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In the 14 years since Maine voters approved the Hollywood Racino referendum for Bangor, over $112 million dollars has been directed to the state’s harness racing industry. The original referendum dedicated 11 percent of net slot machine revenues to harness racing and agriculture fairs, with additional funds to be set aside for prescription drugs for the elderly plus college scholarship funds. Unfortunately, the terms were later altered and 22 percent of slot machine revenue became dedicated to harness racing. Since that time, the number of licensed Maine horse racing owners has fallen 40 percent, betting on Maine horse racing has fallen 57 percent, while the number of mares bred for racing is down 44 percent, with many horses racing here owned by large out-of-state interests that reap the majority of the purses. Scarborough Downs, the state’s largest harness racing facility, is currently for sale as owners describe “dwindling profits, shrinking attendance, increasing competition from casinos, aging facilities, plus controversies within the industry.” Critics cite “functional obsolescence and deferred maintenance” as other issues as Scarborough Downs has received over $13 million in slot revenue, while claiming to lose $13,200 every day the track operates. Bangor Raceway, which features sulky races five months of the year — its largest event in the past 12 months was a snowmobile race — is no longer necessary justification for Hollywood Slots. Now, as the “racino” regularly simulcasts horse races from all over the country. The saddest part of watching this industry’s decline is that legislators subsidized harness racing with little, if any, oversight, giving on average, $9.3 million a year to tracks, breeders and the industry to do whatever they wished. The results question the wisdom of those acts, as well as the intentions of some of the industry’s key individuals. At a recent hearing before Rep. Louie Luchini’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, Harness Racing Commission Executive Director Henry Jennings tried to explain a confusing industry report thusly: “I was hoping that you wouldn’t ask me about these two pages.” Without controls, measurements or competition, incompetence and corruption are likely to exploit “free” money as morality becomes a short commodity. While no one alleges malfeasance here, citizens are left to wonder why so many hands in such a lucrative cookie jar have benefited so few, with little to show for such large sums of money. At the very least, it is another sign of how not to govern. In a state with chronic social demands for taxpayer dollars, has the distribution of casino takes helped this former family industry or forestalled the inevitable? “Yes, there are benefits … whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs is the question,” Luchini stated. Taxpayers expect government to be good stewards of all monies taken in by the state and its institutions. When the money is easy and free, suddenly more people “will need it.” Is it unreasonable to expect that we simply cannot give tax monies to every idea? Reprinted with permission of The Ellsworth American

Scarborough, Maine – April 28, 2017 … Horse supply issues in the state of Maine have made necessary the decision to cancel the Scarborough Downs harness racing card that had been scheduled for Thursday May 4th. Live harness racing will be conducted this weekend on Saturday (4-29) and Sunday (4-30) with post time set for 1:30 PM. The following weekend, the Downs will race on Saturday May 6th (Kentucky Derby Day) with a special post time of 2:00 PM, and on Sunday at the normal 1:30 post. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

KITTERY, Maine — A York County casino could be in the cards for southern Maine courtesy of a citizen initiative slated to be on the November ballot. The group Harness Racing Jobs Fairness LLC, based in Augusta, introduced the citizen petition in December and the secretary of state certified it Jan. 23. This measure would allow for a single casino or slot parlor to be constructed in a town willing to host it in York County. The Legislature has the ability to vote on the bill sometime between now and the November election. Historically, the Legislature has declined to vote on citizen petitions and usually allows them to go before the voters. According to the ballot initiative, 10 percent of net income from slot machines, and 9 percent of net income from table games would be earmarked for the Maine Department of Education. Smaller fractions are to be set aside for the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquody Tribe, higher education in Maine, agriculture, drug addiction programs, the "Fund to Encourage Racing at Maine's Commercial Tracks," and several other entities. Both the Penobscot Nation and Passamaquody Tribe did not return multiple phone calls asking what they would be doing to receive 1 percent of net slot income under the proposed legislation. One element that troubles opponents of the casino is the stipulation that 10 percent of net slot income would be given to the harness racing industry. "This bill is written like people in York County care about saving this gambling industry from a bygone era," said Jenny Freeman, a Kittery resident who was a founding member of the Casinos No political action committee in 2003. "It simply can't support itself anymore." Harness Racing Jobs Fairness is associated with Las Vegas casino developer Shawn Scott. Scott's associates would stand to come away with 61 percent of the net gaming revenue for a York County facility. In 2014, the gaming management company White Sands Gaming published a report for the Maine