Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 16 of 79
1 2 3 4 5 Next »

The Michigan Gaming Control Board has released more than $1 million in horse racing purse pool money held in escrow for more than two years to the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association and Hazel Park Raceway. The association will receive about $850,000 to cover prize purses for future races at Northville Downs, while Hazel Park Raceway will receive about $150,000 for track operations and enhancements, the MGCB said in a news release. The gaming board ordered the funds to be split after the two parties failed to sign a race agreement by Sept. 1. "We could not disburse purse pool funds allocated to harness racing at Hazel Park Raceway unless the MHHA signed a new contract to race there," MGCB Executive Director Richard Kalm said in a statement. "Since the 2014 season ended, MHHA has not signed a contract to race at Hazel Park." The prize money, collected at Hazel Park Raceway in 2014 for the MHHA's 2015 season, was put into an escrow account in 2015 after the venue decided that it would stop hosting standardbred races. MHHA took its harness races to Northville Downs, but state law at the time required that prize money be paid out at the race track where it was accumulated. In 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder signed an amendment to Michigan's then-20-year-old horse racing law, which set the September contract deadline and reconfigured the way that purse money is paid out to the state's two remaining tracks. "It's a good thing for us. We're really happy we negotiated because, obviously, it's not doing anybody any good sitting in escrow, and we hope it will help racing in Michigan," MHHA President Tom Barrett told Crain's. "It allows us to maintain or expand our schedule for the next couple of years." MHHA races will resume this Friday through December at Northville Downs, which is south of Eight Mile Road and Center Street in Northville. The association decided to spread the purse out over the next three years. Purse money can cover about 20 to 25 race days at about $40,000 to $50,000 per day, Barrett said. Seven race tracks have closed in Michigan since 1998, with Hazel Park Raceway having the lone remaining thoroughbred track and Northville Downs having the lone standardbred race. "We may release the funds now thanks to the legislation sponsored last year by Sen. David Robertson and Rep. Dan Lauwers," Kalm said in the statement. "This change in the law will help the state's horse racing industry." Hazel Park will be required to report its track operation and enhancement expenses to the MGCB, the release said. By Tyler Clifford Reprinted with permission of The Crain's Detroit Business

As the ponies hit the tracks for this season’s weekend contests, Michigan’s shrinking horse-racing industry is facing growing pressures to figure out ways to survive. Even before Detroit’s three casinos opened in 1999 and 2000, the tracks were facing competitive pressures from Native American tribal casinos that began popping up in Michigan in 1993. From a high of nine tracks in the state, only two remain — Northville Downs and Hazel Park Raceway. And staying in business has been a challenge. In 1999, horse racing generated $13.2 million in revenues for the state on wagers of $416 million. By 2015, according to the state’s annual horse-racing report, those revenues had shrunk to $3.5 million on wagers of $106 million. The number of people involved in horse racing also has shrunk dramatically. In 2002, 8,594 licenses for everything from jockeys to trainers and horse owners were issued by the state. In 2015, the number declined to 1,424. • Related: Failed Wayne Co. horse track tied to new casino plan “It’s a more competitive market out there, and we have to open up the door to some new revenue sources,” said Dan Adkins, vice president of Hazel Park Raceway, where Thoroughbred racing began for the season on Friday. Mike Carlo, operations manager at Northville Downs, just shook his head in dismay at how much business the casinos have sucked away from his harness-racing track, which has been operating since 1944 and started the live racing season in March. The Legislature has tried to lend a hand over the years, but it’s been more than 20 years since significant legislation passed that helped the industry stay alive. In 1995, the Legislature allowed the tracks to begin simulcasting races so locals could bet on both the live races happening at the track and the televised races being shown on screens inside the raceways. So while live racing happens on Fridays and Saturdays from May through September or October, simulcast wagering happens nearly every day of the year. That still wasn’t enough for the industry and from 1998 to 2014, seven tracks closed. Advocates tried again and again to push a plan to put slot machines at the racetracks, creating “racinos,” but that would require a statewide vote because it’s considered an expansion of gambling in the state. The plans went nowhere. As long as we can keep the industry up and running, we have to do it. It’s an important industry in this state supporting a lot of family farms,” said state Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo. “And let’s keep as much of those dollars in Michigan as well.” A harness racer works his horse at Northville Downs. The track is one of only two racing venues in Michigan. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier/ Detroit Free Press) Demolition begins at failed Wayne Co. horse track But the Legislature is on the cusp of passing a plan that both the horse track owners and the equine industry hope will put them on a path toward survival, perhaps even help reopen some of the tracks that have had to shutter over the years. The legislative plan switches from a complicated formula of doling out winnings from a big pool to horse owners and tracks to a system in which the money generated at each of the two tracks generally stays at that track to pay prizes to winning horses and cover expenses of the track. It also cracks down on out-of-state betting operations, making it a crime for anyone without a license for live horse racing in Michigan to accept wagers over the Internet from Michigan residents. This is the biggest plus for horse track owners, who want to capture the betting that’s now going on over the Internet. “Almost $2 billion is wagered online every year. The Michigan dollars are well into the tens of millions,” said Adkins. “My projections, I think it could generate $3 to $5 million a year for us.” Coupled with shutting down the out-of-state betting operations, the state is considering allowing Michigan’s tracks to accept online wagers on live and simulcast races run at the tracks. So horse enthusiasts could place bets over their smartphones from the comfort of their homes. That’s not an option for Harry Jones, 69, of Detroit, who spends most of his days at Northville Downs. Harness racing fan Harry Jones from Detroit says he bets six days a week at Northville Downs, averaging about $450 per week in wagers. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press) “I average about $450 a week. I bet six days a week and I may win one or two days a week,” he said on a recent Saturday evening at Northville Downs. “This is my second home. I love the character of the track.” For others, watching harness racing is a family affair. Mickey and Amanda McDonald of Waterford often bring their four kids to Northville Downs. “Even if we’re not gambling, we let the kids do some pools among themselves. The little one loves it because she calls every horse Bella,” said Mickey McDonald of his youngest daughter. “What else do you do in the Detroit area for a family? The movies or roller skating or bowling? But this gives you something else, not to mention you get to see live animals, actual horses and the drivers.” The family gathered around “Speaking Greek” after the Standardbred horse won his race that night. They didn’t know the driver really, but McDonald’s mother is Greek, and the kids wanted to pet the horse. For Tony and Kristin Nichols of Niles, a family reunion brought them to Northville Downs for their first experience with horse racing. They weren’t wagering much — $2 a race — and were choosing their bets based on the horse’s name. One winner was Prince Ponder, chosen to honor the recently deceased rock star, while another winner was Quiet Charmer. “We just decided to come and have some fun and spend a little time with each other,” Tony Nichols said. It’s like that at the Hazel Park track too, Adkins said, where race nights have become a happening that can attract up to 10,000 people. “The excitement of the live action on the track is what draws the people,” he said. “Hazel Park is becoming its own little hot spot.” The state also benefits from the horse tracks, not only on the taxes brought in by the tracks, but by bolstering the state’s $101 billion agriculture industry. State Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, the sponsor of the bills, said his district has many horse stables, and he was pained by the closing of Sports Creek Raceway in Swartz Creek. “I want to do everything I can to reverse the downward decline of the horse-racing industry. The goal is to improve the financial viability of the industry in Michigan. And as it becomes more successful, anything is possible.” Sports Creek closes, leaving 2 horse tracks in state The Senate passed the horse-racing bills — SB 504-505 — earlier this month, and the House is expected to vote on the package before it goes on summer break in two weeks. By Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4430, kgray99@freepress.com or on Twitter @michpoligal Reprinted with permission of the Detroit Free Press

