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Corporate bookmaking firm Ladbrokes is to sponsor Tasmanian racing for at least the next three years. The lucrative package will include naming rights for the three major tracks and three major cups. From Thursday, the tracks will be re-branded Ladbrokes Racing Centre Mowbray, Ladbrokes Park Elwick and Ladbrokes All Weather Spreyton. All thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing clubs will be part of the new agreement. Tasracing chief executive Paul Eriksson said Tasracing and the clubs were excited about the new partnership. "Sponsorship revenue and the level of marketing support offered to clubs across all codes is set to increase significantly under this deal," he said. "The partnership also allows Tasracing to continue to broaden its promotion of Tasmanian racing to the national market thanks to Ladbrokes' extensive customer-base and marketing investment." Ladbrokes Australia CEO Jason Scott said Ladbrokes had developed a proud legacy of supporting the Australian racing industry and its participants. "The chance to partner with greyhounds, harness and thoroughbreds ... in the progressive Tasmanian market was simply too good to refuse," he said. "Like Ladbrokes, Tasracing and its clubs have displayed a desire to think outside the square and to innovate and we look forward to partnering with them on their quest for growth." The landmark deal further delivers on the Hodgman Majority Liberal Government’s commitment to ensure Tasmania’s racing industry continues to grow, with the economic benefits reaching far outside the track course. Tasmania’s racing industry injects around $103 million a year into the State’s economy and supports jobs in rural and regional areas, with over 5,000 Tasmanians either employed or participating in the industry. By Greg Mansfield Reprinted with permission of The Examiner

