Day At The Track

Alan Schwartz president of the Monticello Harness Horsemen's Association, said that we were informed that racing at Monticello Raceway was going to cease on March 16th. "Our family of drivers, trainers, grooms was devastated, Schwartz noted. "Not only did they fear for themselves being unable to eat but what was going to happen to the horses at the track. They need care on a day- to- day basis so abandoning them was definitely not an option." So Schwartz got things moving. He reached out to the track's parent company, Resorts World Catskills, and with their financial help, every horse stabled at the track would be provided with feed, hay and straw. Each driver, trainer and groom would get a monetary subsidy for two weeks based on their prior 2 weeks of income. After meeting with track's parent management Schwartz negotiated that horses would be able to jog every day and it was agreed that the track would provide a maintenance crew that would come every other day. "Seems this is extraordinary to have been accomplished when none of the other race tracks has gone the extra mile to take care of those people and animals that support their track all year long," Schwartz said. "Where are the owners of these tracks hiding ? Don't they have some responsibility as well?" Perhaps this should be known throughout the industry as a prime example of helping when help is truly needed. from the Monticello Harness Horseman's Association  

Cream Ridge, NJ - 3/27/2020 - Covid19 is causing the Standardbred Retirement Foundation,(SRF) to cancel, not postpone, three of its very impactful fundraisers.   It is also being slammed by the need for Americans to quarantine, keeping adopters away during the busiest time of the year for finding homes.   More than 400 trotters and pacers are under the SRF's expense and care. What this means is that there will be no funds to feed every one of its horses. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY SITUATION.   SRF desperately needs to reduce its expenses and the number of horses now. It has already reduced staffing by 80%, This extremely productive, 31 year old organization does not receive any regular funds from any source, its support comes primarily from people who care about this beautiful and majestic animal that has given so much.   The following is needed as the first effort to be able to keep all 403 horses fed and to avoid drastic action:   SRF is asking for Standardbred farms, and breeders with pasture to take in a one horse or more. It can be permanent or temporary. It seeks pleasure farm owners who have room to help by either providing a home, foster home, or pasture. Please can you squeeze one in for any period of time. Use of farms with grassy pasture for horses to graze help with the cost of feeding. Foster homes are such a huge help. SRF has everything set up on the website for those who can help with foster homes. This is the perfect time to be a foster, the weather is good, and you can quarantine at your your own farm. Foster a horse Horse sponsorship, this will keep a horse with SRF fed during this crisis; it can be in any amount for any period of time. Sponsor a horse Tax-deductible donations will make it possible to get through this crisis, feed the horses and provide emergency care, if needed. Donate More than 200 Standardbreds are living out their lives with SRF, many had sizable earnings in the past, have lost their adopted homes, and are now considered too old to live a life under saddle in a new home. SRF is requesting all racing owners and breeders whose horses the non-profit is helping, to help SRF now by sponsoring their horse, even if it was years ago that their horse came into the program. Make a donation so care can continue. To get this accomplished, SRF asks all to share its needs and encourage others to help.   Some horses just need a patch of grass, feed and general care, others require a little extra TLC, some are on the rebound from emaciated conditions and need more attention, some are already riding, others need a little training. Their ages range from 3 to aged, are mares and geldings, and are located in about 12 different states. They all have good brains, and great manners. Here is a link to a list of the horses in need, horses are being added until the list is complete.   These are desperate times that could never have been predicted. Every one of these horses is in imminent danger of SRF having to take other measures to get this manageable and must count on good people to reach out to help. On average, the cost per day just to feed the herd is approximately $4,000.   The link below provides information on adoption, fostering, sponsoring, and how to make a tax-deductible donation to help these horses. Please email to offer help, calls are being taken at 609-738-3255, but responses may be slow so please be patient.   To adopt, foster, sponsor, or make a tax-deductible donation please go to AdoptaHorse.org, for questions please email SRFhorsesandkids@gmail.com, or call 609 738 3255. This an EMERGENCY.    Standardbred Retirement Foundation provides humane care and services for horses in need of lifetime homes, and in crisis, through rehabilitation, training, adoption, life-long follow-up or life-time sanctuary, and offers therapeutic equine opportunities for children and adults.   SRF is a 31 year old registered non-profit organization, donations are tax-deductible.     Tammy Cailliau Phone: 609-738-3255 Email address: SRFHorsesandkids@gmail.com  