After years of sparring about the best way to split the pot, Michigan's two remaining horse tracks (thoroughbred and harness racing) have found some common ground when it comes to divvying up the money from bets placed on horse races. That consensus, though, hasn't yet reached other parts of the business that owners of both tracks say will be necessary if the industry is going to be relevant in the 21st century — namely, the introduction of electronic wagering. Past efforts didn't bear fruit. And now the tracks — Hazel Park Raceway, which holds thoroughbred races, and Northville Downs, which runs standardbred harness races — find themselves on opposite sides of proposed legislation that initially attempted to resolve the issue. Executives at Northville Downs say the bill as written is a nonstarter, even after a controversial provision that would have allowed some Internet-based wagering at the tracks was stripped from the bill on the Senate floor. In response, Hazel Park Raceway and its affiliated horsemen's group, the Howell-based Michigan Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, say they intend to ask the Michigan Gaming Control Board to pursue online wagering as an administrative rule change, rather than in statute. The practice, known as advance deposit wagering, would allow people to place bets on simulcast races from their cellphones or tablets without having to visit a track. Current law requires anyone betting on horse racing to do so from within a track. Hazel Park and Northville Downs consider online betting on horse races an extension of what they already do, replacing paper with the mobile devices that people carry everywhere. TheMichigan Lottery has introduced online games, which track owners believe is essentially the same thing. And because more than 95 percent of the tracks' wagering revenue comes from people who place bets on simulcast races, rather than live ones, the interest in electronic wagering is also financial. The tracks say they're competing for business against out-of-state mobile wagering sites that don't pay state taxes and don't offer a cut of the proceeds to support either track and their affiliated horse owners' group. Earlier versions of Senate Bill 504, sponsored by state Sen. David Robertson, included a provision that would have allowed the horse track with the larger handle during the past five years to operate advance deposit wagering. By numbers alone, Hazel Park had the larger simulcast handle — $56.6 million in 2015, compared to $45 million for Northville Downs, according to Michigan Gaming Control Board figures. "I would have had to take everybody to court," said Mike Carlo, Northville Downs' operations manager. "That was the biggest slap in the face I've ever seen in this industry. "In our world, we live under the purview of our license," he added. "Basically, what it would have done is it would have said that Hazel Park has a different license to operate pari-mutuel wagering in a manner that Northville Downs can't." The bill that passed the Senate does not include that language. Instead, it would allow Michigan's racing commissioner to draft administrative rules to govern the practice. The Michigan Gaming Control Board, which regulates the horse industry along with Detroit's three commercial casinos, opposed the earlier version of the bill. Robertson, R-Grand Blanc Township, said the board and harness racing groups wanted the language removed. A 2004 amendment to the Michigan Constitution requires a statewide vote for any expansion of gaming. The board has not yet publicly said whether it would consider authorizing advance deposit wagering. Robertson, track owners and horsemen's groups all say they don't believe the practice would violate the constitutional provision. "The (board) will have to see what the options and its authority are if the bill becomes law," gaming board spokeswoman Mary Kay Bean said via email. The bill could get a hearing in the House agriculture committee this week after clearing the Senate last week in a 30-7 vote. A new formula? Robertson's bill would be the first update to Michigan's 1995 horse racing statute. Among other things, it would rewrite the formula that distributes revenue from wagers. Currently, all wagers placed on simulcast races at Hazel Park and Northville Downs are pooled into a common purse, where it's split between the tracks and horsemen's groups. Track owners say that setup made more sense years ago, when Michigan had more horse tracks in operation. But waning interest in horse racing led to the closure of seven tracks since 1998, leaving just two tracks. Hazel Park and Northville Downs essentially compete for the same audience, despite the fact that they don't race the same breeds of horses, and have lost money as the wagering pool decreased. Thus, competition for market share has become increasingly important. Today, the common purse is divided in a way that offers roughly 65 percent of the proceeds to the harness racing standardbreds, after winners and a 3.5 percent state tax are paid, with the rest going to the thoroughbreds. Robertson's bill would eliminate the common purse in favor of a "site-specific" model, meaning all of the wagers placed at Northville Downs and Hazel Park would stay at the respective tracks. "Horse racing has had very tough times. It's been diminishing as a sport, and this is an attempt to try to amend the law in a way that will help all of racing," Robertson said. "This language is archaic." Northville Downs agreed to the funding formula change, which ultimately is a concession that would award them a smaller share of the simulcast purse pool than they receive now. But Carlo and the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association say the change triggers a problem with a different section of the bill, which they believe would require Hazel Park's owners to sign off each time Northville Downs wanted to simulcast a thoroughbred horse race. Their fear is that Hazel Park and thoroughbred groups could block Northville Downs from simulcasting the Kentucky Derby, for instance, since the money collected under the new model would not be shared with Hazel Park and thoroughbred owners. "Since the dawn of simulcasting, all tracks have taken all breeds," said Tom Barrett, president of the harness horsemen's group. "We are only going to support a bill that treats both tracks the same." George Kutlenios, president of the thoroughbred horsemen's association, said his group doesn't intend to prevent Northville Downs from showing thoroughbred races. "I don't know why we would not want to send a signal," Kutlenios said. "The more signals, the more product you have to offer. I can't even envision a scenario where that makes sense." Simulcast dollars The fight over simulcast revenue in some ways explains the desire for advance deposit wagering. Simulcast wagers contributed $3.6 million in state tax revenue last year, a drop of 9 percent from 2014, according to the gaming control board. And the roughly $106 million wagered on live and simulcast races last year is well below the $261 million bet in 2007. Kutlenios said he has heard some industry estimates peg the amount wagered illegally in Michigan through services in other states at between $90 million and $120 million. Robertson also sponsored Senate Bill 505, which would make it a felony to accept wagers on live or simulcast horse races in Michigan without a license. That bill also moved to the House. Proponents say they want to stop vendors like TwinSpires, which is owned by Churchill Downs, from taking unlicensed wagers from potential track visitors that otherwise could be used to support Michigan's race tracks. "There are people right now on site using their phones but not wagering even through us," said Dan Adkins, vice president of Southfield-based real estate developer Hartman and Tyner Inc., which owns Hazel Park Raceway. Carlo, of Northville Downs, said Michigan's horse tracks could make inroads into the market for advance deposit wagering if a third-party vendor managed it on behalf of both tracks, rather than allowing one track to operate at the expense of the other. "We're in favor of it being in place somehow and some way," he said, "but I don't think we have figured out the best way for our industry in Michigan." By Lindsay Vanhulle Reprinted with permission of the Crain's Detroit site