Shortly after the first race, a thunderstorm descends on Arlington International Racecourse, just north of Chicago. An hour before post time, families toting coolers had streamed into the track, paying $10 apiece for admission, less for kids and extra to reserve spots alongside the final stretch, a football field or so from the finish line and safe distance from the tawdry business of gambling, without which no one would be here. It is Renaissance Faire Family Day, with pretend jousting, pony rides, a petting zoo and more, alongside a sold-out picnicking area where a staggering amount of sandwiches, potato chips and bottled water, with an occasional birthday cake, were unpacked an hour ago in preparation for a day at the races. Now, this. As clouds approach, folks repack and scurry to the grandstand, but a dozen or so make it no farther than a large tent where draft beer costs $7.50 and Bloody Marys come in plastic cups. Men in drenched suits and ties appear through the deluge, not running but certainly hustling, and throw canvas covers over electronic terminals that gobble money from bettors. The tent’s frame and guy wires and stakes are made from metal, which shrieks and grinds in the wind as parts rub against each other. No reach is spared rain – it’s not clear whether it is blowing in from the side open to the track, through a billowing roof or both. “It’s not safe,” a guy dressed security-guard in navy blazer and grey slacks tells us, advising that everyone flee, through the deluge, to sturdier shelter. He offers free plastic garbage bags that can be turned into ponchos. They charge 50 cents for a pencil if you lack means to take notes from the race program, which contains records of horses, records of jockeys, records of trainers, selling prices, pedigrees, times in recent workouts, etc. Two betting terminals remain uncovered and beckoning while flat screens show races from tracks elsewhere with sunny skies. There is a rumor of half-price beer. How bad can this be? I head to the bar, where Kurt Kresmery, who owns an Elgin property management firm, is nursing a Coors Light. What, I ask, is a guy like you doing in a place like this? He tells me a story. A few years ago, stumped for a Father’s Day gift, a friend who was into horse racing suggested that Kresmery buy his dad a share in a racehorse. Such so-called fractional ownership of horses spreads risk and has become common in a sport where upkeep is expensive and returns uncertain. Thoroughbreds created a point of connection between father and son, neither of whom had been race fans, that endured to the end. Even today, his father gone, Kresmery owns part of a horse that is racing this afternoon at Ellis Park in Kentucky. Before it happens, a horse race can generate endless speculation, with determined bettors considering such esoterics as heat and humidity to help guess how a horse will perform on any given day. The action lasts a minute or two, and it takes four hours to run a program. There is plenty of time for conversation, and Kresmery recalls his dad enjoying afternoons at the track and occasional forays to off-track-betting parlors to watch horses that were partly his. In hospice, Kresmery recalls, his dad held his hands as if grasping reins, trying to mimic a jockey’s bounce when his son told him about an upcoming race. “He died the next day,” Kresmery says. It’s not the sort of tale one hears in video gambling joints. An industry in crisis If video slots are the crack cocaine of gambling, horseracing is Geritol, and that’s part of the challenge facing horse racing as the fan base shrinks and ages. There are just seven races today at Arlington, three short of a traditional 10-race program. “Look at this,” Kresmery says, pointing to a stat sheet for the fifth race, which will be contested for an $11,500 purse. “It’s nothing. Our horse ran third in Kentucky a few weeks ago and we got $10,000.” Even that, Kresmery maintains, isn’t enough to break even, at least for long. Purses are the heart of racing, which, at its core, is all business. Arlington is the state’s premier track, where the grounds are spotless, landscaping is immaculate and neither shorts nor athletic shoes are allowed in the Million Room restaurant, the fanciest of nine eateries. In 1981, Arlington became the first thoroughbred track in the world to offer a $1 million purse. With Bill Shoemaker aboard, John Henry won the inaugural Arlington Million and was named Eclipse Horse of the Year. They still run the Arlington Million each August, but it is a rare bright spot. Purses elsewhere are lower and crowds smaller, with statewide attendance at tracks dwindling from 3.9 million in 1995 to less than 909,000 last year.   Unlike slot players, horse bettors can spend hours analyzing races before laying down bets.   Locally, the amount bet last year at Capitol Teletrack in Springfield, one of two dozen off-track betting sites in Illinois, was less than half what was wagered at a Lucy’s Place gambling parlor with five video machines a few blocks away on Wabash Avenue. Racing at the state fair also has declined. In 2018, a quarter-million dollars was wagered during four days of harness racing at the fair. In 1995, $1.3 million was bet on 82 races run over six days.  Downward trends are statewide and national. Since 1990, when more than $1.25 billion was wagered on horses in Illinois, the amount bet on horses, or handle in racing’s parlance, has fallen to $573.5 million, including bets placed outside the state by gamblers who can watch races across the land via simulcast broadcasts. In 2018, just 11 percent of money wagered in Illinois on horses ran their races in the Land of Lincoln. The state is down to three tracks, two fewer than in 2015, when a pair of Chicago-area harness tracks shut down. That same year, an East Moline track that last held a live race in 1993 gave up after years of simulcasts, ending resurrection hopes. “The horse racing industry in this state is about to fall and crumble and deteriorate and go away – that’s just how drastic it is,” state Department of Agriculture Director John Sullivan told state senators during a budget hearing last spring. It’s an industry worth saving, Sullivan argued. Since 2000, the number of state-issued licenses for occupations ranging from grooms to owners has shrunk from 11,000 to 4,000, but still, Sullivan testified, horse racing generates $1 billion a year in economic activity, considering grooms, blacksmiths, feed stores, veterinarians and scores of other jobs. “The jobs generated by this industry, they’re very real,” Sullivan told legislators. “Anything you can do to help them would be appreciated.” Legislators and Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered with an expansion of gambling that includes sports betting at tracks and the potential for racecourses to become full-fledged casinos. There’s a provision for a new standardbred track, despite closures in recent years. Fairmount Park in Collinsville could have as many as 900 video gambling machines and seats at blackjack tables and other table games. Arlington and Hawthorne Racecourse, both in the Chicago area, could each have as many as 1,200 spots for gamblers to make bets on machines, cards or other table games. By comparison, no existing casino has 1,100 video gambling terminals, according to the most recent report from the Illinois Gaming Board, and 317 table games operate in the state’s 10 casinos, most of which are operating fewer gambling machines than authorized. Video gambling has not previously been allowed at tracks, where millions of dollars in wagers are accepted on nothing but horse races.   Gamblers at Fairmount Park line up to risk money.   A share of the take from casino-style gambling at tracks would go toward purses to help the state’s racing industry, but there is a string: Tracks with casinos can’t abandon horse racing and might have to increase the number of races in exchange for slot machines and casino games. The law requires 700 races annually at Fairmount Park if the track wants video gambling and table games; last year, the track’s season lasted 36 days, with many dates including fewer than 10 races, and so the number of races might double. Arlington and Hawthorne together would need 174 thoroughbred racing dates each year if both tracks got casino gambling; last year, the tracks combined had 125 thoroughbred dates. Harness racing tracks, where comparatively stocky standardbreds pull wheeled carts called bikes, would have to have 100 race dates each year, a threshold already met by Hawthorne, which last year held 105 harness racing dates. Minimum race date provisions can be waived by the Illinois Racing Board if horse owner associations agree, the law says, so long as the integrity of the sport isn’t affected. The board also could waive race-date minimums if there aren’t enough horses or if purse levels aren’t sufficient. All this gambling at tracks would come in addition to six new standalone casinos authorized by state legislators, more video gambling terminals in bars and restaurants and more video gambling and table games at existing casinos that now don't have all the tables and video gambling terminals previously authorized. The law also includes provisions for online sports gambling.  “It’s a lot of money” The new law is the talk of the backstretch at Hawthorne the day after the governor signs the bill. It is, folks say, salvation. “You can just feel the mood of the people around here,” says trainer Steve Searle, whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather also trained horses. “We were about flat-lined. Seriously. It was as bad as it could get.” By definition, horses anchor the sport, but the number of Illinois-bred animals has plummeted, from nearly 4,500 foals born in 1985 to 300 last year. Lawmakers have adjusted by changing the definition of Illinois horses eligible to compete in races limited to animals born and bred here. A 2018 law made possible by artificial insemination removed a requirement that standardbreds in races limited to Illinois-conceived-and-foaled livestock must come from mares that were impregnated in Illinois and that gave birth within the state. “They got a little creative with the born and bred,” observes trainer Angie Coleman, who’s made her living with racehorses for seven years. Before that, she lived in downtown Chicago. She once sold cars and also has worked for a credit card company. The backstretch, she says, is a more welcoming environment for women than other places she’s worked where men were in charge. “I had those kinds of challenges when I had a real job, but not here,” she says. Plenty of kids – the track provides housing for workers and families – and women inhabit the backstretch. Drivers wear overalls, some in need of washing, instead of silks and are of normal shape and size. Weight doesn’t much matter in harness racing, where bikes bear the load. A three-legged black cat named Trifecta roams the barns. If folks who earn their livings from racehorses don’t care about animals, someone forgot to tell trainer Rob Rittof, who found the cat in a parking lot with a mangled paw and took it to a vet. “It’s a community back there,” says Jim Miller, Hawthorne publicist and race analyst. “You’d be surprised to see the school bus roll up every morning.”  It’s a grueling schedule. Races start at 7:30 p.m. and can last until midnight, but horses don’t sleep late and need to be brushed and fed and exercised and treated for any medical issues. The track provides the stage, backstretch folks put on the play. They don’t appear rich as they prep horses for races, water down ones fresh from the track and watch races unfold on 25-inch box televisions from an era before flat screens. “The labor side, the horse owners, need to have a chance to make money on it, or at least break even,” says David McCaffrey, executive director of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. Racinos in Indiana, Kentucky and other states have sucked jobs directly from the Illinois horseracing industry, McCaffrey says. Last year, purses at Illinois racetracks totaled $34.5 million. Slots and casino games, McCaffrey figures, could boost purses by $20 million at each of the two Chicago-area tracks. “It’s a lot of money,” he says. “It’s going to be a terrific boon.”   Horse racing is a family affair at Arlington International Racecourse.   While hopes are high for more foals and bigger purses and more races, no one seems to know whether the expected surge of slots at tracks will create more horse bettors. Playing horses is as easy or difficult as you want to make it. While some go by names or odds alone, the serious horse player can spend hours studying racing forms, videos of past performances and weather forecasts. A horse might appear a dog, but wait a minute: He broke late from the starting gate and was bumped in his last race but still gained ground at the end, plus he’s got a new owner and trainer with a reputation for turning also-rans into contenders. Never worn blinkers before? Hmm. And he does better on a synthetic surface than natural dirt. You can hit the “play” button on a video gambling machine every few seconds, but racing runs on a more relaxed schedule, with starts every 30 minutes. Small-time bettors can spend an afternoon at the track and lose less than $50. “It’s a thought process, but that’s the beauty of it, by the way,” McCaffrey says. No one seems to know whether casinos at Illinois tracks will create horse bettors. In Ohio, the handle has gone down since the state legalized racinos to subsidize racing. The Buckeye State’s first racino opened in 2012. In 2014, $166.8 million was wagered at Ohio race tracks; last year, with seven racinos in full swing, the handle dropped to $150.8 million. Death hurts Past efforts to bolster racing in Illinois haven’t met with universal acclaim. “I was probably the only guy who was completely against simulcasting,” says Clark Fairley, a standardbred trainer at Hawthorne who remembers when tracks began broadcasting races from afar to increase betting pools and revenue, with off-track betting parlors opening so gamblers no longer needed to visit tracks like Sportsman’s Park. The Cicero venue closed in 2002, shortly after War Emblem won the Illinois Derby there, then captured the Kentucky Derby as an improbable 20-1 longshot. A TV screen can’t match live racing, Fairley says, and horse racing needs fans at tracks. While he doesn’t like simulcasts, Fairley is a fan of casinos at tracks, which he calls a game changer. “It’s a business for us,” Fairley says. “We need to make a living.” Image is to blame for part of horse racing’s woes, according to a 2011 report commissioned by The Jockey Club. Fewer than 25 percent of the public had a positive impression of horse racing, according to the report, and just 46 percent of fans who attended at least three races annually said they’d tell others to follow the sport. By contrast, 55 percent of poker players said they’d recommend the game to friends; more than 80 percent of football and baseball fans said they’d promote their preferred sport to other people. Attitudes are reflected in the handle, which peaked, nationally, in 2003. “Racing has a serious brand problem, a diluted product and insufficient distribution,” McKinsey and Co., the consulting firm that authored the study, reported. The 2011 nationwide study, which predicted that the amount wagered on horse racing would drop 25 percent by 2021, proved overly dire. Nationally, the handle has stabilized at slightly less than $11 billion wagered each year, according to a follow-up study by McKinsey that was released last year, with the number of races dropping but purses increasing. The best and biggest tracks have made progress, with the number of races and wagers increasing, but those gains have been offset by trouble at smaller venues, where handles have gone down and the number of races has dipped. The number of horses continues to drop, the consultant reported last year, resulting in an average field of 7.7 horses for races, not good from the perspective of fans who want more contestants. Myriad issues account for the sport’s shaky health. Bettors are disheartened by the rise of computers and near-instantaneous wagering – odds change depending on amounts bet, and when well-financed interests from who-knows-where throw big money at races less than a minute before post time, what seemed a shrewd call on a longshot can suddenly become an even-odds bet. Tracks, also, have caused consternation among the most loyal racing fans by taking, some might say skimming, from winners who don’t collect the full amount on successful bets. Instead, tracks take a percentage of winning wagers to help cover overhead, a proposition that goes over as well at a racetrack as it would at a video gambling parlor that paid out $1.90 when the ticket says you won $2. Animal welfare, long a concern, has mushroomed with tragedies at Santa Anita Park, a California track where 30 horses have died since December, prompting calls to ban racing. The Jockey Club says equine deaths, calculated on a per-thousand-start basis, have declined since 2009, when the organization began publishing racetrack death statistics. Reporting is voluntary, and while almost every track provides numbers to allow a national perspective, most tracks don’t allow the Jockey Club to publish statistics showing the number of deaths at their venues. Hawthorne, which allows the club to post statistics, stands out in the 2018 report, recording a higher death rate of thoroughbreds – the track hosts both thoroughbred and harness racing – than any track that voluntarily reports save Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Miller says the track allows The Jockey Club to publish details because transparency is important. “We understand that, if something does happen, if there’s an injury, a death, we want to look into it, we want to understand why and we don’t want to hide it,” he says. Thoroughbreds go down more frequently than standardbreds, and there have been no tragedies during the current harness racing season, Miller said. While numbers from the Illinois Racing Board, which regulates horse racing, show that Hawthorne has had more deaths per 1,000 starts than the state’s other two tracks in eight of the past 11 years, Miller says Hawthorne considers last year’s numbers an anomaly. Death hurts, McCaffrey says. Before becoming director of the thoroughbred horsemen’s association, McCaffrey trained standardbreds. “You do it because you love the animal – that’s the basis for entering into the sport,” he says. Enzo The Baker was McCaffrey’s star. At two years old, the horse named after a character in The Godfather never finished out of the money in nine races, winning seven times, placing once and showing once. It all ended in 2008 at Maywood Park, a harness track near Chicago that closed four years ago. While warming up, Enzo The Baker collapsed prior to a race, victim of a heart defect. “You see this perfectly healthy horse, the next minute, he was on the ground, dead,” McCaffrey says. “It affected me. I was never the same trainer afterward.”     By Bruce Rushton Reprinted with permission of The Illinios Times