Billy Johnston will be remembered as the most important and influential individual in the history of pari-mutuel harness racing in Illinois and a pillar of the sport in North America for a half century. “I started working with Billy in 1965 and for the next 50 years we had a sometimes contentious but very successful relationship,” said Phil Langley, who served as USTA president from 2003-16. “In my opinion, the success of harness racing in Illinois was due to Billy’s promotional instincts and time after time coming up with new ideas.” The man who left an indelible imprint on the sport died on March 26, 2020 at age 84. “He was a genius in this industry,” said Illinois Circuit Court Judge Lorna Propes, a member of the Illinois Racing Board for 17 years starting in 1989 and its chairman from 2003-06. Johnston’s 45 years of service as a USTA director was exceeded in longevity only by Corwin Nixon’s 47 years. From the mid-1960s through 1997 Johnston headed the Chicago Downs Associations and Fox Valley Trotting Club meetings at Sportsman’s Park, firmly establishing it as one of the premier harness tracks in North America until the sport was discontinued in October 1997. At times during the 1970s Sportsman’s harness meetings outhandled the matinee meeting at one of the nation’s premier Thoroughbred tracks, Arlington Park, located in the same metropolitan Chicago market. “There is no denying that Sportsman’s is one of the most progressive tracks in the nation, striving to do its best for racing buffs and the Chicago racing community,” Jerry Connors wrote in the September 1984 issue of Hoof Beats. The same could be said for Maywood Park and Balmoral Park when Johnston headed the chain-of-command at those Chicago circuit tracks. In 1977 he put together the ownership group of Pat Flavin, Dick Roggeveen, Lester McKeever and Sid Anton that secured a long-term lease to race at Maywood. Early in 1987, under his leadership, members of that ownership group joined with Hawthorne Race Course owners Tom and Bob Carey and members of the family of the New York Yankees’ principal owner, George Steinbrenner, to buy Balmoral Park. Originally all of the Chicago area track owner/operators were planning to pool their resources to buy Balmoral from Edward J. DeBartolo but then Arlington owner Dick Duchossois threw a curveball by announcing he had reached an independent agreement to buy the track. Encouraged by his son, John, Johnston immediately contacted Steinbrenner, with whom he’d established a friendly relationship during visits to one of the four dog tracks he co-owned in Florida. Steinbrenner was eager to stay involved in racing. He had been a 48 percent owner of the Thoroughbred track Tampa Bay Downs before being outbid by his 52 percent partner, Stella Thayer, when they put the track up for auction in December 1996 and she then took control. When Johnston made the Balmoral pitch, he was receptive. Steinbrenner’s family and a business associate invested 50 percent of the $8 million that Johnston offered DeBartolo for the track. DeBartolo felt he owed Steinbrenner a favor and pulled out of the deal with Duchossois. While Steinbrenner had the reputation of being a control fanatic, he announced: “What we do at Balmoral is up to Billy Johnston. I’ll get him the sponsors. After that I don’t have anything to do with it.” Later the Steinbrenner family bought out the Carey brothers’ shares in Balmoral and the holdings of Flavin and Roggeveen in Balmoral and Maywood. “They worked together very well,” Roggeveen said of the Johnston/Steinbrenner partnership. “Billy knew the business through and through and Steinbrenner added a little more muscle. Billy loved the business. He was a natural for it and Phil Langley was hand in glove with Billy in everything.” “I know it will surprise some but Billy was great to work with and very supportive, a good friend for many years,” Langley said. Like Steinbrenner, former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar had great respect for Johnston. “I enjoyed being around Balmoral,” said Edgar, who bred and owned Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds before and after his two terms as governor (1991-99). “Billy was probably as smart a businessman as anybody I ran into in the horse business. I always thought he was a resourceful guy to deal with. “He knew what he had to do to make the tracks viable. He kept an eye on the bottom line so they could stay in business. He wasn’t going to give away any money; you knew that up front. At the same time you always knew he wouldn’t ask for everything. He’d be willing to compromise. If he had to do a compromise with the other tracks or the horsemen you knew he could work something out. “I always found him to be a good person to have in racing.” Johnston headed the hierarchy during the heyday of Illinois harness racing at Sportsman’s in the 1970s and later at Balmoral and Maywood from 1998 through 2015. With him at the helm, Maywood inaugurated its richest and most prestigious race, the Windy City Pace, in 1983 and hosted the inaugural Breeders Crown 2-year-old filly pace in 1984. The following year Sportsman’s was the site of the inaugural Breeders Crown older trot. Johnston’s Sportsman’s and Maywood/Balmoral management teams conducted harness racing after pari-mutuel racing was introduced at the State Fairs at Du Quoin and Springfield and they inaugurated the state’s richest Standardbred race, the World Trotting Derby, in 1981 to replace the Hambletonian, which moved from its long-time home in Du Quoin to The Meadowlands that year. The $700,000 purse for the 1991 World Trotting Derby is an Illinois record that still stands. ‘They did a great job of running the fairs,” Judge Propes said. “They made those into national meets and did a lot of innovative things there to interest fans and push the industry forward. Billy was a true innovator, so prolific and always looking for something to improve.” Year after year the American-National series races lured the finest horses in North America to Sportsman’s and later Balmoral, as did the Windy City Pace at Maywood and the World Trotting Derby and the World Trotting Derby Filly Division at Du Quoin (before they were discontinued following their 2009 renewals because of the state’s continuing budget crisis). In 1988 Sportsman’s had 24 stakes races — 16 of which had purses of $100,000 or more — and stakes purses totaled $3.5 million. The caliber of horses who came to Sportsman’s and Balmoral for the American-Nationals was significantly superior to that which Arlington and Hawthorne attracted for their graded stakes races for Thoroughbreds (with the exception of 1986 when the 13-day tent meeting at Arlington was the greatest in Illinois Thoroughbred history and in 2002 when it hosted the Breeders’ Cup). Albatross in 1972 set his world record of 1:54.3 at Sportsman’s on his way to his second straight Horse of the Year title and such national brandnames as Rambling Willie, Falcon Seelster, Incredible Finale and Pacific later made it their home track. When Sportsman’s introduced the Super Night stakes race extravaganza for Illinois-breds in 1989 it immediately became the biggest night of the year in Illinois harness racing. Super Night’s great success continued at Balmoral after Sportsman’s ceased harness racing following its 1997 meeting for its brief and ill-fated $60 million transformation into an auto racing/Thoroughbred racing venue known as Chicago Motor Speedway. The $3,777,549 bet on Super Night on Sept. 16, 2000 at Balmoral stands as the highest harness handle in the pari-mutuel history of the sport in Illinois that dates back to 1946 at Maywood. “Billy was very persistent and very beneficial for racing in Illinois,” said Dr. Ken Walker, a former member of the USTA board of directors whose Walker Standardbreds is the state’s foremost Standardbred breeding farm. “Phil would throw stuff at him and Billy would take off with it.” In 1992 Balmoral enhanced its stakes schedule by adding the tradition-rich Hanover Stakes, which had led a nomadic existence after being introduced at Lexington in 