HARRISBURG PA - Gordon Waterstone, associate editor of the Horseman and Fair World magazine, former President of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA), and two-time winner of a John Hervey Award for excellence in harness journalism, has been selected for recognition by the media organization as its 2014 "Alan Prince USHWA Member of the Year." Waterstone, a Michigander and proud product of Michigan State University, started his harness racing career at Detroit's Hazel Park in 1979, and spent the better part of two decades working at that track and metro Detroit's Northville Downs, mostly as publicity director.  In 1998 he had the opportunity to join the Proximity Award-winning Horseman and Fair World, with his time working in Kentucky quickly approaching the amount he posted in his native state. During the Lexington Grand Circuit meet, his "Backstretch With Gordon" column is a must-read for the latest stories behind the star horses and horsemen, where to eat after the races, and the price of gasoline in the area. Gordon was a member of the Officers of USHWA for six years, highlighted by his two years as President (2004-06), during which he made permanent the design of the Dan Patch Awards trophies which mark excellence in the harness sport. As a Past President, he has served on the Board of Directors since the end of his presidential term. He has been President of the Kentucky Chapter since its start-of-the-century renaissance, and has added secretarial duties to his portmanteau the last few years. Waterstone earned his USHWAn of the Year award largely through his continuing efforts to serve the Writers Association on a national level, including giving constructive criticism, at times frequent, to keep the operation running at its finest. Gordon is currently head of the Tabled Items Committee, and has served on the Site Location Committee, the Dinner Committee, the Breeder/Broodmare Committee, and the Hall of Fame Screening Committee. Waterstone's Hervey Writing Awards came in two different categories, Features (1999) and News/Commentary (2008), making him one of only a few journalists to win a national award in more than one category. He was awarded the Allen J. Finkelson Golden Pen Award by the Harness Publicists Association in 1995 (an organization of which he was President in 1999), and the Clyde Hirt Media Award by Harness Horsemen International in 2002. His award, along with the Dan Patch Horse of the Year and additional human award trophies, will be presented on Sunday, February 22, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Tickets for this gala event, the Dan Patch Awards Banquet--Night of Champions, are now available. Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet can be reserved via telephone or Email by contacting Judy Davis-Wilson at 302-359-3630 or Email: zoe8874@aol.com or Steve Wolf at 954-654-3757 or Email: stevenwolf1956@gmail.com. Substantial savings on hotel rooms can be attained for this event, which is being held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Orlando at SeaWorld. A special rate of $115 can be reserved by calling 407-352-1100 BEFORE January 25, 2015, and mentioning code: Dan Patch or clicking this link. The deadline for the Dan Patch Awards journal is Monday, January 26. To advertise in the souvenir journal, please contact Chris Tully by calling 845.807.7538 or Email: tullytrot@yahoo.com. All of this information and applicable advertising forms can be accessed via internet link: USHWA.org. From the United States Harness Writers Association  

COLUMBUS, MN. - A warm night, a fast track and an enthusiastic crowd all welcomed live commercial harness racing back to Minnesota on Wednesday night as Running Aces Harness Park presented its firstof 54 programs in 2014.   Barbazon upset a field of talented squaregaiters in the $8,500 Open Trot by leaving alertly, yielding to sit the pocket for most of the mile, then angling out in deep stretch to win by a head in 1:56.4 at 13-1 odds.   It was the ninth on-the-board finish in the last ten starts for the eight-year-old gelding owned by Timothy Hall and driven by newcomer Rob Dinning. Although he appeared to be moving up in class after racing in mid-range claimers at Northfield Park, Miami Valley Raceway, Hazel Park and Hoosier Park in recent months, the razor sharp son of Wilson Wyoming was able to best favorites Sharpshootennorris (Steve Wiseman) and Natural Forces (Kim Pluta) who finished second and third while racing respectably in their own right.   Driver-trainer Tim Maier enjoyed a huge opening night at Running Aces with three trips to the winner's circle, all with charges from his own stable. One of Minnesota's perennial leading conditioners, Maier's trio of wins started with his wife Denise's Sinimatic, who broke his maiden in 1:58.1. The next race Tim guided Terror Time, who impressed in his initial Running Aces season in 2013, to an eye-popping 1:53.2 score in a $3500 claiming pace for owner Robin Clements. The veteran horseman capped of his triple by capturing the finale with Emery Vern, also owned by his wife, in 1:55.3.   Jason Ryan notched a driving and training double with claiming pacers Sgt. Charlie (1:56.2) and Haroun Hanover (1:54.3). Racing resumes on a four-nights-a-week schedule every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday night throughout the summer.   From the Running Aces Publicity Department

COLUMBUS, MN. - Horses from nine different states have descended on Running Aces Harness Park in Minnesota to kick off the 54-program live harness meet on Wednesday (May 28) night. Highlight of the initial card is an $8500 Open Trot featuring horses that made their last starts at Hoosier Park in Indiana, CalExpo in California, Scioto Downs in Ohio and a fair in Humboldt, Iowa.   Sharpshootennorris has been installed the 5-2 morning line favorite for trainer-driver Steve Wiseman. The 11-year-old gelding has won 45 times and earned $438,892 in his lengthy career. The pride and joy of owner Bette Jean Calice,   Sharpshootennorris enters his first fray in Minnesota off two straight wins at CalExpo. Natural Forces (Kim Pluta), a recent open class winner at Hazel Park, is expected to offer stiff competition as is Axle (Lemoyne Svendsen), Barbazon (Rob Dinning), No Recess (Brandon Jenson) and Quiet Charmer (Jason Ryan).   Running Aces will present programs every Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday night through August 30.   From the Running Aces Marketing Department