A deadly venom found in sea snails which can paralyse fish within a second has emerged as the latest chemical suspected to have infiltrated horse racing, with authorities scrambling to organise testing for the powerful painkiller. Racing NSW and Racing Victoria integrity officials on Monday confirmed they had started screening for the mystery drug, which has subtypes known to be infinitely stronger than morphine. It can also be extracted to be used for therapeutic purposes on humans in the form of the conotoxin-based Prialt. Racing stewards have received intelligence that a form of sea snail venom has been imported into Australia and used to manage pain in horses suspected to have raced in both the thoroughbred and harness codes. It is unclear in which state the latest fad is said to have emerged, but the Herald understands multiple racing authorities have been tipped off about its use and developed laboratory testing to weed out those who have dabbled in the product. The substance is not entirely new to the industry and was understood to have been in use more than decade ago, but until recently had not again been on the radar of racing officials. It's understood to dissolve from a horse's system very quickly and can help numb any pain before heading to the racetrack. Sea snails are generally found in the bottom of the ocean in tropical climates. Racing NSW said it had the ability to retrospectively test stored samples for the substance. It hasn't yet confirmed any positive swabs stemming from the chemical. "When we get information we act on it and we have a screen for this drug now," Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys. "At the moment it is not a part of the normal screening process, but we have the ability to target it and test for it." RV executive general manager of integrity Jamie Stier confirmed his organisation had begun testing for the drug as part of its normal screening process. Australian scientists from several universities have previously been working on developing new pain relief drugs using the chemicals from sea snail venom, which can be administered when morphine is no longer sufficient. It has traditionally been hazardous to use on humans given the bad side effects it can induce, including hallucinations, memory loss and confusion. But it is seen as a future alternative for pain relief given it is thought to be less addictive than opioid-based painkillers. Researchers are hoping with more funding for trials conotoxins could be in clinical use within 10 years. Venomous sea snails have been known to kill the nervous system of fish almost instantly before they eat their prey. The suspected infiltration of the chemical into horse racing is the latest scourge for the industry, which earlier this year was rocked by the ban to Australia's most prolific thoroughbred trainer Darren Weir for possession of electrical shock devices. Victorian-based Weir was rubbed out for four years and is still the subject of an ongoing police investigation. Racing NSW stewards are also investigating the finding of human growth hormone (EPO) in a fridge at the property of Kembla Grange trainer Mick Tubman. He has been stood down from training. NSW Police have also charged a nurse from Wollongong Hospital with the alleged theft of EPO from the hospital. By Adam Pengilly and Chris Roots Reprinted with permission of the Sydney Morning Herald   SEA SNAIL VENOM - Sea snail venom contains hundreds of peptides known as conotoxins, which are used to cause paralysis or death. The chemical allows the venomous snails, who are carnivorous, to prey on animals as large as fish. - When used in humans, the chemical produces an analgesic effect by stopping the transmission of nerve signals. - Only one conotoxin-based painkiller, Prialt, is currently on the market, and can only be injected into the spinal cord. The drug also has multiple side effects such as hallucinations, memory loss and confusion, limiting its use. - Multiple groups of Australian scientists are currently working on a safe, oral version of the drug for humans, with recent breakthroughs set to reduce the nation’s reliance on addictive painkillers. - In 2010, Australian scientists injected venom from the cone snail to a group of laboratory rats which resulted in a reduction in pain "100 to 500" times more effective than commonly used pain relievers such as morphine or gabapentin. Lead researcher of the study David Craik says one of the biggest advantages is that the drug uses "different receptors" in the brain in comparison to highly-addictive opioids such as morphine. Sarah Keoghan