Legislative Council that arrived at the conclusion that Maine could support another casino, and wrote, "Based on demographics including population, income, age and propensity to game this facility should be located in southern Maine (Maine beaches) with close proximity and access to Interstate 95. Southern Maine includes not only substantial Maine population but is positioned to draw upon important demographics in New Hampshire and Massachusetts." The Oxford Casino and Hollywood Casino in Bangor netted more than $80 million and more than $52 million, respectively, in gaming income in 2016, with a majority of revenue from slots, according to the Maine Gambling Control Board. Scott was responsible for establishing Bangor's slot parlor in 2003 at the Bangor harness racetrack. He sold the racetrack and parlor rights to Penn National Gaming for $51 million shortly after they were approved. It was Scott's ownership of the Bangor racetrack and casino, or "racino," in 2003, which served as the basis for the language on the proposed ballot initiative in York County. It grants his group the exclusive right to open the York County casino, and reads, "the board may accept an application for a slot machine operator license or casino operator license; to operate in York County slot machines at a slot machine facility or slot machines and table games at a casino from any entity that owned in 2003 at least 51 percent of an entity licensed to operate a commercial track in Penobscot County that conducted harness racing with pari-mutuel wagering on more than 25 days during calendar year 2002." In other words, the referendum would give Shawn Scott the exclusive rights to develop the new York County casino. Harness Racing Jobs Fairness did not return multiple attempts to reach its representatives for comment. Kittery has specific language in its town charter prohibiting the establishment of a casino in town and the only way the charter can be changed is through a public referendum. "It's my understanding that the language in the town charter protects us from the state voting to put a casino in," said Town Council Chairman Gary Beers. "There may be some other towns interested, but any potential casino would have to follow the local zoning regulations of the specific municipality." Tim Feeley, spokesman for the Office of the Maine Attorney General, said since the proposed bill has language saying a willing town would have to either approve a casino by a public referendum or vote by a town's municipal officers, a town like Kittery would not have to worry about the rest of the voters in Maine approving a casino for York County and giving developers free rein over where they would like to put it. However, casinos do not operate in the vacuum of a single community and often have spillover costs that affect surrounding towns, according to state Rep. Mark W. Lawrence, D-South Berwick. "I have a friend in law enforcement who says when you build a casino you need to prepare for OUIs at all hours of the day, since these are a non-stop operations, and they'll bring you free drinks if you keep playing," Lawrence said. "States become addicted to gaming revenue and don't consider the policy impacts. The state essentially becomes promoters of gaming in order to increase revenue." This ballot effort illustrates a concern with Maine's citizen initiative law, which allows individual entities to gain economic advantage through a narrowly tailored ballot initiative and not through the legislative process. "My concern is the citizen ballot process is becoming a process where one group specifically is trying to craft a law to get a special privilege," Lawrence said. "Conversely, then you'll only see one group oppose the measure, in this case it would likely be the Bangor and Oxford (casino) owners." Some fear with more casinos opening, there may be an over-saturation of gaming in New England. Wynn will be opening a casino resort just outside of Boston in 2019 to go along with the Bangor and Oxford casinos in Maine. Wynn paid $85 million for its gaming license, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission's application. "Under this referendum, Shawn Scott would pay the state $5 million for the licensing fee, a drop in the bucket when you consider what the developer of the Wynn casino outside of Boston paid," said Freeman of Kittery. "He made a quick $51 million from the Bangor casino in 2003 and thinks we're dumb enough to give him another ridiculously sweet deal." By Alexander LaCasse alacasse@seacoastonline.com Reprinted with permission of the fosters.com site

More money for retired horses would be nice, but perhaps not having retired horses at all is the answer. Colin Woodard’s thorough piece (“Casino funds could offer hope for retired harness racing horses,” Dec. 18) raises another issue: subsidizing a dying business. Maine’s harness racing industry continues in steady decline despite an $8.44 million taxpayer subsidy in 2015 and similar annual allocations from slot machine revenue since 2005. The continuous financial outlay is further called into question, given the well-documented checkered history of harness racing, one that includes animal cruelty in which fines are an ongoing cost of doing business, drugging has a long and shady past and overbreeding results in many “surplus” horses being sent to slaughter plants in Quebec. The life of a harness racing horse is not some bucolic scene. It’s often miserable for the horses as racers, and after a short career, typically three to five years, they become unwanted. As Woodard notes: “It’s the uncomfortable secret of Maine’s harness racing industry: Each year, some 200 horses end their racing careers at ages 3 to 14, but will live to be 30.” The