1947. Before being consolidated and finding a home at Balmoral divisions of the Hanover were raced at Liberty Bell, Freestate Raceway, The Meadows, Rosecroft Raceway and Meadowlands. In 1995 Balmoral held races in conjunction with the World Driving Championships and its leading driver, Dave Magee, won the competition. The emphasis on quality wasn’t confined to the major racing events. After buying Balmoral, Johnston and his partners invested more than $10 million in renovations and upgrades. The clubhouse and grandstand were refurbished; the five-eighths-mile track was replaced with a one mile track; the hub rail was removed; a state-of-the-art lighting system was installed; and a new receiving barn and paddock were constructed adjacent to the grandstand to accommodate the 120 horses on a typical racing card. “As a track operator Billy was par excellence,” remembered Lester McKeever, who went on to become president of Harness Tracks of America after partnering with Johnston in the Maywood and Balmoral ownership groups. “He wasn’t always easy to get along with but he was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful man of integrity. Integrity was so important to him.” One of the measures Johnston took to ensure the integrity of the racing product was installation of a computerized diagnostic machine for pre-race testing for “milk-shaking,” the practice of tube-feeding a baking soda solution to horses about four hours before they race to block a buildup of lactic acid and thereby increase their resistance to fatigue by allowing access to oxygen reserves. Similar testing subsequently was adopted by other jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada. Johnston and Langley’s innovations set the stage for off-track betting parlors in Illinois. At Sportsman’s in 1984 they pioneered inter-track simulcast betting with the Chicago Thoroughbred tracks. Using the argument that off-track betting parlors would be an extension of the inter-track betting network by allowing each track to have two satellite facilities within a 35-mile radius of the parent track, Johnston was instrumental in persuading the legislature to legalize OTB making Illinois the first state where it wasn’t government-run. Balmoral opened the first parlor in Peoria in 1987. In the fall of 1991 Maywood and Balmoral introduced dual-simulcasting on Friday and Saturday nights, a precursor to full-card simulcasting (that began in Illinois in 1995). The dual simulcasting programs at the mile track Balmoral would begin at 7:45 p.m., those at its little sister half-mile track Maywood would start at 8 p.m. and they would alternate races every 10 minutes until midnight. Johnston also had Balmoral and Maywood rotating racing nights. In addition to Friday and Saturday, Balmoral would have programs on Sunday and Tuesday and Maywood would race on Monday and Wednesday. This was in keeping with Johnston’s long-held conviction that racing six nights a week at the same location is detrimental to the sport. “There are too many races and there are horses and horsemen who really can’t make a go of it,” Connors quoted him as saying in the 1984 Hoof Beats story. “We have to start emphasizing quality over quantity. Everybody has to cut back.” Although calling for cutbacks sometimes put him in conflict with the leaders of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, he earned the enduring respect of Mickey Izzo, currently projects manager of the Illinois Racing Board and formerly executive secretary of the IHHA. “I was executive secretary of the IHHA from 1985-1998, I sat through many contract negotiations with him and what I can say about Billy was that he was tough but fair,” Ezzo said. Illinois Racing Board member Tom McCauley had a similar experience when he served as the legal counsel for Arlington. “I negotiated with him from time to time and I always liked him,” McCauley recalled. “Billy was a force of nature. Some people found that off-putting but it kind of energized me. He always was a straight shooter in negotiations. He did an awful lot for harness racing.” One of the reasons Johnston knew all of the ins and outs of racing was because of his family background and because of his experience as a harness driver, owner, trainer and breeder. His father, William Johnston Sr., was one of the founding fathers when the Hawthorne Kennel Club was remade into a Thoroughbred track in 1932 and renamed Sportsman’s Park. He went on to become president of Sportsman’s National Jockey Club in 1947 and served until 1967. Sportsman’s was used exclusively for Thoroughbred racing until 1949 when it added harness racing (three years after Maywood inaugurated pari-mutuel betting on the sport in Illinois). Langley’s father, Pete Langley, was a steward at the harness meeting and subsequently became a member of the track’s management team, working closely with Billy’s father in much the same way the sons started doing 20 years later and continued doing until 2015. By the early 1950s Billy was showing up at the track with regularity. After high school he went to the University of Miami (Fla.), where he also furthered his racing education by frequenting the greyhound and Thoroughbred tracks during the winter. After graduating from Miami in 1957 he fulfilled what in the era of the draft was known as “his military obligation” in the Coast Guard and was discharged in 1961. By then he was immersed in harness racing. Johnston recalled in a Chicago Tribune interview that he drove “for about a dozen years,” winning his first race at Maywood and his last at Washington Park. “That was before catch-driving became a big thing,” he said. “There were a lot of guys like me who drove their own horses.” William H. Johnston Jr. first appears in the USTA archives as a driver in 1958 but he probably drove earlier because prior to that year only drivers with 25 or more purse starts had their information recorded. The archives have him driving in 153 races from 1958 through 1966 and recording 20 triumphs, 13 seconds and 19 thirds and earning $22,047 in purses. By far his best year was 1958 when he won nine of 53 starts and had $8,329 in earnings. “The first horse I had was Key Club,” he said. “It was around 1954. Del Miller sent her to me after she made breaks at Roosevelt Raceway. She was considered dangerous and unmanageable. I was told ‘put her nose on the gate and hold on’ and I did what I was told. She won and paid around $44 and her time was the fastest of the night but it was no great time.” Stormy Bidwill succeeded the ailing William Johnston Sr. as president of the National Jockey Club in 1967. Thereafter Bidwill focused solely on Thoroughbred racing, while Billy Johnston continued to concentrate on harness racing with Phil Langley (who became race secretary in 1964) working as his right hand man. “Billy was an extremely good promoter and he got along well with all the big names in racing,” Langley said. “People don’t give him enough credit for all he did.” Just as Billy Johnston followed his father into racing so did his sons, John and Duke. After he moved up to chairman of the board in the 1990s John succeeded him as president of Balmoral and Duke succeeded him as president of Maywood. Like their father, both were innovators and they maintained the high standard of excellence that he had set during his years as a mover and shaker. “Billy’s tentacles reached throughout the industry and he had a great deal of respect from everyone, knowing he was not a pushover but also knowing he was fair,” said his former partner McKeever. “His word was his bond.” “Billy was very open-minded and very willing to come to self-examination,” said McCauley, speaking from both the perspective of his present position as a Racing Board member and his former position as Arlington’s attorney in which he often was an adversary at the bargaining table. “Billy would test ideas and he was thorough in his investigations. “In my evaluation he was very, very good for Illinois racing. I can’t think of anyone who can take his place.” by Neil Milbert Courtesy of the United States Trotting Association