People who earn their livelihoods working with horses in eastern Will County, Chicago, are hoping recent gaming-expansion legislation will revive the struggling harness racing industry. “It’s a good business,” said Kim Roth, 51, of Crete, a horse trainer and owner. “Obviously, it’s dwindled. Hopefully (the legislation) will turn things around. It’s going to help everything.” “Everything” involves thousands of jobs directly and indirectly related to harness racing, according to an industry trade group. There are investors who own horses, men and women who breed and train the animals and drivers who man the carts known as sulkies. The trade involves veterinarians who care for animals, blacksmiths who shoe them, farmers who grow hay, occupations related to the transport of horses and entry-level jobs of mucking stables and grooming horses. Roth works out of Sawgrass Training Center near Crete, where trainers and riders take horses around a half-mile limestone track. Because of economics, there are far fewer horses bred in Illinois today than in past years. “Our breeding industry has collapsed,” Roth said. “That’s going to have to be completely rebuilt.” To put it in perspective, there were 124 standardbred horses foaled in Illinois in 2018, according to the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. During harness racing’s peak in the 1980s, there were more than 2,000 horses foaled each year in the state, the group said. Trainer Kim Roth, 51, of Crete, works with Ashlee's Fine, a 2-year-old standardbred Illinois horse she is training, on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "Our breeding industry has collapsed, " she said of the decline in the number of horses bred in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) “The purses have got so low, people can’t afford to pay their training bills,” Roth said. Nelson Willis, 75, of Crete, has worked in the business for 62 years, starting as a horse groomer when he was 13 years old. “You’ve got to learn how to take care of a horse before you learn how to train one,” he said. Willis said he trains “22 or 23” horses at Sawgrass and employs five people. Previously, he said, he had a dozen people working for him when he trained 55 horses at Balmoral Park near Crete. “I’ve seen the best of times and right now it’s the worst it’s ever been in this state,” Willis said. “So many people have left here.” For years, track owners, breeders and others in the trade pleaded with legislators to allow gaming positions at racetracks. Illinois was losing out to Ohio, Indiana and other states that drew more competitors and spectators, they said. Trainer Nelson Willis, 75, of Beecher, holds onto a horse halter outside a barn on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "I've seen the best of times and right now it's the worst it's ever been in this state," Willis said of the harness racing industry in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) After years of efforts, the General Assembly recently passed and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a measure to expand gaming. The major changes allow casinos in Chicago, the south suburbs and four other areas; legalizes sports betting; permits video gaming terminals at racetracks and other large venues; and designates a new racetrack for the south suburbs. Tinley Park officials have said a developer is interested in building the racetrack on the site of the former state mental health facility northwest of Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street. The historic approval happened seven years after lawmakers passed a measure to expand gaming and address losses in the horse racing industry. Former Gov. Pat Quinn vetoedthe 2012 measure. “That left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth,” said Roger Welch, 55, of Beecher. “That was the biggest letdown. One person with a veto single-handedly stopped Illinois horse racing in its tracks.” Welch is a fourth-generation horseman who was inducted into the Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2012. He has bred world-champion horses, such as Fox Valley Anabell, a horse owned by the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. The harness racing industry in Illinois has rapidly declined in the past five years, Welch said. “There’s no market to sell (horses) in Illinois,” Welch said. “I hope it’s not too late” to bring back the industry. Welch said he remembers when he was a child and visited Sportsman’s Park near Cicero. Crowds were so big, people paid for parking and admission, he said. Attendance dwindled as years passed, despite free admission and parking. Welch said he still lives in Beecher but spends the horse-racing season in Indiana, working mostly at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Anderson, northeast of Indianapolis. Since 2016, Hawthorne Race Course on the border of Cicero and Stickney has been the Chicago area’s only track with harness racing. Hawthorne also hosts thoroughbred racing. Balmoral ended its harness-racing tradition after the 2015 season and became a show-jumping venue in 2017. Maywood Park near Melrose Park also closed in 2015. Sportsman’s Park hosted its last horse race in 2002 and was demolished in 2009. Other harness racing tracks were Washington Park Race Track in Homewood and Aurora Downs Racetrack. Fire destroyed Washington Park in 1977, and Aurora Downs went out of business in 1976. During a 99-day peak stretch in the summer of 1979, Sportsman’s averaged daily attendance of 13,136 patrons who wagered a daily average of $1.6 million, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2017. Back then, harness racing outdrew thoroughbred racing at Arlington Park. Thoroughbreds — the types of horses raced at the Kentucky Derby — are larger but more delicate animals, Roth said. “Standardbred horses are tougher,” she said. Breeding stallions and mares for thoroughbred racing also is more expensive. Harness racers turned to Amish farmers for standardbred workhorses, Welch said. “Amish breeders were breeding every buggy mare they had,” he said. Thoroughbred racing has jockeys; standardbred racing has drivers. Several factors contributed to the decline of harness racing in Illinois, including the introduction of riverboat casinos in the 1990s. In 1995, state lawmakers introduced “purse recapture,” a provision designed to help racetracks when live simulcasts of out-of-state races were introduced. Recapture awarded track owners a share of money that otherwise would have been allotted to purses. The lower purses in Illinois drove many horsemen and horses to races in other states. The decline in racing quality further diminished attendance. “It was a chain reaction,” Roth said. The new legislation ends purse recapture after nearly 25 years. “Purse recapture was the killer,” Welch said. “The racetracks kept recapturing the money and the wagering dollars were less and less every year.” The Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association estimates that harness racing-related jobs stand at about 20,000 in Illinois, down from a peak of more than 60,000 two decades ago. The new legislation will create jobs indirectly related to harness racing, including racetrack positions such as tellers, bartenders, servers, marketers and accountants, the IHHA said. “The ripple effect of our industry on the Illinois economy is wide and difficult to grasp sometimes,” IHHA President Marty Engel said in a statement. “It was one of our missions to make sure that our economic impact was understood as valuable.” Blacksmith Jimmy Halvorson, 35, of Crete, shoes a horse on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at Sawgrass Training Center near Crete. "A lot of people left. Now there's a lot of talk that they want to come home," he said of harness racing-related jobs in Illinois. (Ted Slowik/Daily Southtown) Jimmy Halvorson, 35, of Crete, is a blacksmith who shoes horses at Sawgrass and other training centers. “It seemed like we had a dying business here,” Halvorson said. “A lot of people left. Now there’s a lot of talk they that want to come home.” Despite track closures, declining attendance and job losses in the industry, horsemen and women are optimistic that the new legislation will create growth within a few years. “I’m excited,” Welch said. “I think it’s going to be real promising.” Welch and others believe breeders, buyers and workers will return to Illinois as the harness racing industry is re-established. “This is going to get our breeding business going again,” Roth said.  By TED SLOWIK  Reprinted with permission of The Chicago Tribune