industry has always needed an outlet to rid itself of animals it deems as unproductive. The article begins with a description of the awful condition of Yankee, a 10-year-old racehorse bound for the slaughterhouse by his previous owner, but saved by a rescue. With Scarborough Downs likely to close this year (further indication of a industry in free fall), the Maine Harness Racing Commission finds itself with $3 million of the track’s annual subsidy. A proposal to use some of that money for the care of these young, retired horses is long overdue. As Robyn Cuffey, respected re-trainer of racehorses, told Woodard: “I’m still trying to figure out why the people who made all the money off these horses are not putting a dime back into taking care of them afterward.” State Rep. Don Marean of Hollis claims that such a proposal is a “pipe dream” and that any unallocated funds will be diverted to pay the operating costs of the harness racing commission. A Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association lobbyist, spokesperson and board member, Marean also frequently mentions that the commission donates $5,000 for distressed horses – less than 1 percent of the $8.4 million subsidy. This would have been a perfect time for a much-needed public relations boost to embrace a minimal allotment and recognition of the need, but the industry instead showed its real hand again. Marean declared: “The numbers you are getting are fabricated on emotion and the need of some rescues looking for monetary support.” It is all about money – these magnificent animals are treated as a disposable commodity. Marean, who led the opposition to an anti-horse slaughter bill in 2013, claims in the article, “The entire industry is struggling to stay afloat with the competition from the casinos and … online gambling.” These same sentiments were expressed by Sharon Terry, owner of Scarborough Downs, when she had requested further subsidies for the track. All of this raises the larger question: Isn’t now finally the time for our state legislators to examine the merits (or lack thereof) of the state funneling millions of taxpayer dollars into an outdated, inhumane, discredited and dying industry that has shown a precipitous decline for decades, despite the state’s significant financial attempts to revitalize it? Yes, a fund to help retired racehorses would be great, but not having retired racehorses is better. The harness racing industry’s struggles are anything but new. In the early 1990s, the industry was in full panic: Business as measured by the live handle (the total amount waged on harness racing) was down over 30 percent, from $45.2 million in 1987 to $29.8 million in 1991. The solution to this free fall? Off-track betting parlors: neighborhood pubs for fans to gamble on races by live TV. OTB parlors were touted at the time as the salvation of the harness racing industry, but 25 years later, both harness racing and off-track betting are withering, with revenues down now to just a scant $4 million. Then slot machine revenue allocation was implemented to “rescue” the industry yet again. Since it opened in 2005, Hollywood Slots has distributed over $80 million in slot machine profits to the harness racing industry, directly and indirectly. The infusion of revenue as boosted purses and encouraged horse owners to invest in faster horses, but attendance and money wagered on harness racing have continued to decline. With so many other significant state financial needs, it remains perplexing why the state continues to prop up an activity that is outdated, cruel and has drastically faded in popularity. Moreover, no animal that has served mankind so long, so well, so nobly, and in so many capacities, deserves such a fate. By Robert Fisk Jr., a former state legislator, is president and director of the Falmouth-based Maine Friends of Animals. Reprinted with permission of The Portland Press Herald

Scarborough, Maine - October 15, 2006 ... A large and enthusiastic crowd turned out for Festival of Champions Day at Scarborough Downs on Saturday (10/15) to witness the crowning of the three-year-old champions of the Maine Sire Stakes harness racing program. The expectation of exciting equine thrills reached near fever pitch on the picture perfect autumn afternoon at the southern Maine racing venue, and with nearly $370,000 in purse money on the line, the horse and drivers certainly did not disappoint. Seeley Man capped a lustrous sire stakes campaign by adding the sophomore colt pacing trophy to last year's freshman crown, all the while retaining his perfect 24 for 24 undefeated career win streak. Hustled to the early lead in the $85,233 split by driver Ron Cushing, the Western Maverick - Perfect Launch gelding never felt pressure at any point in the mile as he extended off to an 11-3/4 length margin at the wire. He ultimately stopped the clock in an unhurried 1:55.2, establishing a new divisional track record in the process. "People might have thought we were crazy to spend the amount of money that we did to buy him at the conclusion of his two-year-old season, just to race him in Maine" Ron Cushing remarked, "But I really liked him. Gerry Smith (former trainer) was nice enough to sell him and we were nice enough to pay the price. He's been a very nice horse throughout his career." Now with a career bankroll in excess of $176K, the Heidi Gibbs trained Seeley Man is owned in partnership by Kevin Sywyk, Ben Bill & Will Stable and Florence O'Keefe and was bred by Lynn-Marie Plouffe. Talladega Speed (David Ingraham was second with The Irish Maverick (John Nason third. Western Stepp was another repeat champion on Saturday as the Western Maverick - French Stepp filly earned top three-year-old honors