Hightstown, NJ — Mark Ford was a guest on the ESPN “In the Gate” podcast produced and hosted by Barry Abrams. Ford discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on harness racing, particularly the deaths of John Brennan and four members of the Fusco family, including trainers Carmine and Vincent. Ford, a trainer with more than 3,900 wins, is on the U.S. Trotting Association Board of Directors and president of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey. He was a close friend of Brennan and the Fuscos and shared his thoughts about their passing as a result of COVID-19. Followed are excerpted comments, edited for clarity and length, from the podcast. Ford said he talked with Brennan in the hospital the day before his passing on March 10. Brennan also was a USTA director and on the board of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York. He was the horsemen’s representative at Yonkers Raceway. “It really put things into perspective and it really shook me up because he was such a dear friend,” Ford said. “He was such a dear friend to the industry, too. John was always there to fight for the horsemen. He was not only a real good friend, but a really, really good guy. We’ll certainly miss him. “He didn’t have a big family, he didn’t have any kids, but he spent a lot of time with the horsemen and more or less adopted a lot of their kids. He had lots and lots of friends around. “When I first came to New York, he was one of the first people that you met on the backstretch. He always had, not a big stable, but 10 or 12 (horses) all the time and was always there. He was just a good guy and it’s a terrible shock.” Ford said the passing of Carmine Fusco as well as Vincent, their mother Grace and sister Rita, was a devasting blow for a family that was almost synonymous with Freehold, N.J. “You can’t imagine Freehold, N.J., without the Fusco family,” Ford said. “It’s one thing to lose a member of their family, they’re very tight-knit … (but) now, you lose Carmine and his mother and sister and it just keeps going. Vinny was another one. They’re New Jersey horse people that have been around forever, you don’t ever expect them to be anywhere else. “You look around, it’s hard to believe that Carmine Fusco is not going to be here anymore, or five or six of the people we deal with, literally on a daily basis, aren’t going to be here anymore. It’s just devastating. “How do you understand this? It wipes out a big part of your population and they’re all good friends too. Personally, it’s been a terrible week. Life must go on, but it’s not going to be near as easy as it was.” He added about the impact to the harness racing community, “This has happened so fast. I know that it’s been two weeks now since it’s happened, but people are walking around in a daze. It’s just rocked our whole world. It’s one thing to cancel the racing, where none of us have any income, but this is real. “With this stuff, it could be one of us tomorrow. People I’m sure didn’t take this very seriously at all, or maybe they’re still not taking it seriously enough, but these are things we have to deal with. This is a tremendously big deal because it could be anyone of us tomorrow or the next day. It’s serious stuff and I don’t think we’ve seen the end of it yet.” To listen to the “In the Gate” podcast in its entirety, click here. by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager  