The $110,000 Courageous Lady has drawn an impressive field of six and goes postward this Friday evening, April 25 as Northfield Park's eleventh race. Approximate post time for this Grant Circuit event is 10:40 p.m. The race is an open contest for North America's top three-year-old-filly pacers and is the first national stake of 2013. Undefeated Kayla Grace has paid $10,000 to supplement to the race and has been named the 3-1 morning line favorite. She will face five rivals, including two fillies trained by North American leading trainer, Ron Burke. Burke is no stranger to winning major stake events over Northfield Park's Flying Turns. The 2014 $110,000 Courageous Lady Field: #1 - Shell Bell prepared for this race by qualifying twice and racing once at Hoosier Park. She won her second qualifier in 1:56.2 and was beaten just two lengths in her sophomore debut, pacing in 1:55.1. She is a daughter of Always A Virgin and was a winner in three of sixteen starts last year, taking a mark of 1:56.2 at Hoosier Park and earning $47,254. Shell Bell is Buckeye-owned by Dean Davis of Wooster and is trained by Steve Carter. She was assigned a morning line of 6-1 and is scheduled to have the driving services of the leading reinsman in North America, Aaron Merriman. #2 - Sister Stroll is a daughter of Art Official and won five of eleven races last year, taking a 1:54.1 mark at Harrah's Philadelphia. She is the richest filly in the race, bankrolling $102,617. She is owned by the partnership of Jennifer Brown, Strollin Stable, both of Ohio, and King McNamara of Florida. She is trained at the Delaware County Fairgrounds by Brian Brown. Sister Stroll shows two qualifiers this season at The Meadows, pacing in 1:58.3 and 1:54.3 respectively. She carries a 9-2 morning line. Ryan Stahl has been named to drive. #3 - Kayla Grace is undefeated and paid the $10,000 supplement to compete in this event. Owned by ECS Racing and Kevin St. Charles and trained by Marie St. Charles, Kayla Grace has been campaigned solely in Michigan. This daughter of He's All That has a fifteen for fifteen unblemished record and has garnered $69,227. Her 1:55.1 career best was paced at Hazel Park. Despite this being the first time she crosses the Michigan state line and faces open competition, she was named the 3-1 morning line favorite by Northfield Park Executive Vice President of Racing and Simulcasting, Dave Bianconi. Brad Kramer will be in her sulky. #4 - A La Notte Hanover, owned by Burke racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Frank Baldachino and Lawrence Karr, is one of two fillies in this race trained by Ron Burke. She has one start this year, finishing second and pacing in 1:52.2 at Meadowlands Racetrack. This daughter of Art Major has earnings of $76,584 and has won one of eight career starts, a 1:56.1 victory at Saratoga Raceway. Chris Page picks up the driving assignment aboard this 7-2 second favorite. #5 - Fiyonce is the other Burke-trained filly in this year's field and is owned by Burke Racing LLC and Weaver Bruscemi LLC. She made her only start of 2014 at The Meadows, pacing in 1:53.4. Her two-year-old season consisted of nine starts, of which she won one and finished on the board five times. This daughter of Rocknroll Hanover has earnings of $61,549 and boasts the fastest lifetime mark in the field, a 1:52.4 record at Meadowlands Racetrack. Northfield Park leading driver, Josh Sutton, is listed to drive this 10-1 morning line starter. #6 - That Woman Hanover was a five-time winner last year in ten starts. The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere has qualified twice at The Meadows in preparation for this race, most recently winning in 1:54.2. She took her lifetime mark at Pocono Downs in 1:54 and has earned $56,719. She is trained by Daniel Altmeyer, who also co-owns with Richard Kelson, Jack Piatt II and Jeffrey Altmeyer. Pennsylvania regular, Mike Wilder, has been named to drive this filly, who carries a 4-1 morning line. Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $7,500 Pick-5 total pool guarantee to Friday’s (April 25) program. Beginning in Race 3, the $7,500 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $2,016.72. Northfield’s Pick 5, Pick 4 and the Pick 3’s offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14 percent. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

The secret is out. Kayla Grace has quietly gone undefeated in 15 lifetime starts, racing under the radar in Michigan.   This Friday she will step onto the big stage in the first major stakes race of the season for three-year-old fillies, the $110,000 Courageous Lady at Northfield Park. She was supplemented at the last minute for $10,000 and stands as the morning line 3-1 favorite.   Kayla Grace is owned by long-time Michigan owners Ed and Cheryl Sayfie of Rockford, Michigan.  She was named for their two-year-old granddaughter. Kayla Grace is trained by renowned Michigan trainer Marie St. Charles. She will be driven on Friday by her regular driver, Brad Kramer.   Kayla Grace comes into the event with 15 wins, all in the state of Michigan. Most of the victories have been in Michigan Sire Stakes races. She was named Michigan's Two-Year-old Filly of the Year for 2013. Kayla Grace was the winningest  two-year-old filly in North America going 12-for-12 and banking $62,277.   Kayla's Grace was bought by partners Ed and Cheryl Mayfie and Marie St. Charles and her husband Kevin at a private horse sale. She was purchased for the now bargain price of $10,000.   "We took her to Hazel Park and schooled her once behind the gate," said her trainer, Marie St. Charles. "She acted like she went from kindergarten to college. We raced her in the Michigan Fair Circuit at the start, and she started beating everyone she faced. She is a nice little filly who loves to race.   "She is definitely one of the better fillies I ever trained," said St. Charles. "I trained Doc's Hope for Andrew Roberts. She was an awesome mare. We went in 1:50 with her at Woodbine. I don't know if Kayla Grace can fit in her category or not. We raced Kayla mostly at the fairs and Doc's raced mostly at the big tracks.    "We are going to learn a lot about this filly on Friday," said St. Charles. "I am either going to go home with a smile or wonder why I supplemented her for $10,000. We don't know where the bottom is since she has was won her races by so many lengths. The one thing I got going for me is she knows how to win. It's just an honor to be in a race like this.   "She has raced mostly on the front end to stay out of trouble," added St. Charles.  "She can race anyway. Kayla can race from behind. You don't teach a horse anything racing on the front. This will be a test. She is going to be in with top horses who know how to race. We can only wish for the best.   "Brad Kramer is going to drive the horse," explained St. Charles. "Brad was not going to go to Northfield, but now he is. I was going to put Ronnie Wrenn Jr. on to drive. Brad changed his mind. I love Ronnie but I am happier that Brad is driving the horse. Brad knows the horse and this makes it better for me."   "The owner, Ed Sayfie, and myself have been partners on many horses in the past," said Kramer. "These are the people who owned Admirals Express. I have been partners with them for twenty years.. I talked to Ed and decided to go.   "She is a very talented horse," said Kramer. "I didn't know how she stood as a really good horse until recently. The last couple of starts at Hazel Park she has done what real good horses do. She can leave hard, relax in the middle, and have an even faster quarter at the end. It takes a very special horse to be able to do that. Two starts back she really impressed me. She went a really big mile and still came home in 27.3 into a very strong headwind.   "She has raced mostly on the front end to stay out of trouble," explained Kramer. "Kayla raced from behind her very first start. She comes off the helmet so much better than she races on the front. When she gets in with better quality and she can follow, this will be a hell of a horse. She has all the things you need to be a great horse. She can relax but turn on that speed twice in a mile. We will know a lot more on Friday, in Cleveland."   "I have had people ask me if she is for sale," said St. Charles. "We really haven't put a price on her. We really don't know what her true value is right now. We have her nominated for the Cinderella at Maywood, the Circle City at Hoosier, and the Hanover at Balmoral.  She has the whole Michigan Sire Stakes Circuit. Maybe with all this publicity someone will call to buy the horse. Everything is for sale."   On Friday we will know if the Cinderella story continues. Will Kayla Grace go from racing for $3,000 a night on the Michigan Circuit to winning a $110,000 major race? The phone may be ringing off the hook with offers come Saturday morning.   by Brian McEvoy, for Harnesslink.com