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

Columbus, OH - The U.S. Trotting Association (USTA) strongly opposes the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019 (S. 1820), which was introduced Wednesday (June 12) by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The legislation is bad for harness racing, horse racing, and the health and welfare of horses. "At a time in which the industry is focused on preventing deaths, this legislation will have the opposite effect, and more horses will die," said USTA President Russell Williams. The legislation seeks to ban the use of a race-day, therapeutic medication called Lasix. Lasix is endorsed by veterinarians as the only known treatment for Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (EIPH), a disease that causes bleeding in the lungs of a racehorse. Both the American Association of Equine Practitioners and North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians support the use of Lasix and oppose the legislation. The bill also increases the cost of regulation and threatens the livelihoods of USTA members. "This newly-created regulatory body will have to impose additional fees and costs on the industry because it will receive no federal funding. Harness racing horsemen will be hit particularly hard because most of them are working-class people," added Williams. "It will drive many of them out of the business." According to a recent American Horse Council study, the racing industry contributes $36 billion annually to the national economy and provides 240,000 direct jobs. Any measure that will add further regulatory and cost burdens will only harm those state and local economies that depend on the industry. Finally, the proposed legislation would federalize horse racing and place it under the control of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), adding an unnecessary layer of oversight to the current state-based system. It would create an unelected, national board that specifically prohibits current owners, trainers, drivers, and practicing veterinarians from serving on it. Williams questioned, "Why an unelected board at the FTC would be better at regulating horse racing than those that know our industry best is beyond me." While the recent deaths in California are alarming, and more research needs to be done on what caused the tragedies, the proposed legislation would not have prevented a single death. Instead of working to reduce deaths in the industry, this legislation covers up the problem by pointing the finger at so-called "rampant doping" in the industry. Test results prove that doping is not a problem. In 2018, the Anti-Doping and Drug Testing Program conducted by U.S. racing regulatory bodies and compiled by the Association of Racing Commissioners International found that 99.4 percent of all racehorses were compliant with the rules. The "clear" rate for Standardbred horses was even higher at 99.71 percent. The USTA strongly opposes the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019 (S. 1820) and encourages all industry participants and racing fans to contact their U.S. Senator to express their opposition to Senator Gillibrand's proposed legislation.   Ken Weingartner

Bagdad harness racing trainer Paul Williams has been fined $3000 over a positive swab returned by his horse Chasing Cheetahs at Devonport three months ago. A urine sample taken from Chasing Cheetahs, who finished fourth in the C2/C3 Pace on March 8, contained arsenic levels above the allowable threshold. Williams pleaded guilty to presenting the horse to race when not free of all prohibited substances. Stewards suspended half the fine on condition the trainer does not offend again in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, an unnamed harness racing participant has been fined $1500 over an incident at the Mowbray race meeting on May 3. The participant pleaded guilty to "acting in a manner detrimental to the industry" by deliberately causing damage to another participant's vehicle. Half the fine was suspended on condition there is no further offending in the next 12 months. Stewards refused to name the person involved as they said the incident was related to a on-going court case. Harness racing returns to Devonport on Friday night with two heats of the Raider Stakes and a prelude to the Granny Smith Stakes. Greg Mansfield Reprinted with permission of The Advocate

In response to questions received from the industry, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) wishes to clarify that routine diagnostic veterinary examinations of race horses are allowed within the 24-hour period prior to racing provided no medications, drugs or substances are administered. Info Bulletin No. 70 – Ban on Race Day Medication: Introduction of a Standards-Based Rule March 29, 2019 The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is implementing a ban on race day medications as of April 19, 2019 that will prohibit the administration of medications, drugs and substances to any horse entered to race starting 24 hours prior to the post time of the first race of the day they are scheduled to race.  For Standardbred horses, this includes Qualifying Races. This standards-based rule is critical to protecting horses, participants, the betting public and the integrity of racing as a whole. The rule changes, which include prohibiting contact between horses entered to race and veterinarians in the 24 hours prior to racing, except in cases of emergency, can be found in the Directives: Standardbred | Thoroughbred POLICY STATEMENT It is in the best interest of the horse, the human participants, the betting public and the public at large that horses race free of medications (other than Furosemide when properly enrolled in the Ontario Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage (E.I.P.H.) Program). THE ISSUE Medications administered within 24 hours of a race have resulted in adverse health outcomes of race horses.  Medications administered on race day have the potential to mask physical or behavioural problems in a horse and/or to alter the performance of a horse. These administrations can pose a risk to the health of the horse and participants while warming up or racing. The betting public and the public at large are unaware of the specifics of these administrations.  This standards-based rule aligns Ontario more closely with other major racing jurisdictions in the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia.  For example, in the United States, 28 out of the 33 states with pari-mutuel betting have implemented a ban on race day medications.   IMPLICATIONS The new standards-based rule will enhance the health and safety of the horse, the safety of the participants during the warming up of the horse and in the actual running of the race. The standards-based rule defines the timeframe of the ban as being 24 hours prior to the post time of the first race of the day they are scheduled to race.  This rule is not intended to prohibit normal non-medicated feedstuffs, water and non-medicated shampoos and non-medicated topical applications.  IMPLEMENTATION The AGCO will implement the standards-based rule through the following communications with the horse racing industry:    An educational component, consisting of Industry Notice Reminders and Information Bulletins; Paddock meetings; and/or Training sessions for trainers and grooms at each track, led by AGCO Race Officials and Commission Veterinarians. Race Line newsletter articles Twitter posts Website updates For more information, on-duty Race Officials may be contacted at: https://www.agco.ca/race-day-contact-list Questions about this process may be directed to AGCO Race Officials. CONTACT US Online: Anytime via the iAGCO online portal By mail and in person: Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario 90 Sheppard Avenue East Suite 200-300 Toronto, Ontario M2N 0A4 By telephone: Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST) General telephone: 416-326-8700 Toll free in Ontario: 1-800-522-2876  

