area to be quarantined, if required. A security plan should be detailed to ensure these quarantine rooms are kept fully secured and the basic needs of individuals under quarantine are met. The sanitation concerns of these facilities must remain in a state of address. This includes timely rubbish removal and, during this public health crisis, increased cleaning and sanitizing of common areas and restrooms. Health of the Equine Athlete and their Caregivers Finally, we recognize that this public health crisis and pandemic situation has gravely stressed many racetracks and racing stable operations. As there is no pari-mutuel racing activity, the ability to generate revenue that supports the care and comfort of the equine athlete and those that tend to the animals have been functionally eliminated. Regardless, costs associated with operations such as employee salaries, veterinary care, feed and bedding remain.   We understand the difficulty imposed to ensure these services are available, but it is simply unacceptable not to accommodate the needs of horses and workers. While the Commission has no financial resources to directly assist, we might be able to provide guidance and direction. COVID-19 is a public health disaster. Let’s all work together when necessary to prevent individual disasters and get into the best position to resume racing when that opportunity occurs. My senior staff and I are always available to discuss issues of concern. Please don’t hesitate to make contact if you think we can assist. By Robert Williams, Executive Director Ney York Gaming Commission        

SCHENECTADY – As they face federal charges for doping racehorses, five thoroughbred trainers and a harness racing owner will continue to be barred from racing in New York, the state Gaming Commission ruled. At a Wednesday morning hearing, gaming officer Michael Hoblock, who was appearing via video-conferencing, decided that the suspension of state racing licenses for trainers Henry Argueta, Christopher Marino, Christopher Oakes, Nicholas Surick, Michael Tannuzzo and horse owner Scott Mangini, will remain in place. Another six who were also indicted on federal charges for conspiring to mislabel and smuggle performance enhancement drugs into their barns, including famed trainers Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis, did not appear. Their hearing with the commission was previously adjourned and will be reconsidered after their criminal cases work their way through the courts. The 12 are among 27 trainers, veterinarians, riders and owners nationwide who had their licenses suspended on March 9 when the indictment was unsealed. At that time, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman alleged they had "designed to secretly and dangerously enhance the racing performance of horses beyond their natural ability, a dishonest practice that places the lives of affected animals at risk.” The only defendant to appear at the hearing was assistant trainer Henry Argueta. He was not accompanied by a lawyer and had some difficulty understanding the proceeding as his English is limited. However, he did understand that his license is temporarily suspended. He is listed in the Servis indictment for misbranding conspiracy and faces up to five years in prison. Servis was allegedly involved in a scheme to obtain an illegally manufactured drug called SGF-1000. The drug is designed to increase a horse's stamina and endurance. According to the indictment, Servis gave the drug to "virtually all" of the horses he trained. The indictment also alleges that the two trainers heavily doped two of their most successful horses, Maximum Security and XY Jet. Maximum Security, trained by Servis, won the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified for interference. On Feb. 29 of this year, the horse won the world's richest race, the $10 million Saudi Cup. XY Jet, trained by Navarro, won more than $3 million in 26 starts before dying of a heart attack on Jan. 8. Navarro allegedly administered 50 injections of a performance-enhancing drug into XY Jet's mouth, according to the indictment. The indictment is the result of a two-year probe, Berman said. “These defendants engaged in this conduct not for the love of the sport, and certainly not out of concern for the horses, but for money,” Berman said when he unsealed the indictment in March. “And it was the racehorses that paid the price for the defendants’ greed.  