The $110,000 Courageous Lady goes postward this Friday evening, April 25. The race is an open event for North America's top three-year-old-filly pacers and is the first national stake of 2014. Kayla Grace is a late supplement to the field and has been named the 3-1 morning line favorite by Dave Bianconi, Northfield Park Executive Vice President of Racing and Simulcasting. She enters this event with an unblemished 15 for 15 record, a mark of 1:55.1 at Hazel Park and earnings of $69,227. However, all 15 of Kayla Grace's races have been raced in the state of Michigan. This will be the first time she crosses state lines to compete on the national stage. "It is really hard to say how she will do," said her trainer, Marie St. Charles. "Michigan is not a real strong state and she has never been tested. All I know is that she knows how to race and she obviously knows how to win." St. Charles was reluctant to supplement to this race because of the rich $10,000 buy-in. "That is a lot of money to put up to be able to race. We have been considering this move for quite some time, then I just had a horse claimed off me for $10,000 and felt is was a sign that we should do it." Kayla Grace is far from St Charles' only good horse that she has conditioned. She had a lot of success in Michigan, having trained 13 Michigan Sire Stake Champions. "My horses have won big races at Woodbine and Hawthorne, too," added St. Charles. "But we are definitely excited, because this race is a big step for us." Some of the fillies staked and expected to race in this year's Courageous Lady did not enter, according to Dave Bianconi. "Two or three of the anticipated fillies came up sick. I wish the field size was seven or eight, but what we lack in quantity, we have made up in quality," said Bianconi. "The undefeated filly coming down from Michigan definitely makes for an intriguing story." The Complete 2014 $110,000 Courageous Lady Field: PP HORSE TRAINER DRIVER M/L 1 Shell Bell Steve Carter Aaron Merriman 6-1 2 Sister Stroll Brian Brown Ryan Stahl 9-2 3 Kayla Grace Marie St. Charles Brad Kramer 3-1 4 A La Notte Hanover Ron Burke Chris Page 7-2 5 Fiyonce Ron Burke Josh Sutton 10-1 6 That Woman Hanover Dan Altmeyer Mike Wilder 4-1 by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Just like the old-style Kodak point and shoot camera, harness driver Brad Kramer needed only to point and shoot Kayla Grace to the lead and the undefeated three-year-old filly did the rest. It was the 15th straight victory for the daughter of He’s All That, who led from start to finish in the third race $5,800 pace at Hazel Park (MI) on Friday. She won by one and one-quarter lengths in 1:56.1 and paid just $2.20 to win. Trained by Marie St Charles and co-owned by her husband, Kevin with the ECS Racing, LLC of Michigan, it was the third start this year for Kayla Grace, who last year was a perfect 12 for 12 at age 2. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com

CHESTER, PA - Mike Bozich has been named the new announcer at Harrah's Philadelphia. Bozich is best known for the 10 years he spent at Hazel Park. He begins his Harrah's Philadelphia career on Friday March 28th when the 2014 season gets underway with a first post of 12:40 p.m., the 2014 schedule will run through Sunday, December 14. from Harrah's Philadelphia Race Office       -end-        

Fourth in a series of stories about 2013’s leading drivers, the vehicles they drive in pursuit of victory, and other current relevant facts. 2013 North American dashwinning champion Ronnie Wrenn Jr. owes a good deal of thanks for his learning the skills that helped win him that title to his father, Michigan Hall of Famer Ron Wrenn Sr. – and he also is appreciative of his dad for providing another kind of “horsepower.” “I did most of the driving in my truck, a 2011 Ford F-150, between racetracks during last summer,” said the 27-year-old recently, “but when I decided to race at Northfield during the week and take advantage of the fact that Colonial Downs (near Richmond VA, 450 miles away) raced on weekends last fall, my dad, along with a Northfield regular named “Road Dog,’ got behind the wheel of the truck most of the time so I could get some sleep between the Friday night Northfield card and the Saturday afternoon racing at Colonial.” The truck had 160,000 miles on it by year’s end – “probably 60,000 or 70,000 miles just last year,” Ron Jr., also known as "Ronnie," adds – but also at year’s end Ron had 714 wins, clear by 69 victories for the North American crown. Among the top ten drivers, only he and another Ron (Pierce) had 50 or more wins at four different tracks, and no one but Wrenn had 20+ wins at seven different ovals. One of those tracks, Raceway Park in Toledo, isn’t back in 2014, which Ron Jr. laments (you would too if you had a .532 UDR at a track that was closing). But he’s trying his hand at the new Miami Valley oval presently, and he’s only four wins behind leader Tony Hall while driving a limited schedule as he continues to make Northfield, the track where he won 388 races last year, his base. In fact, it’s remarkable that Wrenn has climbed back to third in the Northfield 2014 standings already – considering he underwent surgery at the start of the season and didn’t race at the Cleveland oval until January 29. “I had to get my right wrist, which I broke playing football when I was younger, operated on. I had been dealing with the situation for a while – I had been going to therapy for three years for it – but it was just time to get the situation fixed properly. I’ve recovered well, and I’m feeling awesome right now.” Which is bad news for those trying to keep Wrenn from defending his dash title. Despite driving on only 17 cards this year, Ronnie has 40 victories at press time, good for 21st in North America in “half the season” the others have had available to them. (One win higher in the standings – his uncle Peter, at 9,200+ career wins.) Ron Wrenn Jr. says he tries to keep up with sports news when he is driving his truck – “My favorite is ESPN Sports, and I can usually find a station with it wherever I drive.” If he keeps up his winning rate since coming back from his injury, Ronnie may hear his name over the airwaves in ten months or so -- the national media will have to sit up and take note if a 28-year-old already has two national win titles to his career credit. Driver                      Total Wins        Tracks                           Wins Ron Wrenn Jr. 714 Northfield 388     Northville 96     Scioto 88     Raceway Park 52     Buffalo 29     Colonial 27     Batavia 21     Hazel Park 7     Monticello 4     Wooster 2 By Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com