Owner & inventor of the aluminum modified bike, Vincent Tantillo (Tel-Star Sulky) joins Freddie, Bob & Trade on the Harness Racing Alumni Show to discuss his innovative sulky business that changed our sport over 40 years ago.    Many other interesting harness racing topics are covered in this interview.    Don’t miss it…!!!   Harness Racing Alumni Show       Harness Racing Alumni Show Vince Tantillo 3 26 20 Source: https://www.spreaker.com/user/6959769/harness-racing-alumni-show-vince-tantill Owner & inventor of the a...  

At Thursday's special meeting of the California Horse Racing Board, Watch and Wager LLC received approval to race on Tuesday and Wednesday beginning next week. First post for these programs will be 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Meanwhile, this week will find the trotters and pacers in action at Cal Expo on Friday and Saturday night, with 10-race cards and a first post of 6:10 p.m. By Mark Ratzky, publicity - Cal Expo Harness  

As legalized ways of gambling have almost come to a stop, horse racing remains the only sport still open for business. Despite that unique position, it hasn’t led to a surge in popularity or revenue to the few tracks still operating. The tracks that are still running -- Santa Anita and Los Alamitos are among the four in California -- are closed to the general public and open only to the most essential people. In fact, conducting a race card requires far fewer people than when horses have to get out of their stalls every morning if to do no more than jog or gallop. Santa Anita gets about a third of its pari-mutuel business either on-track or through state inter-track wagering, sometimes called OTBs. However, the lack of other tracks running or no team sports to bet has shifted only about 10% to 20% of new revenue back to the mutuel handle. This past Saturday and Sunday, Santa Anita had $13.2 million bet on its races. In a comparable weekend in February, there was $18 million bet, $6.4 million of that either on-track or through state inter-track wagering. Other date comparisons this year showed the same trends, although figures vary day to day based on the number of races and horses that are entered. Last year around this time, Santa Anita was closed because of an increase in horse fatalities. “No one really thought this would be a great windfall,” said Craig Fravel, chief executive for racing at the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields. “I think anybody who is looking at it from that standpoint is missing the big picture. What we’re trying to do is sustain the ecosystem in a responsible manner. … We want to make sure people are following all the protocols while giving them an opportunity to pay their bills.” The Stronach Group is donating 100% of its profits during this time to people impacted by COVID-19. If racing in California were to stop, the owners, trainers and jockeys would have to look to a jurisdiction that is running. Moving between tracks on the East Coast is easier because of geography. If people were to leave California they might never come back and the industry could collapse in the state. The territories running are getting fewer. Racing is currently halted at Aqueduct in New York, Laurel in Maryland and Fair Grounds in Louisiana. However, racing continues at Gulfstream and Tampa Bay in Florida, Oaklawn in Arkansas and two Northern California tracks, Golden Gate Fields and Cal Expo, the latter of which is only harness racing track running in the country. “I haven’t seen any evidence that there is an amazing explosion of sports betting going to horse racing as of now,” said Alex Waldrop, chief executive of the National Thoroughbred Racing Assn. “But if we can continue to be responsible and race, we may start to draw some of those players who had been betting other sports.” Racing has continued at Santa Anita without fans on hand. (David McNew / Getty Images) As for the sport’s economic fuel, wagering, it’s estimated that as much as 90% is done online through advance-deposit wagering (ADWs). Money bet through an ADW while at the track counts as on-track handle, which explains why the math doesn’t always add up. And with at least 20 states having stay-at-home orders, it’s why so much money can still be bet. “Horse racing is better off than other forms of gaming,” said Kip Levin, president of FanDuel and chief executive of TVG, the horse racing television channel. “Our new customers [to TVG’s online betting service] are up substantially. I don’t know if they are people who were betting retail at the tracks or OTBs or new overall. It’s too early to tell.” The same is true at NYRA Bets, the ADW that is run out of the New York Racing Assn. “We have seen an increase in new bettors, but we’re positive they are not big bettors,” said Tony Allevato, president of NYRA Bets. “A significant number are $2 bettors.” There is also an increase of horse racing on television. Fox Sports partnered with NYRA to put on 15 hours of live race programming last weekend. NBC has an agreement with TVG to also provide programming. Both of those shows would contain racing from California. The racing calendar remains a moving target. This is currently the time the last major prep races for the Kentucky Derby would be run. Last Saturday, Fair Grounds ran the Louisiana Derby and then canceled the rest of its meeting. Saturday will be the Florida Derby at Gulfstream, and the following Saturday the Santa Anita Derby is scheduled to be run. Next Saturday would normally have the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, but both have been postponed. The Arkansas Derby has moved to the first Saturday in May — a date reserved for the Kentucky Derby, which had to be moved to the first Saturday in September.   By John Cherwa - Special Contributor   Reprinted with permission of The Los Angeles Times