The care and respect due to the animals competing, as well as the integrity of racing, are matters of deep concern to the people of this District and to this Office.” If the 12 are convicted, the gaming commission will consider revoking their racing licenses permanently. Alleged doping dozen in New York State Henry A. Argueta, assistant thoroughbred trainer and exercise rider Alexander Chan, veterinarian Rick A. Dane, Jr., harness trainer  Conor J. Flynn, harness groom Scott Mangini, harness owner    Chris W. Marino, harness trainer Jorge I. Navarro, thoroughbred  Christopher W. Oakes, harness trainer  Kristian S. Rhein, veterinarian  Jason Servis, thoroughbred trainer  Nicholas K. Surick, harness trainer   Michael E. Tannuzzo, thoroughbred trainer licensed  The indictment coincides with efforts in Congress to pass the Horseracing Integrity Act, co-sponsored in the House by U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam) and led in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), which would hand oversight of administering drugs to racehorses to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the governing body that runs the U.S. Olympic anti-doping efforts. The act would eliminate the current patchwork of state-by-state rules and align the nation's tracks with much of the rest of the world.  New York Racing Association, which manages the Saratoga Race Course as well as Aqueduct Racetrack and Belmont Park, supports the measure. By Wendy Liberatore Reprinted with permission of The Times Union  

YONKERS, NY, Tuesday, December 10, 2019--Yonkers Raceway has announced its live 2020 harness racing schedule, pending approval of the New York State Gaming Commission. The 237-program docket begins Monday night, Jan. 6th, and encompasses the usual five nights per week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday) throughout the bulk of the season. It's nighttime--first post remaining at 6:50 PM--the entire way, save for a Saturday, Sept. 12th, matinee. That program (first post 1 PM) shall feature both the $1 million International Trot and the New York Day of Champions, finals of the New York Sire Stakes. The 2020 calendar accompanies this release. Note that the 2019 season ends a week from tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 17th). By Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway    

YONKERS, NY, Wednesday, November 13, 2019--Yonkers Raceway has added Saturday night, Nov. 30th, to its live harness racing calendar, with the usual first post of 6:50 PM. This schedule addition, approved by the New York State Gaming Commission, replaces an earlier program which had been cancelled. The Raceway's Thanksgiving week schedule now reads Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 25th and 26th), along with the aforementioned Saturday. Evening simulcasting continues around the live schedule, while afternoon simulcasting is offered Wednesday through Sunday (altered for NYRA race days). A friendly reminder from Yonkers Raceway that Thursday evening's (Nov. 14th) Pick 5 wager starts with a carryover of $5,379.14 and a $15,000 guaranteed pool. The guarantee is in conjunction with the U.S. Trotting Association's Strategic Wagering Program. The Pick 5 is a 50-cent base wager comprising races 6 through 10 Thursday night. It has no consolation payoff, meaning if no one selects all five winners (as was the case Tuesday night), the entire pool (minus takeout) moves to the next racing program. by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

The New York State Gaming Commission announced that the New York Court of Appeals has upheld the 2015 sanctions levied against harness racing trainer Lou Pena, who was found responsible for 1,719 equine drug violations in 675 races. The ruling ends more than six years of litigation and validates the Commission's actions of using veterinarian records to determine if pre-race drug violations had occurred. To read the full article click on this link.

The New York State Gaming Commission announced today the implementation of enhanced security and drug testing protocols for the International Trot. These protocols will require out of competition testing of all horses. In addition to enhanced security measures, the protocols require out of competition testing of all horses participating. The process will be coordinated and supervised by Dr. Scott E. Palmer, the Gaming Commission's Equine Medical Director and Daniel Haughney, the Gaming Commission's Director of Investigations. The protocols will provide additional safeguards to protect the integrity of the sport and the welfare of the horses. In 2015 the Commission implemented the security and drug testing measures for Thoroughbred Grade 1 races with purses of at least $1 million. In addition to fostering transparency and accountability in high-profile races, the measures ensure compliance among horsepersons and veterinarians who travel to New York from across the world to compete. The security protocols in effect for the Yonkers International Trot include the following: Horses racing in the Yonkers International Trot must be on the grounds by 1 p.m. on Friday, October 12, 2018. The horses will