Yesterday historic Pompano Park celebrated its 50th birthday. The harness racing dream of Frederick Van Lennep became reality in 1964, when it developed, opened, flourished and following his death in 1987, was managed by the late John A. Cashman, Jr. for the Van Lennep estate. They had many other assets including Lexington's famous Castleton Farm, Wolverine Raceway, the Red Mile in Lexington and multiple tracks in Italy, until sold in 1994 to Casino America, Inc. (now Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc.). The selling amount was subject to upward adjustment in the event a constitutional amendment was passed permitting casino gambling. The buyers agreed to continue standardbred racing at the facility. The sale followed failed negotiations to sell to the then owners of Hollywood Greyhound Track and Hazel Park near Detroit. The real story, however, takes place many years before, when in 1926, another racetrack was located on the site. It proved to have an interesting history with government intervention, not unlike today's equine industry. In that in 1926, the $1.25 million construction of the original Pompano Park, with grandstands that could seat 7,000 fans, was completed. The mile track, made of clay and sand, was 100 feet wide and many years later served as the hub of the famous training center at Atlantic Blvd and Powerline Road. The grand opening was celebrated on Christmas Day 1926 and huge crowds of spectators reportedly poured into Pompano on chartered buses from around Florida. The track might have been an immense success but there was a barrier (in Florida, at that time, pari-mutuel betting was illegal).  It said, racing was to start Christmas Day until Governor John Martin branded Pompano Park "a center of law breakers" and threatened to send the military to plow up the track and "plant it in cowpeas" unless racing ceased, and it did. The original Pompano Park was then used for automobile races, Polo and boxing matches, without lasting success. In 1928, two years after the track opened, a hurricane ravaged South Florida with 2,000 fatalities and many injuries. Pompano Park became a savior as it was used as a Red Cross station to aid more than 1,000 hurricane victims. Subsequently, the track became dormant until 1953, when Fred Van Lennep, then a prominent Kentucky horseman and former advertising executive, spotted the old track from an airplane. Van Lennep saw great potential for a future racetrack. He purchased the land and immediately began plans to construct a new facility. After lobbying for many years, Van Lennep was able to get pari-mutuel legislation on the ballot and in 1962 it was overwhelmingly voted into law. Van Lennep fulfilled his dream, and his promise, and built what was the well-designed state leader of horse racing tracks. The new Pompano Park opened on February 4, 1964 to a crowd of nearly 6,600 people. The track featured a "state of the art" grandstand, clubhouse and restaurant facility and for the many owners (who also had access to an owners' club), trainers, drivers and caretakers, three racetracks, two being one mile and half mile training tracks and a five-eighths mile main race track. Once completed, there were stalls for 2,000 horses, living quarters for more than 500 caretakers, a swimming pool for horses, a nine-hole golf course and driving range. The main facility featured one of the largest dining rooms in South Florida with seating for more than 800 people. Van Lennep's wife, the renowned horsewoman, Francis Dodge Van Lennep, loved pink flamingos and much of the track was painted in that color. Named the "Winter Capital of Harness Racing", Pompano Park grew in popularity among people in the sport, plus leading celebrities enjoyed their nights at the races. Notables Ed Sullivan, Minnie Pearl, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, Walter Matthau, Sammy Davis Jr., Rodney Dangerfield, and many others came to Pompano Park regularly along with leading sports figures Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, George Steinbrenner, Arnold Palmer, Charlie Keller and Lee Elder. They were regulars during the season and Ford, Steinbrenner, Palmer and Keller became horse, farm and track owners. Years later, celebs still came out for a night at the races including Pulitzer prize-winning author and columnist Dave Barry, baseball's Dennis Martinez, Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler, UK and NBA basketball's Sam Bowie, also a prominent standardbred horse owner and breeder. During the 1980 and 90's Pompano Park bloomed at its 331 acre site (including the 180 acre training center that was sold years later for industrial development), hosting the prestigious Breeders Crown numerous times as the world's top Standardbreds, owners, trainers and drivers trained and raced during the winter for some of the sports' richest purses. Records fell annually with the sports' greatest reinsman, the "Gold Dust Twins" Stanley Dancer and Billy Haughton, calling Pompano Park their winter home. The tracks biggest night was on December 27, 1980 when the great pacer Niatross arrived at Pompano Park There were 18,451 fans on-site to see the remarkable pacer, barred from the betting, team with trainer and Hall of Famer Clint Galbraith to a 1.54.3f win by open lengths. Reportedly another 5,000 fans had to be turned away, as cars were parked on the median divider of Powerline Road and across the street in Palm Aire after all racetrack parking areas had been filled to capacity. Every mutuel pool record was rewritten by the fifth race that evening. Pompano continued to play a leading role in the Standardbred sport during the early Breeders' Crown years with its Van Lennep Trotting Series that attracted many of the best US aged performers and some Europeans. John Cashman was a great supporter of international racing and the Van Lennep was his and Pompano Park's trotting showcase during that era. One such event I remember best occurred in 1987. Re-live it below with Dave Joseph's memorable stories. European Flavor Adds Spice to Van Lennep Invitational By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 4, 1987 Pompano Harness Track`s $150,000 Frederick Van Lennep Invitational Trotting Series has lured five of the six European trotters that were extended invitations to compete in the two-race series. The Van Lennep, run over a mile track Oct. 24 and a 1 1/4-mile track Oct. 30, will have Germany`s Reado, Norway`s Scott Iran, Finland`s Black Laukko, France`s Quito du Couronne and Big Spender, who has campaigned throughout Europe. The only trotter who declined the invitation was Sweden`s Emile, second twice this year to two-time Breeders Crown winner Grades Singing. Van Lennep Trot Lures Three of the Best By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 18, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- For the past four months they have crossed paths. First New Jersey, then New York, finally Illinois. In pursuit of being named Aged Trotter of the Year, Sugarcane Hanover, Tabor Lobell and Express Ride have battled on three tracks. But after the three meet tonight in a $10,000 invitational trot at Pompano Park, the trio will have only two more chances to lay claim to seasonal honors. World record holder Express Ride, two-time Breeders Crown winner Sugarcane Hanover, and Invitational Challenge Cup winner Tabor Lobell will use tonight`s invitational as a prep for Pompano`s upcoming $150,000 Frederick Van Lennep Invitational Trot. Express Ride Sets Pompano Mile Record By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 19, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- It was supposed to be a leisurely prep race; a chance for some of the trotters racing in the upcoming Frederick Van Lennep Invitational to get a feel for Pompano Harness Track. Ah, but it was so much more. World record holder Express Ride, driven by Berndt Lindstedt, trotted the fastest mile in Pompano`s 24-year history Sunday night, clocking 1:56 2/5 in the sixth race, a $10,000 invitational trot. It broke Grade`s Singing`s record set in last year`s Van Lennep by 3/5 of a second. Hey, Big Spender Spent A Little Time with Malaise By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 24, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- The travel plans, Berth Johansson thought, were firm. Big Spender, his 6-year-old horse, would trot in West Germany Oct. 11, then be shipped to Paris the next night and prepare for his trip to Pompano Park and the Frederick Van Lennep Trotting Series. How much easier could that be, Johansson thought. "We would race Sunday," the Swedish trainer-driver said. "Then he would sleep, wait 24 hours, and then go to Paris Monday night." Simple, right? But four hours after trotting two heats in West Germany, Big Spender was loaded on a train and spent the next 20 hours riding to Paris. Express Ride Gets Leg Up In Van Lennep By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 25, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- The opposition put it this way: "He`s a monster," trainer Jim Gluhm said. "What else can you say?" Gluhm, trainer of Tabor Lobell, was speaking for all of the estimated 6,000 here who witnessed the performance of Express Ride. The 4-year-old world-record holder won his fifth consecutive race Saturday night when he led throughout the $50,000 Frederick Van Lennep International Challenge over a mile distance at Pompano Park in 1:56 4/5. Reado, an 80-1 long shot from West Germany, finished second by 1/2 lengths. Tabor Lobell`s Finale To Be In Van Lennep By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 29, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- There was really nothing distinctive about that morning, trainer Jim Gluhm said. It was just like any other May morning at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "It was cool," Gluhm said. "And there wasn`t much sunshine." That morning, in fact, probably would have slipped from Gluhm`s mind if it wasn`t for one of his workers running out to the track and saying, bluntly, `What the hell are you doing?` "I was starting to train Tabor Lobell to go a 1 1/4 miles and 1 1/2 miles when the horse`s groom came running out asking me that question," Gluhm said. Tabor could handle the distance as on August 30, 1987 he upset many of the best in the sport to win the 1-1/2 mile $100,000 Challenge Cup at Roosevelt. Tabor Lobell Wins Challenge Cup: Tabor Lobell, a 25-1 shot driven by Buddy Gilmour, held off Callit of Sweden last night to capture the $100,000 Challenge Cup, a mile-and-a-half invitational trot at Roosevelt Raceway. The 4-year-old son of Speedy Crown-The-Pro raced third over most of the event, but caught Callit, winner of the International Trot last week, at the head of the stretch. The two went neck and neck to the finish, and Tabor Lobell won by a head, covering the course in 3:03 3/5. Whip It Wood, driven by John Patterson Jr., took third. Tabor Lobell's victory, only his second in 12 races, was worth $50,000 and pushed his career earnings to $199,095. Tabor Lobell was third in the International Trot behind Sweden's Callit and Potin d'Amour from France. (NY Times archives) Record Falls in Van Lennep Sugarcane Hanover Upsets Express Ride By DAVE JOSEPH, Racing Writer, October 31, 1987 POMPANO BEACH -- There was silence on the other end of the line for several seconds before trainer Jim Simpson could express his feeling. "I`m ecstatic," said Simpson. He paused. "I got a tear in my eye." Simpson`s tear came courtesy of Sugarcane Hanover, who came out of hiding at Pompano Harness Track Friday night in world record fashion. After finishing second and ninth to Express Ride in his last two races across Pompano, John Simpson`s Sugarcane Hanover returned to form here when he trotted past 4-5 favorite Express Ride in the final yards to win the $100,000 Frederick Van Lennep International Championship by three-quarters of a length. Sugarcane Hanover with Gunnar Eggen up winning 1988 March of Dimes at Garden State over Ourasi, Mack Lobell and Napoletano by Thomas H. Hicks for Harnesslink.com    