Wellington, FL - Sam Stathis, owner of Olympia of Palm Beach Training Center, formerly known as the South Florida Trotting Center, wants everyone to know that the track will be hosting harness racing qualifying races on Wednesday, April 1 and that the training center has stall space available for Florida horsemen. "I want everyone to know that we are here to help all horse people during this crisis," Said Sam Stathis. "And that we just received approval from the USTA (United States Trotting Association) to hold qualifying races. "We are just finishing arranging everything for the qualifying races," Stathis explained. "You need to have judges, a clerk of course, video, timing, an EMT and other special people to hold these races and I am pleased that we have assembled a team so we can hold these races for the horse people. "I am even hiring a drone person to video the qualifying races from the air," Stathis said. "I think everyone will love to see that special effect/view. As we do not want to encourage any crowds for these races due to the Coronavirus-19, I am trying to provide the best viewing possible for these races." Entries for the qualifying races at Olympia of Palm Beach must be called in to Kathy Breedlove by 1:00 pm Monday, March 30 at 954-654-0129. There will be only three horses per race and if possible, horses will be split into divisions by gait.  Qualifying races will begin Wednesday, April 1 at 11:00 am. "Also, at this time at Olympia of Palm Beach, we are inviting horse people to move to our training facility," Stathis said. "And the fee is whatever they can reasonably afford on an emergency basis. "All we request is that the horses must have current health papers," Stathis added. "And that at Olympia of Palm Beach we have a zero drug and alcohol tolerance policy on the property." For more information about Olympia of Palm Beach, visit their website at https://olympiapalmbeach.com/ or call 315-225-4992. From Olympia of Palm Beach      

After careful and extensive consideration, the Hambletonian Society, in conjunction with Meadowlands, The Red Mile, Little Brown Jug Society and other harness racing industry clients, partners and stakeholders, have concluded that the April 15 payment deadline for stake and early-closers will remain intact. All entities fully realize that all members of the racing community are in the midst of extremely difficult and unprecedented circumstances on a global level. We are also aware that financial resources for many people will be stretched and staking horses is not going to be a priority. The staking of horses has always represented a long term investment - from yearling payments to entrance fees, they accompany every horse through the span of the payments, enhance the value of every "staked" horse, and the final number of paid-in (eligible) horses, along with added money from the stake sponsor, determines the value of each stake race. "The Hambletonian Society's 95-year mission statement of promoting stakes event and the Standardbred breed means we remain committed to flexibility in scheduling, placing and moving races if necessary, in partnership with stake sponsors and host tracks," said Hambletonian Society president John Campbell. "We want all owners who have paid into races to stay in the event so they share in the accumulated value to date either by eventually racing or being refunded as the owner at time of cancellation." The racing conditions and payment schedule for each event that are printed and posted are a contract between the owners of each horse and the Stake Sponsor. To change this contract would alter this legal agreement and could be challenged in court as a breach of contract. The Hambletonian Society would like to reinforce our policy that when any Stake or early-closer is canceled [see below] any staking fee will be refunded to the owner of the horse at time of cancellation. CANCELLATION: The Sponsor further reserves the right to cancel either or both of the races if for reasons beyond its control it becomes impractical or undesirable in the opinion of the Sponsor to conduct said race or races. If an event is not raced due to circumstances beyond its control, the Sponsor's responsibility and liability will be limited to refunding without interest: nomination, sustaining and entrance fees collected toward canceled events that have not been disbursed at the time of cancellation. If canceled after the first 2-year-old payment, these monies will be prorated among the owners of the horses eligible at the time of cancellation. If canceled prior to the first 2-year-old payment, the nomination fees will be refunded to the nominators. Since 2009, the Hambletonian Society has successfully refunded to individual nominators and owners more than $700,000 in payments from canceled races. Most recently, the Art Rooney and Lismore were canceled by Yonkers Raceway in late 2019, and all monies for two and three-year-olds eligible at time of cancellation were refunded to owners within 30 days of cancellation. Stake sponsors and host tracks have currently closed February payments for the stakes they service with that deadline, and are finalizing March 15 payments. The racing season and stakes calendar is unknown at this time and it is possible that Stakes may be canceled and others moved and rescheduled [see below.] Our conditions allow for and are clear that dates and venues may be changed. Definite dates will be published in the U.S.T.A. Stakes Guide in the year of the races. If for any reason it becomes impractical or undesirable, in the opinion of the Sponsor, to hold this race at the Track designated, the Sponsor reserves the right to change the date and/or the location of the Track for either any or all races. As soon as racing does resume we all will make every effort to hold as many Stakes and early-closers that we service as possible, and will be involved in rescheduling, moving races and setting up schedules that are in the best interests of everyone involved. We realize that Stake payment decisions may be difficult and will be a hardship for many people, but we request that everyone be cognizant of our obligations. *Accepting credit card payments for staking fees was instituted by the Hambletonian Society this year through a secure PNC bank platform. Should any race be canceled, all collected payments, regardless of method, will be refunded in total, to the owner at time of cancellation. ................................................... The Hambletonian Society is a non-profit organization formed in 1924 to sponsor the race for which it was named, the Hambletonian Stake. The Society's mission is to encourage and support the breeding of Standardbred horses through the development, administration and promotion of harness racing stakes, early-closing races and other special events. The Hambletonian Society currently services 133 of harness racing's richest and most prestigious events held at 12 North American racetracks under seven state jurisdictions. These include harness racing's most prominent race, the Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters, its filly division, the Hambletonian Oaks and the sport's championship series, the Breeders Crown. Stakes and early closing races are events where the total purse is generated by eligibility payments from horse breeders and owners as well as funds added by the sponsor, usually the race track hosting the race.   Moira Fanning Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown 109 S Main Street, Suite 18 Cranbury, NJ 08512 609-371-2211 (work) 732-306-6713 (cell)      