MILTON, May 31, 2019 - Woodbine Entertainment and the Central Ontario Standardbred Association (COSA) have announced their support for the Alcohol Gaming Commission of Ontario's (AGCO) revision and enhanced enforcement of the urging rule for Standardbred Racing. The revised urging rules will take effect beginning Monday, June 3 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, and will be gradually phased in to all Standardbred tracks across the province. The revisions to the urging rule align with the commitment of Woodbine Entertainment and COSA to protect the health and safety of the equine athletes and integrity of racing. "Woodbine Entertainment fully supports the AGCO's revisions to the urging rule after requests were made to review in the best interests of our horses and sport," said Jessica Buckley, President of Woodbine Mohawk Park. "We are committed to upholding the highest standards and practices for the integrity of racing to best position our industry for a stable future." "We recognize the need for our industry to evolve and are pleased by the efficient progress made by the AGCO to revise the urging rule," said Bill O'Donnell, President of COSA. "Placing the welfare of our animals first will always be the top priority and our drivers understand that moving to wrist action only urging is best for the integrity of our sport." Woodbine Mohawk Park offers a world class Standardbred racing product with the best horses and drivers competing regularly. The enforcement of the revised rules at Woodbine Mohawk Park and during the upcoming $1 million Pepsi North America Cup will provide an example to racetracks and jurisdictions across the continent for the need to be proactive and progress with best practices for the safety of equine athletes. Mark McKelvie        

In response to a request from the industry to consider revising the current rules and Directives with respect to urging, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is making an amendment to the Standardbred Rules of Racing and to Policy Directive No. 5-2009: Penalty Guidelines for Inappropriate Urging of a Horse in Standardbred Racing. Amended wording will limit urging in Standardbred racing to acceptable "wrist action" only and there will be recommended minimum penalties for races with a purse of $100K or more. The rule change will become effective at Woodbine Mohawk Park on June 3, 2019 and will be gradually phased in across all Standardbred racetracks in Ontario on dates to be determined. https://www.agco.ca/bulletin/2019/information-bulletin-no-71-amendment-standardbred-urging-rules    

Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit (SIIU) detectives have charged a man today in relation to alleged harness race fixing in Shepparton. Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) contacted police following suspicious activity in a race during a meeting on 17 July, 2018. The HRV Integrity Unit initially identified the need for further investigation into this race on the night, secured evidence and referred the matter to Victoria Police. SIIU investigators subsequently commenced a criminal investigation into the matter. A 49-year-old Kilmore man has been charged with engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome, and use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes. He is due to appear at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 24 June, 2019. Victoria Police maintains close relations with HRV and other key industry partners in order to monitor activity, detect irregularities, and collect intelligence. The SIIU was established in 2013 and has focused on the collection, analysis and appropriate sharing of intelligence relating to sporting integrity issues in Victoria. The unit continues to work with racing and sporting bodies to enhance knowledge and awareness of identified sports integrity issues. Any person wishing to report sports corruption within the racing industry or other sports urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au Natalie Webster Media Officer

Harness racing driver Simon Lawson has unfairly copped a two and a half year ban from the JCA for betting on another horse in a race he was driving in. Originally in a reserved decision, Lawson was fined $8000 and given a suspension of 18 months for placing a $50EW Fixed Odds bet on Mr Natural in Race 10 at Alexandra Park on 25th May 2018, the “Book An ATC Bus to The Jewels” Mobile Trot while he drove My Royal Roxy into 5th place in the same race. Details of the Reserved Decision can be read here. That one and a half year ban has now been upgraded to two and a half years. For a young driver whose life revolved around horses and harness racing, the ban will certainly impact his life in a major way. Lawson himself could not believe the length of the term he was disqualified for. "I am in shock" he told Harnesslink today. "It has cost me my job and it is going to take me years to pay the fine. "I am not saying I did not do anything wrong, because I did make a mistake. "But I think the penalty is harsh and far outweighs the breach of rules," he said. Earlier in the year Lawson was cleared of race fixing in the race he profited from after police interviewed some of the drivers in the race and found there was no race fixing involved. Betting patterns that were analysed on the race in question also confirmed no illegal activity. The two and a half year ban is extremely excessive. It is our belief the RIU appealed the original decision to have the term extended just to make Simon Lawson a scapegoat. Lawson has now been unfairly burdened with a penalty so far out of context with the rule breach it seems like a joke. Granted the industry needs to protect its integrity but this over the top suspension in our eyes instead makes the industry a laughing stock and instead further damages the industry. Many owners trainers and drivers we talked too are growing more and more disheartened at the decisions coming from this integrity unit. Something has got to be done and we think the heads at the RIU need to go as they are continuing to hurt all aspects of harness racing. Harnesslink Media