be subject to a continuous 24-hour dedicated watch by security personnel leading to post time. During a dedicated watch, a security guard or Gaming Commission investigator will keep the horses under constant surveillance. Anyone (i.e., veterinarians) entering a stall or otherwise having physical contact with a horse under watch will be directly observed by an investigator. Unless exempted by the Presiding Judge, no horse entered in the Yonkers International Trot may be treated after 1 p.m. on October 12, unless a Commission security person is present. Security personnel will monitor all treatments performed by veterinarians. All syringes and containers for administered medication will be retained by the Commission for possible testing. The Commission is taking out-of-competition blood samples from participating horses well in advance of the race and sending them to the New York State Equine Drug Testing and Research Program at Morrisville State College for immediate testing. The Commission will coordinate with other jurisdictions to obtain out-of-competition samples from horses that are not stabled in New York. No harness bags or containers will be allowed in the paddock. From the NY Gaming Commission

It's Eric Warner's job to set up the daily race fields at Monticello Raceway but you can’t draw up what you don’t have. The raceway was forced to cancel its scheduled extra harness racing card for Friday afternoon because there’s a “severe horse shortage,″ as stated by the New York State Gaming Commission. An ideal day calls for 80 horses to make a full card, said Warner, Monticello’s director of racing. Monticello managed to schedule 10 races on Monday and Tuesday, and has nine scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Friday was a rare opportunity for a fifth day of racing at Monticello but a sufficient lineup was unavailable. “It’s industry-wide at this point,″ Warner said. “We try to race more times during the winter because other tracks are closed and we generally have more horse population to race but at this point we didn’t have enough to go five days. ... It is disappointing.″ Warner said many horses are stabled at the facility and others are transported from farms in the Middletown and Pine Bush area. Some horses come from as far away as the Saratoga region and northeast Pennsylvania but those horses may be unavailable as their owners get them ready for the upcoming openings at Saratoga Casino Hotel next month and Mohegan Sun Pocono in the spring. “I have said over and over again, there is not a shortage of horses; there’s too much racing,″ said Buffalo Raceway chief operating officer Jim Mango. Buffalo tried to schedule three days of racing but had to cancel its Friday cards last week, this week and next because of the shortage. Mango said his Buffalo facility was stabling 300 horses at this time last year and only 130 now. “In New York state, at any one time you could have five (harness) race tracks going ... it’s just ridiculous,″ said the outspoken Mango. “We’re trying to deal with it as an industry where there unquestionably has to be a reduction of race days.″ “It’s definitely a serious problem, especially for the tracks that are racing the lower class of horses, which certainly the small harness tracks are in the category like that, the tracks that offer the smaller purses.″ Monticello Raceway actually had to get approval from the state gaming commission to cancel since all race dates are applied for and approved by the commission. Monticello has three remaining “fifth” racing dates on July 6, Aug. 3 and Dec. 21. Series schedules announced The New York Sire Stakes season will culminate with the $1.8 million finals hosted by Yonkers Raceway on Sept. 22. The finals for the Excelsior Series will be hosted by Saratoga on Sept. 23. The Sire Stakes and Excelsior Series divisions will open action at Yonkers on May 8. Goshen Historic Track will host events in both series on June 30 and July 1. The schedule for the County Fair Series will be released in a few weeks. The New York Sire Stakes is the premier harness-racing program for 2- and 3-year-old Standardbreds, and is administered by the Agriculture & New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund. At a glance New York Sire Stakes schedule (for local tracks) 3-year-old Colt Pace: June 18 at Monticello; June 30 at Goshen; July 30, Aug. 28, Sept. 22 at Yonkers 3-year-old Filly Pace: June 30 at Goshen; Aug. 6 at Monticello; Sept. 6, Sept. 22 at Yonkers 2-year-old Colt Pace: June 26, Aug. 24, Sept. 22 at Yonkers; July 4 at Monticello 2-year-old Filly Pace: July 6, July 24, Sept. 22 at Yonkers; Sept. 10 at Monticello 3-year-old Colt Trot: July 1 at Goshen; July 16 at Monticello; July 27, Sept. 11, Sept. 22 at Yonkers 3-year-old Filly Trot: May 8, Aug. 7, Sept. 22 at