Elkton, MD -- Post Time with Mike and Mike presented by the USTA, is excited to announce their harness racing line-up for Thursday (March 26) at 10:30 a.m. Guests include Mike Tanner, Sam Beegle, and Derick Giwner The topic of COVID-19 will continue to be discussed with CEO of the USTA Mike Tanner and Sam Beegle. The USTA continues to remain open to its members, offering the same services and providing the same customer service that members have come to know and enjoy. Tanner will discuss what has been happening at the USTA, and talk about how the industry in handling COVID-19. The PHHA has said they will pay their members insurance premiums for the month of April. Beegle will tell the pair more about what the PHHA is doing to help its members get through this trying time. Giwner joins the program to discuss some Cal Expo handicapping and some of the angles he uses at the Sacramento track. Post Time with Mike and Mike presented by USTA can be heard live every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. via their website www.posttimewithmikeandmike.com or on the archive here. Michael Carter

Royal Mistress figures to get plenty of support in Friday night's harness racing feature at Cal Expo, a $5,400 conditioned event for pacing fillies and mares. Watch and Wager LLC will present 10-race cards on both Friday and Saturday this week with first post set for 6:10 p.m. Royal Mistress is the 9-5 favorite on Trackman Marty Bridges' morning line. A 6-year-old daughter of Jk Royal Flush, the bay miss is owned by Kevin Anderson, hails from the Gordie Graham barn and will have the services of James Kennedy while leaving from No. 6 slot in a field of seven. Royal Mistress has four wins from her 10 starts on the season, with the most recent coming in a February 7 Distaff Open where she sat the pocket journey for Kennedy and ignited when it counted to be up by a neck. Sing Along is listed as the 7-2 second choice and her best effort will certainly make her dangerous. Edwin Quevedo owns and trains and Luke Plano pilots the Rock N Roll Hanover mare, who is coming off back-to-back sharp efforts. Taking them on will be Lookslikewemadeit with Mooney Svendsen; Velocity Layla, Jacob Cutting; Hi Fidelity, Braxten Boyd; Getter Queen Flush, John Roberts; and Kiss On The Lips with Nick Roland at the controls. Single 6 carryover, low takeout bets featured There will be a $40,644 carryover in the 10-cent Single 6 wager on Friday night at Cal Expo. The sequence begins with the fifth race on the program. A single (unique) winner in the wager receives 100 percent of the net pool plus the carryover. Otherwise the pool is divided equally into the minor share and the carryover. In addition, there is a reduced 16 percent takeout rate in both the 20-cent Pick 5 and 20-cent Pick 4. The Pick 5 starts with the opening race, while the Pick 4 is decided over the final four races on Friday's program. The Pick 4 features a $40,000-guaranteed gross pool on Saturday and a $30,000 guarantee on Friday. To give an example of the value added with the lower takeout, last Friday night's Pick 4 returned $988 for each correct 20-cent investment. That would have been $895 using the regular rate, a difference of $93 for each winning ticket.   By Mark Ratzky, publicity – Cal Expo Harness

For Immediate Release: March 25, 2020   The Ohio State Racing Commission (Commission) announces that horse racing at all Ohio racetracks is officially cancelled through April 6, 2020. The Commission will be in contact with the permit holders and the horsemen to discuss further cancellations, if needed.   Racetrack backsides are to remain open.   The racetrack is to be maintained and made available for training. Horsemen and racetrack employees are strongly encouraged to practice safe social distancing procedures. The Commission will continue to keep everyone informed and will post updates when pertinent information becomes available.   The Commission thanks everyone for their patience during this unprecedented and very fluid situation. For questions or concerns, contact Executive Director Bill Crawford at 614-466-2758 or at bill.crawford@racing.ohio.gov. If you need further information on COVID-19, please visit, coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-427-5634. -30-  