Maine is taking steps to push forward with sports betting legalization as legislators will have to review as many as three sports betting bills. Gaming experts say that the state could legalize sports betting as early as next year. As sport betting legalization takes off throughout the US, lawmakers in Maine think the state should get a slice of the action. Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, who acts as a sponsor of one of the proposals, said the reason why they want to legalize sports betting is pretty obvious – the practice is now in full swing in many states and they are reaping a number of benefits. The bill LD1348 sponsored by Evangelos is modelled on New Jersey and would permit individuals over 21 to place bets on both professional and amateur sports at casinos, off-track betting parlors and racetracks. They will also be allowed to wager online. A $30,000 license fee will be imposed, and sports gambling revenue will be taxed 25 percent. Under the proposal, almost all of the revenue will go towards primary education. The second bill presented in full will set a minimum age limit of 18 years. However, 18-year-olds will only be allowed to do it in off-track betting parlors and brick-in-mortar harness racetracks. Sponsored by Rep. Dustin White, the LD1515 proposal will impose a modest $5,000 licensing fee. The largest portion of the income derived from an 18 percent tax would go to the state’s harness racing industry while a portion would be given to primary education and college scholarships. Maine Legislature to Debate Sports Betting   LAWMAKERS DISAGREE ON SOME ASPECTS However, it remains unclear how the state is going to organize its sports betting industry. Lawmakers can’t seem to agree on a single path in terms of the gaming taxes the state should impose, as well as how the revenue generated should be used. There is currently no reliable estimation on the extent of the underground gambling market in Maine and hence there is a question market as to whether a legalized sports betting market will have a significant impact. Some experts have suggested that lawmakers in Maine take a cautious approach and lower their estimates of what they expect a legalized sports betting market to generate. Maine will also have to put in place measures to address a potential increase in problem gambling. Sen. Louis Luchini, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, said the negative effects of gambling expansion cannot be ignored. Luchini, who is also drafting his own sports betting proposal, said gambling bills are always shrouded with controversy. All parties should take the time to study the proposals in order to come up with responsible gambling measures. To date, only two bills seeking to regulate sports betting have been presented in full in Maine, but there are three other proposals still in the works. By Landon Wheeler Reprinted with permission of Legal Gambling and The Law

Exercise-induced Pulmonary Hemorrage (EIPH) has been a recognized condition in horses since the early 18 century. While the amount of bleeding in horses varies, it is universally recognized that the vast majority of horses in training and racing do indeed bleed. The advent of the flexible endoscope confirmed in studies that in thoroughbreds the stress put upon them, proved that up to 75 per cent of them bleed in training and more so in racing. Other studies done on standardbred and thoroughbreds, after running three races, showed that 100 per cent of these horses bled at least once, evidenced by blood in the trachea. The cause of the bleeding is the amount of pressure experienced that racing puts on the pulmonary veins, four times the normal pressure. The pressure causes fibrosis and in turn Pulmonary fibrosis scars and thickens the tissue around and between the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, which decreases the lungs ability to function and decreases the racing life of the horse. I have attended multiple-day seminars with experts from all over the globe on the topic of the race day administration of Lasix. In North America, Lasix is the most popular medication for treating EIPH because studies have shown that it is the most effective treatment in decreasing the amount of bleeding and therefore the scarring and thickening of the tissue around the lungs. In many of the English speaking countries around the world conducting racing, where race day use of Lasix is prohibited, it is nonetheless permitted up to race day because it is acknowledged to have the desired therapeutic effects in controlling EIPH. One has to ask if it is recognized as necessary in training because of its control of this problem, when the stress is not as severe as when a horse competes in a race, then what is the rationale for withholding it on race day, where four times the normal pressure in the racing environment exists? It has been said that when our horses, mainly thoroughbreds, go overseas they compete quite well without Lasix. That is indeed true, perhaps because they have a least had the benefit of controlling pulmonary hemorrhage long enough to achieve success over their foreign competitors. Overseas competition is against horses that are using something far less efficacious than Lasix, or worse nothing at all, to address the long term effects occasioned by the increased stress in racing. Those who want to join the community of Lasix-free racing point to the alleged masking of other substances, but the controlled administration of the substance; the hourly limitation on its use pre-race( 4-4 1/2 hours); the testing for threshold overages of the substance, has put that argument to bed. Now the newest mantra for the elimination of race-day Lasix, is the horrible, horrible loss of life at Santa Anita Racetrack. The false claim being, that while the rest of North America continues to help the horse racing on Lasix, without nay correlation to catastrophes, Lasix is being inexplicably blamed as the proximate cause of those catastrophes. The problem, is the potential for the elimination of a recognized effective tool in controlling and minimizing, EIPH that helps the horse cope with the effects of stress. Santa Anita should be shut down immediately until the true causes of these catastrophes can be accurately determined and corrected. The factors point initially to the track’s surface and under-footing, but the more precise answer must be determined by analyzing all of the multiple possible factors, Lasix, being clearly not the culprit. Without closing down Santa Anita immediately, the industry, thoroughbred and standardbred alike, comes under tremendous pressure from all those looking to eliminate the industry anyway. Santa Anita is providing fuel to a fire that threatens the game, by racing more in the face of its undetermined cause of these catastrophic breakdowns. Allowing continued suffering at Santa Anita is intolerable and unacceptable and should not continue. Enough is enough and if one is looking to blame Lasix, it is suggested that one look elsewhere. Every industry organization needs to be heard on any and every false narrative out there. No benefit can be achieved by being silent on issues that threaten our existence. Joe Faraldo