Yonkers; June 4 at Monticello; July 1 at Goshen 2-year-old Colt Trot: July 9 at Monticello; Aug. 20, Sept. 14, Sept. 22 at Yonkers 2-year-old Filly Trot: June 25 at Monticello; July 3, Aug. 13, Sept. 22 at Yonkers New York State Excelsior Series 3-year-old Colt Pace: June 18 at Monticello; June 30 at Goshen; July 30, Aug. 28 at Yonkers 3-year-old Filly Pace: June 21, Sept. 6 at Yonkers; June 30 at Goshen; Aug. 6 at Monticello 2-year-old Colt Pace: June 26, Aug. 24 at Yonkers; July 4 at Monticello 2-year-old Filly Pace: July 6, July 24 at Yonkers; Sept. 10 at Monticello 3-year-old Colt Trot: July 1 at Goshen; July 16 at Monticello; July 27, Sept. 11 at Yonkers 3-year-old Filly Trot: May 8, Aug. 7 at Yonkers; June 4 at Monticello; July 1 at Goshen 2-year-old Colt Trot: July 9 at Monticello; Aug. 20, Sept. 14 at Yonkers 2-year-old Filly Trot: June 25 at Monticello; July 3, Aug. 13 at Yonkers By Ken McMillan Reprinted with permission of The Times Herald-Record

YONKERS, NY, Thursday, August 31, 2017 - With the permission of the New York State Gaming Commission, advance wagering shall be offered Friday (Sept. 1st) for Yonkers Raceway's pair of Saturday night (Sept. 2nd) harness racing $500,000 Triple Crown events. The 63rd Yonkers Trot, with a nine-horse field for the first time since 2000, goes as the fifth race (approximate post time 8:47 PM), a race after the 62nd Messenger Stakes (approx.. post 8:22 PM). First post for the dozen-race card is the usual 7:10 PM. Total purses of the program are just under $1.5 million. Frank Drucker

Schenectady, NY --- The New York State Gaming Commission today indefinitely suspended harness owner, trainer and driver Michael S. Weiner for racing four horses at Monticello Raceway doped with mitragynine, a dangerous drug with performance enhancing and analgesic effects similar to cocaine and morphine. Commonly known as Kratom and derived from the plant Mitragyna speciosa that grows only in Southeast Asia, there is no legitimate reason for mitragynine to be found in any race horse. Kratom is a controlled substance in many countries and has been declared a “drug of concern” by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency with no known legitimate industrial, agrochemical, chemical, human or veterinary medical use. The drug was found in Weiner’s horses through the introduction of an analytical detection methodology by the New York Drug Testing and Research Program (NYDTRP). To date, it has not been identified in any other racing jurisdiction. After the NYDTRP identified the presence of Kratom, the lab conducted a drug administration trial to substantiate that administration had occurred within one week of the horses’ races in clear violation of Commission rules. “This dangerous drug has no business anywhere in horse racing,” said Ronald Ochrym, the Commission’s Director of Horse Racing and Pari-Mutuel Wagering. “Thanks to the innovative work of the New York Drug Testing and Research Program, this individual is no longer participating in the sport and we are on the lookout for additional cheaters.” Weiner trained four horses that raced at Monticello Raceway on February 2, 3 and 7, 2017. Bupa Bruiser finished first in the third race at Monticello on February 2, 2017 French Lick finished fifth in the third race at Monticello on February 3, 2017 Vernon Belle finished second in the seventh race at Monticello on February 3, 2017 Majestic Jo finished first in the fifth race at Monticello on February 7, 2017 All four horses have been disqualified and Weiner’s share of purses in the above mentioned races have been ordered returned. Effective today, Weiner is summarily suspended and is excluded from all New York tracks. Upon full adjudication by the Commission, Weiner could ultimately have his license to participate revoked and face up to $25,000 in fines per violation. A hearing on the matter is currently scheduled for June 2. What is Mitragynine? Click here. More here Chemists study the neurochemistry of alkaloids from the Mitragyna plant In study after study, Mitragynine is called out as the most prevalent and potent alkaloid in the kratom leaf’s arsenal. Unintentional Fatal Intoxications with Mitragynine by Lee Park, director of communications, New York State Gaming Commission 