James Witherite is known to harness racing fans for his years of race calling and occasional performances as a bugler for major stakes events. Away from the track, though, Witherite's musical talents extend far beyond, most notably as an accomplished composer and jazz musician. This past Monday, Witherite opened that world to an audience on Facebook with the first in a series of streaming concerts, "Live from the Jazz Bunker." Witherite hopes the concerts, which will be 1-2 p.m. (EDT) every Monday and Thursday, can provide a welcomed diversion for people asked to stay at home as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. "It's said that in times of trouble and pain that art is a great uniter and healer, and hopefully that's the case here," Witherite said. "Being that we're all kind of left in the lurch, this is the new normal for right now. I'm not doing anything monumental or earth-shattering, but I hope these little windows of live music, which are intended to be in the background admittedly, can bring some light into an otherwise murky and uncertain situation for all of us." This past Monday, James Witherite hosted the first in a series of streaming concerts, “Live from the Jazz Bunker.” USTA/Mark Hall photo. Witherite has released four jazz albums in his career, ranging in scope from big band to organ trio. His streaming concerts on Facebook Live will feature solo jazz organ. "Everything that you will hear is either written by me, written by one of my friends who has said to go ahead and use the song, or is in the public domain," Witherite said. "I'm a big stickler when it comes to copyright law, so I'm following it to the letter." The 33-year-old Witherite graduated from Duquesne University in 2007 with a degree in composition. He was first drawn to music at the age of 3, when he found his way to his grandmother's Wurlitzer organ. He taught himself to read music, picked up the trumpet in the third grade, and soon added the piano to his repertoire. He recently set up a studio in his home, in part to provide online lessons to students. Once the studio was functional, he decided to offer his twice-a-week concerts. James Witherite recently set up a studio in his home, in part to provide online lessons to students. Photo courtesy of James Witherite. "I saw other musician friends were streaming live music at various times, so I thought why not join in," Witherite said. "I was really happy with the first (concert). I had a good turnout, I thought, and a nice cross section of my very diverse world. "Even though I know jazz isn't everybody's cup of tea, I hope it does put a few smiles on faces and help people get a little bit of a respite from the new day-to-day life. You can listen actively if you want, or you can listen passively if you want. You can have it in the background and it's there. Hopefully it's a pleasant wallpaper for those 120 minutes a week. "A little bit of happiness, a little bit of light, I think can go a long way." To watch a replay of Monday's concert on Witherite's Facebook page, click here.   Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association www.ustrotting.com

As Yogi Berra so eloquently put it, "Irony can be pretty ironic at times." Take horseracing, for example. It was only a few months ago it would have been voted #1 most likely sport to vanish from America, and right now it's pretty much the only one standing. In other twist, California (the epicenter of shut down racing movement) has four of those courses still putting on a show. Even among this small group of tracks, Cal Expo is unique as it is the only harness racing currently operating in North America. If you are the least bit familiar with the history of harness racing in California, their survival since the knockout blow they suffered in the early 90's is nothing short of miraculous. In Spanish, I believe, the word is cucaracha. Now this virus of possible biblical proportions hits and Sacramento has harness racing scheduled for this Friday and Saturday night. Of course, this is a day-to-day situation as everything is pretty much that way in this Twilight Zone-like world we currently inhabit. Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and Auntie Em will tell me I got struck in the head by something and this was all just a bad dream. Come to think of it, I'll be happy just to wake up tomorrow and bet on some Fonner Park.   Mark Ratzky

East Rutherford, NJ - Be advised that any horse that was being trained by a harness racing trainer named in the recent Federal indictments at the time those indictments were handed down will not be accepted to race at The Meadowlands, Tioga or Vernon Downs in overnights or stakes for 60 days from the date that the tracks reopen for live racing.    

Amy and Stacy Butewicz have been around horses for nearly their entire lives. Amy began riding at the age of 4 and Stacy followed in her older sister's footsteps. Several years ago, they were introduced to harness racing and fell in love with the Standardbred, the sport, and the people. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closing of New Jersey's racetracks earlier this month, Amy and Stacy knew there would be people in the harness racing industry in need of assistance because of the loss of income. Last week, with cooperation from the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey, they announced a food assistance program for those in the industry in the state. The program allows an individual or family to obtain a food assistance bag, every other week. The bags will include non-perishables, canned goods, household products and more. As of Tuesday morning, 13 individuals/families were enrolled in the program. "We expect that number to grow as people find out about the program and we will continue to accept anyone in need from the industry within New Jersey," Amy said. "Just in the days that we've rolled out this program, it's really been a tremendous help. We're going to have our first deliveries go out this week and we will keep it going every other week until live racing resumes." Amy and Stacy, who work together at Butewicz Equestrian Lifestyle Real Estate - Keller Williams Princeton, have received support from others in harness racing, including trainers and veterinarians, in the form of donations or supermarket gift cards. The sisters are no strangers to helping others. Among their philanthropic endeavors, they volunteer at a food pantry in central New Jersey. "I think our experience definitely made us feel more capable in taking this on, but Amy and I are always looking for ways to help people," Stacy said. "The opportunity to be able to help people one-on-one is what we love the most. Once we realized what was going on with the industry and how many people could be affected, we realized some of those people would be struggling. We thought of those people and jumped into it." Stacy and Amy hope the program reduces the financial impact on people, who must feed not only themselves and their families, but their horses. "The horse people we know care so much about those animals that they're willing to give up a meal for themselves," Stacy said. "We are thinking about the horses, too, and wanted to do whatever we could to lighten the burden on what is coming out of people's pockets in their personal situation." To register for the program, please use either following method, and include your name, address and training center/stable location. Requests will be kept confidential. TEXT "ASSIST" to 732.887.5649. EMAIL "ASSIST" to albutewicz@gmail.com. Items will be delivered directly to individuals/families or placed in a secure location for pick up. Arrangements also can be made for anyone wanting to donate dry goods or supermarket gift cards by contacting the above number or email address. "Both of us in the past three or four years have absolutely grown to love the Standardbred as a horse," Amy said. "Horses have always been in our blood. We got into this fairly late in our equestrian careers, but we absolutely love it. "The other thing we have seen is this is an industry that is so much like a family. One person really and truly cares about another; one stable is friendly with another. With what is going on right now, we've seen people really uniting and working together. It's been great." Ken Weingartner Media Relations Manager U.S. Trotting Association