after securing last year's two-year-old championship in a maiden-breaking upset. The win was the 10th of the season for the Western Maverick - French Stepp filly whose career earnings now eclipse the $127K level. Regular pilot Drew Campbell hustled her to her customary front-end seat but was forced to use all his powers of persuasion late as Ladies Love Outlaws (Kevin Switzer, Jr) closed gamely in the $85,233 contest which was clocked in 1:57. "She got a little lazy on the lead today and I was glad to see Junior not fly by me" Campbell said, "But she did hold the other horse off and that's what counts." Owner/trainer James Dunn added, "I was really glad the wire wasn't 30 or 40 feet down the track or we might have got beat. She's certainly earned some good pasture time." Western Stepp was bred in Maine by Dirk Duncan and Sidney Bradley. Ladies Love Outlaws settled for a hard fought runner-up share while Life Is A Short Walk rallied for show. Miss Flaggy Meadow and driver Ivan Davies were also put to a stern stretch test on Saturday, as the daughter of Boy Band - Willing Wind earned the top placing in the $85,201 filly trotting final. She ground out the win in extended overland fashion while withstanding unrelenting late pressure through the lane from Just A Little Evil (Heath Campbell) with the pair reaching the wire nearly in lockstep timed in 2:01.3. "I want to thank breeder Mike Andrew for selling me this horse and Ivan's done a tremendous job with this filly" said owner Jack Kelly of the East Pond Stable, "He's resolved some earlier problems she had through determined experimentation - Ivan really deserves all the credit for her success." "Now I can't wait to watch my son's horse, the Maine-bred Obrigado race in the International Trot at Yonkers", Kelly continued, referring to trainer Paul Kelly, "What a great day for state of Maine harness racing!" Just A Little Evil fell just 3/4 -length short while finishing second. Gonna Kiss Me Or Not (Ron Cushing) was third. Noble Yaz hit a homerun in the $85,185 colt trotting final, pouncing at the ¾-mile marker before extending out to an imposing 4-length margin as driver Nick Graffam triumphantly pointed his whip skyward in celebration. The Noble Venture - Sassy Cathy gelding who was timed in 2:01.1, is trained by Graffam's dad, Michael, for owner/breeder Francis Hanley. "The horse has just been getting better lately" Hanley said, "He and Nick have been melding but the horse just seemed to figure out that he shouldn't be out there fooling around but that he should be getting to the lead and getting the job done. He sure figured it out at the right time!" Dusty Venture (Ivan Davies) settled for second while Pembroke Bada Bing (Heath Campbell was third. With Maine Sire Stakes season has now reaching its successful conclusion, the fall/winter meet will continue at the Downs through the first weekend of December. Live harness racing will be featured weekly on a Thursday through Sunday schedule with a 1:30 PM (EDT) post time. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine - October 13, 2006 ... The Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association and Scarborough Downs will present the harness racing annual Festival of Champions Day on Saturday October 15, 2016 with first post time slated for 1:30 pm. For the first and only time this season, all the top-rated three year-old Maine-bred racehorses will be gathered in one spot, on one day, as the championships of the Maine Sire Stakes program will be decided, and with nearly $370,000 in purse money on the line, Saturday will be the richest day in state-of-Maine harness racing this year. Seeley Man, undefeated in 23 career starts, has been cast in the 'leading man' role, as the sophomore gelding will attempt to add the three-year-old championship trophy to last year's freshman crown in an almost unheard of bid to sweep the table in the ultra-tough arena of Maine Sire Stakes competition. "This is indeed an historic bid" said Seeley Man's breeder, Lynn-Marie Plouffe of Saco, Maine. "A horse may well have remained undefeated at some point during the 40-plus seasons of the Maine Sires Stakes program, but none have done it in recent years. It takes a special animal to pull off such an impressive feat and we are so proud that Seeley Man has represented our breeding farm in such gallant fashion." Seeley Man was born on March 3, 2013 at the picturesque Dupuis Farm in southern Maine and was trained to a perfect 11 for 11 race record by Gerald Smith for owner Florence O'Keefe as a two-year-old. Retaining a share for herself, O'Keefe sold the budding star at the conclusion of that campaign to a partnership which includes Kevin Sywyk of Swartz Creek, Michigan and the Ben, Bill and Will Stable of Carmel, Maine. The gelding has been effectively driven by Ron Cushing for trainer Heidi Gibbs throughout the 2016 season and has now amassed career earnings in excess of $133,000. A win on Saturday would push his seasonal earnings total to over $100,000 - an eye-popping tally for a horse raced almost exclusively in Maine. The horses competing in these finals are bred, trained and stabled here in Maine, and have been competing in stakes races at the fairs and at tracks around the state all racing season. The top eight horses in each of the four divisions will vie for purses of $85,000 each, which are the largest in Maine horse racing history. "We're so excited to be hosting such an important event in Maine harness racing," said Scarborough Downs owner Sharon Terry. "Our commitment has always been to support the farms, families, and fairs of Maine, and this event is exemplary of all of those things." The fall/winter meet will continue at the Downs through the first weekend of December with live harness racing featured weekly on a Thursday through Sunday schedule with a 1:30 PM (EDT) post time. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or visit our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine (September 27, 2016) ... Scarborough Downs, Maine's premiere horse racing venue since 1950, is set to kick off the fall portion of it's 2016 season on October 14th, featuring live harness racing action on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday schedule with post time slated for 1:30 PM (EDT) daily. Festival of Champions Day will headline the opening weekend action as the Maine Sire Stakes championships for three-year-old Maine-bred trotters and pacers will be contested on Saturday (10/15), with total stakes purses expected to exceed the $350,000 level. The fall/winter meet will continue at the Downs through the first weekend of December with the 2016 closing day scheduled for Sunday December 4th. In addition to live harness racing action, Scarborough Downs features simulcast wagering on all the top north American thoroughbred and harness racing tracks, seven days a week from noon to midnight, in the Inside Track Lounge facility. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs    

Scarborough, Maine (August 26, 2016) ... On what, at first glance, appeared a rather pedestrian Scarborough Downs harness racing program, speed quickly became the order of the day as two trotting records for four-year-old trotters were rewritten in impressive style during the course of the Friday (8/26) twilight performance. Tango Pirate, a recent Saratoga import who was up in class off a dominant win last weekend, charged hard from the gate in the opening event with Dan Deslandes calling the shots from the sulky. The duo were never seriously challenged throughout the mile, gliding to victory in a sterling 1:58.1 and eclipsing the previous four-year-old gelding benchmark of 1:58.2 which was established by Names Muscle just five weeks prior. Tango Pirate, the son of Crazed-Celia Bleue is owned and trained by Eddie Fournier, Jr of Auburn, Maine. The standard for four-year-old mares was also lowered later on the Friday card with Cherry Crown Jewel and driver Mark Athearn grinding their way to a torrid 1:57.4 score while demolishing the previous track record of 1:58.3 set almost one year ago to the day by Bryan's Angel. Trained by Athearn's wife Gretchen, the daughter of RC Royalty-Nowerland Kristen is owned by William Phipps of Yarmouth, Maine. Scarborough Downs features live harness racing with twilight cards on Friday and Saturday with post time at 4:30 PM (EDT). The Sunday matinees get underway at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs           #      

More than a decade ago, Maine voters gave the green light to slot machine gambling in the state. In making their case to voters, supporters vowed that some of the revenues would prop up the state’s ailing harness racing industry. But recent data show that since then, more than $100 million dollars in slot machine proceeds have gone to the industry in Maine — and it’s still struggling. Back in 2003, lawyer, horse farmer and sometime racehorse driver William Childs spent a lot of time in Augusta, trying to convince the Legislature to approve slot machines in Maine. “It would revitalize harness racing,” he said at the time. “We pretty much race for the same purses now that my grandfather raced for in 1970, and of course the costs haven’t remained the same.” Childs and others viewed slots as a way to revive the beleaguered harness racing industry, keep pastures from getting paved over with parking lots, blacksmiths busy shoeing horses, breeders buying feed and trucks. Voters bought in, and the referendum they passed required slots to be linked with commercial tracks in Scarborough and Bangor. Profits would go to the state’s general fund and to a cascade of other programs, including the harness racing industry. Slot revenues have boosted purses, helped the state’s 26 agricultural fairs and made direct payments to Bangor Raceway and Scarborough Downs — no strings attached. The horses are still trotting at Bangor Raceway, a few hundred yards from Hollywood Casino, which became the state’s first legal gambling venue in 2006. But Scarborough voters refused to authorize slots at their track, and horsemen say that was a big setback. Still, state records show that more than $100 million has been sluiced from gamblers’ pockets to Maine’s harness racing industry and agricultural fairs. But has it done the trick? To try to find out, I recently visited Childs’ horse farm, a 30-acre bit of rural bliss in Westbrook. Race Me Stables is an active place where horses are trained and boarded, lessons are given, and equestriennes can practice their paces. Childs prepared one of his racing pacers, RaceMeAndroid, for a run around a half-mile training track. State Rep. Louis Luchini, an Ellsworth Democrat who co-chairs the Joint Committee on Legal and Veterans Affairs, which has oversight of Maine’s gambling sector, sees the industry’s benefits to the state, but he points out that there are more pleasure horse owners than racehorse owners in Maine, and that they also benefit the economy. “And we don’t give them any money from the casino,” he said. “[The horsemen’s] argument makes sense. They do have a big impact with agriculture, with the veterinarians, farming. But if you’re giving $100 million to something, you really have to make sure that it works.” If Luchini is re-elected, you can bet he’ll be taking a close look at slot machine funds in the next legislative session. Scarborough, meanwhile, will be asking for permission to reduce the number of race days it holds, while holding on to the $1 million-plus annual stipend it gets from the slots. And members of the harness racing industry? Look for them to find ways to try to breathe new life into a pastime they hope still has a future in Maine. By FRED BEVER Reprinted with permission of Maine Public Broadcasting    