ALBANY -- In 2003, New York's racetracks were paying out among the lowest prizes in the nation, and many of the tracks, particularly upstate harness racing facilities, were nearly set to be put out to pasture. Then the racetracks started adding video-lottery terminals. Now, the purses -- the amount paid out to winners in the races -- are among the highest in the nation, and the revenue at the so-called racinos has also soared. With three new upstate casinos opening in recent months, the state's existing gaming halls face new competition after enjoying years of rising revenue for their casino-like facilities and horse-racing operations, a review of records by the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau found. Purses at New York's seven harness tracks have tripled over the past 14 years, creating an unprecedented dynamic: There's nearly no one in the stands, but the prize money is at levels not seen in decades. "I’ve said to many people that if you want to make money in (harness) racing, this is the best opportunity you’ve had in many, many years," said Bob Galterio, the COO at Yonkers Raceway, the state's largest harness track. ►NY just had a record year for its lottery ►With three new NY casinos open, can they succeed? ►House wins big with casino tax breaks Ninety-two percent of the money from gamblers at the state's racetracks with the video-lottery terminals goes to pay the players as prizes. The key figure is the 8 percent that's left: It is split among the tracks, the horsemen and the state. Without the piece that goes to purses and breeders, horse racing in New York would be nearly non-existent, track officials and experts said. The industry is a major one in New York's agricultural sector: It employs 32,000 people, according to its trade organizations. "If the VLTs didn’t come in 2004, I really doubt racing would be here," said Chris Riegle, the president of Finger Lakes Gaming and Racing, the only upstate thoroughbred track outside of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course. Also, "I don’t think there would be very many harness tracks in New York." Avoiding closures Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then-Gov. George Pataki and state lawmakers sought to help the state's economy by allowing the horse tracks to add video-lottery terminals -- the slot-machine-like devices controlled by a central computer system in Schenectady. The move was a way to boost the state's coffers by designating about half of that coveted 8 percent to fund schools. It also was a way to keep horse racing alive after decades of decline in the sport, which was once a major local draw. Batavia Downs in western New York is the oldest nighttime harness track in the nation. Yonkers drew 40,000 people on weekend nights in the 1960s. In 2004, the first VLT facilities opened. It has been a boon to all sides. "It definitely saved racing; it saved the jobs," said Jeff Gural, the owner of Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier and Vernon Downs in central New York. Of the net win -- the money left in the machines after payouts to winners -- 8.75 percent goes to the horsemen and 1.25 percent to the breeders. The rest is split between the state and racinos. The tracks also get 10 percent for marketing and 4 percent for facility improvements -- including hotels that some are building. The money has helped the state's coffers: The racinos contributed nearly $1 billion in 2015 to the state designated for education -- or 48 percent of the nearly $2 billion in net win. Anthony Palermo, of Rochester, plays a slot machine on opening day of del Lago Casino.  (Photo: Jamie Germano/@jgermano1/Staff Photographer)   Soaring purses The purses at the state's eight racetracks and the three tracks run by the New York Racing Association hit $301 million in 2015 -- up 87 percent since 2003. For just the seven harness tracks, purses went from $35 million to $118 million, records from the state Gaming Commission showed. So the average purse per race went from about $4,000 to $11,000 over the 14 years -- putting New York among the top five in the nation. The figures have been extraordinary at some tracks: Batavia Downs' purses grew from $1.8 million to $5.5 million; from $4 million to $18 million at Saratoga harness; and from $20 million to nearly $63 million to Yonkers. Some tracks said they are dealing with a shortage of horses. "If you and four friends had $20,000. The best thing to do is to get together, each kick in $4,000 and buy a $20,000 claimer and race it at Yonkers Racetrack," Galterio said. "The purses are so good. You race every week." Rising racinos While the gambling money has throw life preserver to racing, it also boosted the tracks' owners. The money going to the racinos has skyrocketed since they opened. The tracks, after a sluggish start, negotiated lower payments to the state in 2007. At Finger Lakes, the so-called agent commission -- the tracks' main revenue stream -- doubled to $40 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year that ended March 31. At Yonkers, it was up 50 percent to $177 million since 2008, while Tioga Downs' commission grew 59 percent since 2007 to $22 million. So while the purses are up, so too are the tracks' fortunes, said Joe Faraldo, president of the state's Standardbred Owners Association, which represents the harness horsemen. "The