Warrior Inside started life as a winner. A Kentucky thoroughbred, the chestnut brown bay gelding racehorse trained at Churchill Downs in Louisville. In his debut last March in New Orleans, he placed second in a field of 63. But his fourth race at Churchill Downs was his last, coming in eighth. He'd developed career-ending bone chips in both front knees. Life after racing for most horses usually ends in one of two ways. Animals with good genes are used for stud service in hopes of producing superior stock. Others are sent to slaughter at rendering plants in Canada and Mexico. Furniture store chain IKEA made headlines in 2013 when traces of horse meat were found in the store's famous Swedish meatballs, which were sent out to several countries across Europe.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that 80,000 horses annually get processed for meat. More: Oxford firefighters, Oakland Co. deputies rescue horse trapped under ice More: Woman gets jail for neglect of horses in western Michigan (L to R) Mr. Palmer and Warrior Inside play with each other at their stalls inside Willowbrooke Farms in Plymouth, Michigan on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. This farm caters towards retired race horses enrolled in the Canter USA program that rehabs, retrains and finds new homes for thoroughbreds who leave racing at young ages when they become injured or are not fast enough to win. . (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)   Warrior Inside got lucky. He ended up at Canter Michigan, one of the few sanctuaries in the country that gives losing horses another shot. "When horses broke down, they would just get rid of them," said Canter Michigan's horse trainer Jennifer Blades on owners of racetracks. "Now, they're not allowed to do that, so that's made more horses come in through the Canter program." Warrior Inside, known as Indy by his handlers, is one of nine horses at Canter Michigan. The organization in Commerce Township, founded in 1998, today has 19 affiliates nationwide rehabbing former racehorses for new careers as show horses or for law enforcement. Blades, said most of the horses she sees “just weren’t fast enough” or suffered an injury — common for young horses. Jennifer Blades, the owner and operator of Willowbrooke Farms in Plymouth poses for a portrait with Warrior Inside, a former race horse on Tuesday, February 5, 2019. The farm caters towards retired race horses enrolled in the Canter USA program which rehabs, retrains and finds new homes for thoroughbreds who leave racing at young ages when they become injured or are not fast enough to win. . (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)   Road to recovery Indy's trainer, Tim Glyshaw, donated the horse to Canter Michigan which sent him to Michigan State University's large animal clinic for surgery in May. Afterward, he spent six months in rehab at a Lansing-area farm.  But surgery and rehab is expensive. Horse operations usually cost between $3,000-$4,000 and rehab an additional $2,000-$3,000, Blades said. Canter Michigan relies on fundraisers and support from other nonprofit agencies. In December, the ASPCA granted $225,000 to nine equine rescue groups, including the Michigan and national chapters of Canter. After rehab, Blades said, training begins. “We start with groundwork,” said Blades. “We put them in a crosstie and they learn to be groomed, handled and to be quiet. A lot of the racehorses are very jumpy and they will kick at you and will bounce around a little bit to break the ties.” Warrior Inside, a former race horse, burns off energy inside Willowbrooke Farms in Plymouth on Tuesday, February 5, 2019.  (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)   Not all horses receive the same training, since every equine is different. Some horses may only be able to spend 20 to 30 minutes outside, while others can last for an hour, Blades said.   “When I go to work with a horse, I have a basic plan, but I have to adapt it according to how they’re doing that day or each horse individually,” she said. “And they have their good and bad days just like we do. Some have more of a work ethic and really want to be good, and others don’t really want to be bothered."   Horse racing in Michigan  According to the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, a group dedicated to improving horse racing in the state, the rise of the sport in Michigan began in 1933 when Gov. William Comstock signed a law legalizing horse racing with wagering. Northville Downs became the state’s first racetrack, opening in 1944. Others soon followed, including Jackson Harness Raceway, Hazel Park Race Track and Detroit Race Course. Harness racers move down the home stretch at Northville Downs race track on Saturday, May 14, 2016 in Northville. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier)   Horse racing hit its peak in the late 1980s, with eight tracks operating across the state, in cities such as Flint, Saginaw, Mount Pleasant and Muskegon. But the industry began to decline with increasing competition from other types of wagering, starting with the creation of the Michigan Lottery in 1972. Casinos built on Indian reservations became big in the 1980s, and Detroit saw the opening of three casinos in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Simulcasting, where guests could watch and bet on multiple live races in one location, helped keep racetracks open a little longer, but could not solely save them. Muskegon Race Course closed in 1997, with many of the other racetracks following suit into the late 2000s.  Last year, Hazel Park Race Track abruptly closed after nearly 70 years of business.The track was one of two racetracks still operating in the state, and the only track offering thoroughbred racing. Shortly after the closing of Hazel Park, home builder Hunter Pasteur Homes announced that Northville Downs will be sold and converted into a mixed-use development. The track plans to stay open through the 2020 racing season, and hopes to operate at a new location after the property is sold. Canter Executive Director Robbie Timmons said the group received two horses from Hazel Park right after the track closed, with another brought in last September. One equine has already found a new home.    However, Blades does not expect any horses from Northville Downs, since it only has standardbred horses, which are used in harness racing. Canter only trains thoroughbreds, with the majority coming from places like Ohio and Kentucky. A new life Willowbrooke Farms in Plymouth, caters to retired race horses enrolled in the Canter USA program that rehabs, retrains and finds new homes for thoroughbreds who leave racing at young ages when they become injured or are not fast enough to win.  (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)   How long it takes to get a racehorse ready for adoption can vary. Blades said horses are available for sale within a couple of months. But equines that have been injured might not be suitable for adoption until they've spent five to eight months in the program. When Indy is ready, he's expected to fetch $1,800, Blades said. Horses at Canter usually sell for prices ranging from $800 to $2,000 to buyers from as far away as North Carolina and Texas. Blades has yet to learn what Indy’s new career path will be, but she believes he "can do almost anything." “He’s quiet, easygoing, so I think he could be a pleasure horse. He’s built to be a jumping horse the way he moves, but we have not jumped him yet because we didn’t want to push it too soon. I think he’s gonna make some Canter adult an awesome horse for whatever they choose. "I just want to see the horse go on and be happy and have a good career and a good home.” By Micah Walker Reprinted with permission of the Detroit Free Press

Columbus, OH - Following the U.S. Trotting Association's 2019 Board of Directors Annual Meeting held March 8-11 in Columbus, OH, the USTA's Call to Action Subcommittee issued the following announcement regarding the issue of harness racing hidden trainers on Thursday (March 14). At the Call to Action Subcommittee meeting on Friday night (March 8) the committee updated their plan regarding the initiative to prohibit hidden trainers from continuing to ply their unethical trade by using program trainers (commonly referred to as "beard" trainers) when that hidden trainer is banned from being licensed or has been suspended. "The essence of the beard trainer problem is that trainers currently under suspension or whose license has been denied are conducting business as usual, they are making a mockery out of the industry," said Call to Action Committee Chairman Mark Loewe. "Currently, we have to rely on the state regulators and licensing is their only tool to combat this problem." "It is important to note that beard trainers are cooperating in a scheme to defraud the regulators and the public, so they are also culpable," added Loewe. USTA Director and Subcommittee member Joe Faraldo previously presented the concept of "regulatory discovery" to end this unethical practice. Essentially, regulatory discovery requires suspected beard trainers to provide a series of documents to regulators, who could examine the flow of money and other communication to ascertain they are just acting as a shill for the hidden, unlicensed trainer. If so, the beard trainer would also be suspended or have his or her license application rejected. "It is important to note that this process is not expensive for the regulators because it requires no additional detectives or other investigatory expense" explained USTA President Russell Williams. "And it should also be noted that it is very likely that it won't be necessary to get every commission to adopt regulatory discovery or to catch every beard trainer. A few prosecutions will go a long way," added Williams. The USTA first presented the regulatory discovery concept at Association of Racing Commissioners International meetings in Omaha, NE last July, and will pursue it to a conclusion. As a result, the proposal was assigned to an ARCI subcommittee for further consideration. The committee determined that they will submit it again for discussion at the ARCI meeting scheduled for August 8-10 in Saratoga Springs, NY. The USTA is also prepared to take the concept directly to regulators, track operators and horsemen's organizations. In fact, Faraldo indicated that the policy has already been implemented at Yonkers Raceway, where he is the president of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York. At this year's Call to Action Subcommittee meeting, the committee drafted three proposals regarding guidelines for regulatory discovery to be distributed to racing commissions, racetracks, and horsemen's associations, respectively. In addition, the USTA is also looking at its own licensing and membership structure to determine whether it can act as an association to implement regulatory discovery. Ken Weingartner

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