Okemos, MI --- The Michigan Gaming Control Board released orders on Tuesday (Jan. 21) dramatically reducing the harness racing schedule at Northville Downs and Hazel Park Raceway in 2014. The orders, which are being appealed by the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association, authorize ten day harness meets at both Northville and Hazel Park. Those schedules represent a dramatic reduction from the harness dates previously anticipated. Needless to say, the MGCB decision to accept the tracks’ amended applications will have a devastating impact on Michigan’s Standardbred race horse industry. Even more devastating than the slashing of race dates is the timing of the schedule authorized for Northville Downs. Instead of beginning their meet Jan. 31, as originally announced, Northville intends to race Fridays and Saturdays from March 7 through April 5. Hazel Park intends to race their harness meet on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from April 12 through May 3. According to Tuesday’s orders, both facilities will then convert to Thoroughbred tracks. Despite Northville’s assertion that higher handle and lower track maintenance costs are the reason for their delayed start date, many believe that their strategy is to create as much disruption as possible for the Standardbred industry. Why you ask? Delaying the availability of purse money until March will force more harness horsemen out of business and accelerate the decline of live racing -- something Northville has stated publicly they would prefer. The MHHA and the race tracks have been at odds over track demands that horsemen pay entry fees for the privilege of racing at their facilities. It’s the tracks’ position that, because they are losing money, they are entitled to a greater share of simulcast purse pool revenue. Since the tracks already retain sixty percent of simulcast purse pool commissions, and their “solution” does nothing to solve the industry’s core problems, the MHHA has refused those demands. The financial situation of our horsemen, who collectively lost well over $1 million in 2013, is more dire than the tracks’, so shoring up their bottom lines on the backs of our horsemen is not a reasonable solution. Further, the MHHA believes that, by law, the horsemen’s share of the simulcast purse pool can only be used for purses. While the Thoroughbred horsemen believe they have found a way to circumvent that 1995 Racing Law requirement, the courts may ultimately have to decide if they will be able to do so moving forward. Recognizing the immediate impact that this MGCB decision would have on Michigan’s Standardbred industry, an emergency meeting of the MHHA Board of Directors was held late Friday. In an effort to mitigate the potential damage to our horsemen, the MHHA offered Northville Downs $100,000 in non-simulcast purse pool funds if they would agree to race their original 26 day schedule. That offer was ignored. We are horrified by the MGCB’s decision and have expressed our concerns about both the moral and legal implications of Tuesday’s orders. Time will tell if the tracks’ apparent strategy to wrestle complete control of the industry away from the horsemen will succeed, but there is no question that the short term impact will be harmful to thousands of horsemen -- not to mention countless local agricultural economies around the state. In fact, just since the MGCB orders were released, we have received word that dozens of horses are already being culled from Standardbred stables across the state. We ask all horsemen to be patient as the MHHA moves forward with its appeal of Tuesday’s orders and considers what further actions might be possible to try and mitigate the damage to our 2014 racing season. In the meantime, we encourage you to contact your representatives in Lansing. Make sure they understand what is happening in our industry and let them know how it impacts you and those with whom you do business. If the tracks believe they can force the Standarbred horsemen out of business in what appears to be an attempt to eliminate live racing here in Michigan, they should be prepared for a significant fight. Submitted by the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association