horsemen, their purses have gone up dramatically -- the same way track revenue has gone up with these VLTs," Faraldo said. Live harness racing at Batavia Downs. (Photo: Annette Lein)   Subsidizing racing So the situation has created a scenario where purses are up despite fewer people betting on the races. Yonkers stopped publishing its attendance figures in the late 1980s. VLT revenue provides an increasing percentage of the purses: In 2004, 50 percent of the purses came from the VLT revenue; in 2011, it was 71 percent, state records show. At the same time, total handle at the harness tracks -- the amount bet on the races -- dropped 21 percent between 2003 and 2015, hurt in part by the closure of New York City Off-Track Betting in 2010. The on-track betting on the races also fell: It was down 56 percent at Yonkers over that stretch and down from $3.4 million to $1.5 million at Batavia. Most of the betting comes from simulcasting of races around the state, country and internationally, which is a growing business at Yonkers, in particular. "I don’t want to say it’s become a television studio, but it more important to produce a good-looking television signal than to have tasty hot dogs in the stands," Galterio said. Growing competition The reliance on VLT revenue has raised concerns within the racing industry, which fears the tracks will one day seek to drop racing or cut the amount that goes to it. "A lot of these racinos kind of make it difficult to go to the track, because they would rather be a straight casino and not do racing at all," Assembly Racing Committee Chairman Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, said. Those fears have grown after the casinos opened in recent months in the Finger Lakes and Schenectady, with one set to open next year in the Catskills. At Finger Lakes, it received a lower tax rate last year because of the competition from del Lago, which opened earlier this month in Tyre, Seneca County, 28 miles away. Even with the competition, though, the horsemen will be held harmless. The 2013 law that allowed for four upstate casinos included a provision that requires the new casinos to keep purses at the same level as 2013 -- if the new casinos cut into the racinos' bottom line.  (Photo: File photo)   Negotiating at Finger Lakes That's a current fight: The horsemen at Finger Lakes face a cut in purses if the racino's revenue drops because of del Lago, which is not required to make the track whole. The casinos have to help the racetracks in the zones established by the state: Finger Lakes, though, is outside the del Lago zone. The sides -- Finger Lakes, del Lago and the state -- are now trying to find a solution to help the horsemen. "I’m hopeful we’ll come to a conclusion very quickly," Riegle said. Pretlow said the Legislature has no plans to revisit the split of revenue between the tracks and the racing industry: "Part of this whole thing is to help racing." The tracks said they continue to invest in their racing, saying it is still a viable portion of their business. Yonkers points to expansion in recent years of hosting major stakes races, including the $1 million International Trot each fall; tracks said they have upgraded their racing facilities. But the tracks often seek fewer racing dates each year, despite protests from the industry, and Finger Lakes won't disclose how many dates it wants this year as it negotiates a new contract with its horsemen. "It really boils down to how much purse money you have to hand out and how many horses you have," Riegle at Finger Lakes said. "If you have a respectable amount of both, you can run more." Gaming the future Dave Brown, president of the Finger Lakes horsemen association, charged that the tracks would just as soon drop racing if they could, but they are bound by the state law. "There is no question they’d love to not run. And they make it difficult for us," he said. Riegle rejected that idea, saying it is still "a pretty significant piece" of the business. Gural, a horse owner who also owns the Meadowlands track in northern New Jersey, said he's concerned about the future of racing in New York. The tracks are not required to market the sport to new customers, and its fan base is dwindling. In December, Tioga Downs received a gaming license to turn from a VLT facility to a full-scale casino. "Without the slots or the VLTs, there would be no harness racing. It’s totally dependent on the revenue we receive from the slots," Gural said. He added, "The problem is that most of our customers are older and we have not successfully created an industry for the younger generation. So what happens when all those people die off?" Joseph Spector , Albany Bureau Chief Reprinted with permission of The Democrat and Chronicle

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