Scarborough, Maine (August 7, 2016) ... Harness racing driver Kevin Switzer, Jr joined the prestigious "Mr. 2000 Club" on Sunday (8/7), notching the milestone win with a powerful performance in the $10,000 Howie Bamford Memorial Invitational before an overflowing 'Family Fun Day' crowd at Scarborough Downs. Driving a horse from his father's roster, the 29-year-old Switzer gunned Race Me Villa off the car, positioning his steed close up in the pocket behind the expected speed of A Sweet Ride. The tandem drafted behind daunting fractions (27.4, 55.4 and 1:24.2) before pouncing three-wide off the final turn to secure the narrow victory over the hard-charging Escape The News (Ron Cushing) to stop the clock in 1:54 flat. Bet You (Heath Campbell) rallied for third. Race Me Villa, a 6-year-old son of Village Jolt, is owned in partnership by KDK Standardbreds of Harrington, Delaware, Kathleen Mofield of Bedford, Massachusetts and John Dickens of Kennebunk, Maine. Scarborough Downs features live harness racing with twilight cards on Friday and Saturday with post time at 4:30 PM (EDT). The Sunday matinees get underway at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or our Facebook page.   By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs           #      

Scarborough, Maine (July 30, 2016) ... Maine Sire Stakes action returned to Scarborough Downs on Saturday (7/30) with the harness eacing three-year-old state-bred trotting divisions divided into three splits contested for purses in excess of $10,000 apiece. In the opening stakes split, when Noble Yaz stepped up to the plate, he not only won for the very first time in his career, but he also equaled a track record for 3-year-old trotting geldings in the process. Stopping the clock in 2:00 flat, the son of Noble Venture-Sassy Cathy and driver Nick Graffam etched their names in the Scarborough annals, joining another Maine-bred, Bad Boy Billy, who established the standard during the Maine Sire Stakes Finals of 2009. Way to hit one out of the park guys! Scarborough Downs features live harness racing with twilight cards on Friday and Saturday with post time at 4:30 PM (EDT). The Sunday matinees get underway at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

Scarborough, Maine (June 26, 2016) ... Just one day removed from turning 18 and having his driver's license elevated to "Provisional" status, Matty Athearn wasted precious little time in finding the harness racing winner's circle, securing his very first win at an extended meet in his very first start at the Downs! Check the action in the bike as he teams Southwind Inferno first across the finish line after keeping the pacer brave on the lead on Saturday (7/9) - A promising career has only just begun! Scarborough Downs features live harness racing with twilight cards on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with post time at 4:30 PM (EDT). The Sunday matinees get underway at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Scarborough, Maine (June 26, 2016) ... Dan Deslandes, a 23-year-old state of Maine native, recorded the 500th driving win of his career on Sunday (6/26), keeping the harness racing rookie pacer Golden Tree brave on the lead and holding off a finish line onslaught to reach the milestone victory at Scarborough Downs. Golden Tree was the very same pacer with which Deslandes gained his 499th career score just six days earlier at Bangor Raceway, and despite 20 winless drives sandwiched around the pair, the wait certainly seemed worth the bother, in order to secure the landmark win in rein to such an up-and-coming colt. Deslandes, who has called Scarborough Downs and the New England circuit home in recent years, learned his trade on the backstretch of Saratoga Raceway as a teenager, where he jogged for his father while earning a reputation of responsibility as an in-demand warm up option on race nights. Simultaneously, the aspiring driver was putting in his required time in the morning qualifying events at the SpaCity oval in order to be in position to earn his provisional drivers license immediately upon turning 18 years of age. Once elevated to "P" status, he wasted precious little time in finding the winners circle for the very first time, teaming Miss McIvor N down Saratoga's Victory Lane in August of 2010. Deslandes currently resides in fourth place in the standing of Scarborough Downs drivers colony with 31 seasonal wins; and with the man in red and green colors trailing only the likes of Eddie Davis, Jr., Drew Campbell and Kevin Switzer, Jr. - That's pretty good company to keep. Scarborough Downs features live harness racing with twilight cards on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with post time at 4:30 PM (EDT). The Sunday matinees get underway at 1:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs  