We are visiting today with the recently crowned leading dash-winning driver in North America Ronnie Wrenn Jr. This past year Ronnie tallied 714 winning drives, which ranked him as the the winningest driver in North America. His UDRS driving rating was an outstanding 0.361. He was the leading driver at both the Northville and Northfield meets. Wrenn, who turned 27 in August has been driving regularly only for four years. Ronnie has been in the sulky for most of Anvil Raider N 23 victories on the year, the most in harness racing in 2013. Wrenn was a finalist for the Dan Patch Human and Horse Awards for 2013 as the Rising Star. We caught up with him as he was driving to be with his girlfriend to bring in the new year together. One-On-One is done exclusively for Harnesslink.com by Brian McEvoy HLINK: Congratulations on a great year of racing and winning the 2013 North American dash title. What are you up to? When is the surgery scheduled on your wrist? RW:  I just finished my last day of racing for the year. I finished up with 5 winners on the night. It has been a lot of work for the year. I have definitely raced a lot of races. It has been hard. Winning the title has not set in yet. When I have the time off I will realize what I have accomplished. To be included in the same class of the top 5 drivers is pretty sweet. I am having surgery on January 6th at Ohio State U. Once the surgery is done. I should have about 4 weeks of rehab. I should be back racing in late January or early February. It is just about the time the purse increase should start at Northfield. It's my right wrist and it is an old sports injury that I have put off for years and now have to deal with. HLINK: You have raced at an incredible amount of tracks this year, Northfield Park, Northville Downs, Raceway Park, Scioto Downs, Batavia Downs, Buffalo Raceway, Colonial Downs, Monticello Raceway, Delaware Ohio Fair, Hazel Park, The Meadows, and several other fair tracks. You must have put a lot of miles on your car? RW: I have 148,000 miles on a 2011. Of that I have put 70,000 miles on the vehicle this year. HLINK: You only started driving about four years ago. Tell us about how you started driving and the influence of your uncle Peter. RW: The first year I just messed around driving a couple of horses The last two years is when I picked up catch drives. My two uncles have had a great influence on me. Peter has helped me from a driving aspect. My uncle Gary, a blacksmith, also has helped me greatly. I have talked a lot on the phone with both my uncles for advice. I was going to school in Michigan. I was studying criminal law. I started picking up a lot of drives. It was getting busy, so I chose this path. HLINK: I heard you were a pretty good ball player. How good were you? RW: I played football and baseball in high school. I played some baseball in college. I played center field. I loved the sport. I gave it up to go into the horses. I wasn't going to the major leagues, but I could have played further in college. HLINK: You grew up in Michigan. You started your driving career at the Michigan tracks, and at Windsor in Canada. It must be depressing to watch the decline of harness racing in your home state? RW: When I first started racing all I wanted to do was race at the premier tracks of Michigan. I was hoping to remain racing there. I was for about a year. It looks now like it is near the end of it. Ten live days of racing at Northville and Hazel doesn't add up to a lot of days. If you are a horseman you can't make a living racing there. It was really sad that Michigan didn't approve casinos at the racetracks as just happened in Ohio. I think it is about to come to the end. HLINK: You recently drove Anvil Raider N to his 22nd victory on the year. This is the most racing wins in harness racing for 2013. It might also have been his swan song. U.S. Trotting Association rules require the 14-year-old to retire on December 31st. RW: It was one of the first horses I started to catch drive. I probably drove him the most the last two years. I drove him a lot this year. For him to set the record for most wins this year is pretty neat. It is unfortunate he has to retire as he is still racing like he is a 6-year-old. He has had a lot of miles on his body. It is just like athletes. You can perform better at twenty then in your forties. It is probably a good rule. He is one the few horses I have ever been around that has raced so well in his 14th year of racing. He was racing at a level where he could still hold his speed. He was sharper this year then he has been in the last 5 years. HLINK: You were recently invited for a drive-off at Monticello Raceway against Bruce Aldrich Jr. on December 12th. Tell us about that experience? RW: I loved the idea of what John Manzi came up with in the drive-off. I think a lot of other tracks should try this. I must have got over 200 texts that day My Facebook page and phone were lit up. The first 8 races we went back and forth. The next couple of races didn't work out for me. I had a couple of horses break stride. It is never fun losing but it was a very cool experience. I would definitely do it again. HLINK: When you come back to racing next year after the surgery is Northfield going to be your home base for racing? RW: When I return I will start driving back at Northfield. I love that place and they treat me good. It fits my driving style. On a half mile track you have to be more aggressive. Northfield is a real run and gun track. You don't really go slow quarters as you do at other tracks. I might go down to Lebanon to drive at Miami Valley a little bit when they open in February. I am just going to see how things go. I am considering driving at the Meadows again pulling doubleheaders. It just depends what the purse structure is at Northfield. It would be nice to one day be driving at the premier tracks back east. I want to keep getting better and one day drive on the big stage. I am still learning a lot and new to the business. HLINK: Do you have any insight into when the purses will go up at Northfield?. What about Miami Valley not having any tellers for people to bet with? RW: I probably don't want to say too much as I am not 100%. I guess February is when the purses will be going up a little bit. They have to generate some revenue from the casino. Miami Valley opens in February and I would think they would kick up their purses at the same time. That would prevent the horseman from going on down to Miami Valley. The teller situation I don't think has been worked out yet. I don't think they have a contract with any of the tracks. I hope whoever is working for us gets that worked out. I hope we can race for a lot of money for a long time in Ohio. HLINK: You had an unfortunate situation when you went to race this summer at the Delaware County Fair in Ohio. You were fined for leaning back too far in the bike when driving. You were not happy about the drivers being fined for this. You packed up and left on the first day of racing. RW: When all the drivers showed up the first day they had a whole new set of rules they were trying to enforce. I am really not sure who came up with the rules. I was really looking forward to driving during Jug week. I had a disagreement with the judge. I really didn't think I was leaning back. He thought I was. It is just like in major league baseball where every pitcher and batting has his own form. We are all not robots. We are all individuals which use our skills in different ways. I never have been too far back to control my horse. Maybe when someone just starts driving they should say something. HLINK: Where do you see yourself in five years? Do you see yourself eventually making the move to the Meadowlands and the other big tracks in the northeast? RW: If a trainer called me up and said to come out here and drive my horses. I would come out in a heartbeat. I want to keep getting better. I was locked in this year,driving smarter. I want to be patient and get my horses in the right position at the right time. If I am driving in Ohio that would be fine. Wherever the premier tracks are in the next five years is where I want to be. HLINK: I see on Facebook you are a huge Dallas Cowboy fan? Are you disappointed they did not make the playoffs again this year? RW: I am really disappointed they didn't make the playoffs. I was reading where in the last 20 years they are something like 2 and 18 in week 17. You don't make the playoffs struggling the last game of the season when it means something. I am a diehard fan. When I was younger they were awesome. They were America's team. The last few years they have been a struggling team. I am a Cowboy fan for life. They are like the Yankees of football. By Brian McEvoy for Harnesslink.com  

Theodore G. Taylor, 86, of Westland, Michigan, passed away on December 2, 2013. He was born on April 22, 1927, in Columbus, Ohio, the son of James M. and Isabel Wallace Taylor. He grew up on a farm in Madison County, London, Ohio. He was a Navy veteran of World War II, having served in the Pacific Ocean on the USS Whitley. Taylor's love for horses became his lifetime profession. He owned, trained and raced standardbreds. He raced in Europe as well as the United States. During his racing career he was one of the top 10 drivers in the country. He was inducted into the Harness Horsemen's Hall of Fame in both Michigan and Florida. Taylor is survived by his wife of 54 years, Judith Ann Waters Taylor; sisters, Phyllis T. Jacob, Eunice T. (Hugh) Mac Rae and Nancy T. (Bill) Robinson; and nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, James R.; and sisters, Mary T. Brown and Sue Ellen Harrison. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. From the USTA

1 to 16 of 79
1 2 3 4 5 Next »