Seven people working in Maine harness racing have been suspended or fined by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry for supplying cobalt to their horses, according to a report by Portland TV station WCSH. The seven are drivers, trainers or owners of horses and some are appealing the rulings, according to the report. The use of cobalt is banned as it improves endurance, according to a report on racing.com, and can cause severe side effects in horses. Steven Vafiades of Corinth was hit the hardest for penalties as he has been suspended 450 days and must repay $23,000 in purse money. He also has been fined $2,250. Others who received suspensions of 450 days were Randy Bickmore, Patricia Switzer and Stephen Murchison. Longtime driver Drew Campbell of Scarborough, who has more 3,500 career victories, was suspended for 270 days. He also was fined $1,250 and must repay $2,150 in purse money. Bickmore, Switzer and Murchison were each fined $2,250, and each must repay purse money ranging from $4,000 to almost $11,000. Allison McDonald was ordered to repay $1,250 in purse money, and Frank Hiscock must repay $1,200. The penalties for Bickmore, Campbell, Vafiades and Switzer were apparently handed down by the Maine Harness Racing Commission in February. The commission is part of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. A report by harnessracingupdate.com on March 6 said it received a penalty summary for those four people from Henry Jennings, the commission’s acting executive director. Reprinted with permission of The Bangor Daily News 

Bangor Raceway has commenced its 133rd season of harness racing at the track. Over the course of the next few months, the track – operated since 2005 by Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway under the auspices of parent company Penn National Gaming – will play host to nearly 50 racing cards. For much of the summer and into the fall, horses and drivers will be trotting toward victory. Races have been held at the track since 1883. For decades, Bangor Raceway was one of the city’s most popular entertainment centers, with thousands of people coming out to spend an afternoon or evening placing a few bets or just sitting in the grandstand and enjoying the sport. In recent years, the sport’s popularity – and indeed, the popularity of horse racing in general – has declined. Among younger demographics especially, the level of interest has waned. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Anyone who has been to the track knows just how exciting it can be. Whether you’re there to lay the occasional wager on a horse or just to enjoy the thrill of competition, the truth is that there’s a lot to like at the track for anyone. There’s also a lot that goes into making it all work. Just ask Michael Hopkins, manager of live racing for Hollywood Casino – he’s responsible for a lot of it, after all. “Everything that needs doing at the track,” Hopkins said with a chuckle when asked what his duties entailed. “I do my best to take care of what everybody needs. I serve as the liaison with the state, the liaison with [Penn National], the liaison with the horsemen. If a light bulb needs changing, that’s me. If it comes to shoveling horses—t, I’m there.” It all starts with the horses and the facility. “The on-site stables are full,” said Hopkins. “We’ve got 80 horses here. But the horse supply has been getting smaller, which makes it harder to put together dates with full fields.” When you start to look at the numbers involved – every day of operation features 10 races involving eight horses each – it becomes clear just how many people and animals need to be involved. While the track features mostly Maine horses, there are also racers from outside of the state, including a significant number of Canadian competitors. “We get a lot of Canadian racers,” Hopkins said. “We picked up 15 more [from Canada] this year. A lot of the tracks across the border are closing, so they come here. The amenities we have here far outweigh those of other area tracks.” Those amenities are there thanks largely to extensive renovations to the raceway undertaken by Penn National. The old barn was refurbished and a new barn was built; a new paddock was built as well. In addition, upgrades were made to the grandstand and significant work was done on the track. All told, the company spent upwards of $8 million bringing new life to the facility. This should come as no surprise to those familiar with Penn National Gaming – in terms of both their history and their present operation. “If our name’s on it, it needs to be up to our standards,” said Hopkins. “Penn National started as a track owner. They’ve got the highest standards in the racing industry.” “[Penn National] is the largest promotional racing operator in the country,” added Jose Flores, Hollywood Casino’s general manager. “A lot of our properties are racinos; horse racing goes hand in hand with other casino operations.” While the company doesn’t directly track attendance numbers, they do keep an eye on program sales to get a broad idea of how many are in and out. Over the course of the season, approximately 5,000 programs are sold. A good number, but not as good as Hopkins might like. “Harness racing attendance is declining across the board,” Hopkins said. “We’ve got some dedicated souls who turn up for every race, but we’re really looking to get the youth.” It’s worth noting the family-friendliness of a day at the racetrack. Sure, you have to be 18 to place a bet at the raceway, but in terms of just enjoying the sport, it really is an all-ages type of experience. Still, the absence of younger race fans remains an issue. And that absence of younger fans – across the board, not just here in Bangor – has played a major part in the sport’s general sluggishness in terms of growth. “It’s a question of supply and demand,” said Flores. “When demand goes, it’s hard to keep up on the supply side. There’s a waning interest in the sport in general; we reinvest and maintain as best we can.” That reinvestment includes a tripling of purse sizes since Penn National came to town. “It’s a costly sport,” said Hopkins. “Our harness racing support has been a big shot in the arm for the industry here. Harness racing isn’t a huge revenue producer for Hollywood Casino, but ways have been found to maximize it. For instance, thanks to careful scheduling, the amount of export wagering (that is, wagering taking place off-site) has increased. “It’s about the times of races,” said Hopkins. “I try to align our races so that they can move a bit better. We have a great handle on Mondays because so few other tracks are running at that time. “I’m the last one to submit my schedule every year,” he continued. “It’s definitely a chess game.” Truth be told, there are probably more than a few people in and around town – particularly in the younger demographics – that don’t even know that harness racing is still happening over the course of every summer. And that’s a shame, because there’s something special about the experience. It’s one of the few ways that we can truly and directly connect with Bangor’s rich history. Bangor Raceway is a generational touchstone – and generational on both sides of the rail at that. Many Bangor residents grew up attending races with their parents or grandparents - and watching the parents or grandparents of today’s racers trotting around the track. There are few experiences to be had – here or anywhere – that match the up-close excitement you can get from seeing the palpable passion expressed by these racers. It’s a sport out of time, a memory made real. But make no mistake – harness racing is no relic. It is, however, a really good time.- The voice of the track Anyone who has been to Bangor Raceway in recent years has heard Wayne Harvey’s voice. This will be Harvey’s 17th year calling races at the track. He got his start back in May of 2000, serving as a fill-in for the Wednesday night races before becoming the full-time announcer. Harvey was a longtime lover of horse racing, but his exposure to harness racing had been fairly limited. “I have been a horse racing fan since I was a kid,” Harvey said. “I watched all of the Triple Crown prep races with my Dad, but it was always thoroughbred racing. “I had gone to some harness racing at the fairs as a kid,” he continued. “And [I] went to Bangor Raceway a few times in the early 90s. It wasn't until the late 90s when I started dating my current wife that I regularly started going to the track and watching harness racing. Her grandfather owned horses and was involved with Bangor Raceway. We went to the track every Sunday.” But then, Harvey wound up with the gig that would lead to him spending a whole lot more time in the world of harness racing.  “It was the spring of 2000 when the track needed a fill-in announcer,” he said. “Fred Nichols knew me from being at the track and from being on radio and television. He asked if I would be interested in doing it and I said yes.” Of course, that acceptance led to an obvious question. “I asked how you announce a horse race,” said Harvey. “It was a learning curve - and I am still picking up things every race date - but with help I figured out what was going on during the races and figured out how to call them.” The job has led to a considerable affection and profound respect for the sport and its participants. “I love harness racing; that's why I keep coming back,” he said. “I love the sport. I love watching the horses race. I have called thousands of races and each one is different. I have been around a lot of sports behind a microphone and harness racing is so different from all of them - it keeps it exciting. “Seeing the drivers and how they handle the race and the horses…[it] is so different from every other sport. I have never been in a racing bike and the ability the drivers have to maneuver themselves and the horses through the racing is so much fun to watch.” So next time you’re out at the track and you hear an exciting and entertaining race call, now you know a little bit about the voice emanating from the speakers. Bangor Raceway Harness Racing Schedule 2016 May Wednesday, May 11 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, May 13 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, May 16 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 18 – post time 3 p.m. Saturday, May 21 – post time 2:30 p.m. (Preakness Stakes Day) Monday, May 23 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 25 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, May 27 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, May 30 – post time 3 p.m. June Wednesday, June 1 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, June 3 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, June 6 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday June 8 – post time 3 p.m. Saturday, June 11 – post time 2:30 p.m. (Belmont Stakes Day) Monday, June 13 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 15 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, June 17 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, June 20 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 22 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, June 24 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, June 27 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 29 – post time 3 p.m. July Friday, July 1 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, July 4 – post time 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 6 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, July 8 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, July 11 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 13 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, July 15 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, July 18 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 20 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, July 22 – post time 6 p.m. September Thursday, September 8 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, September 9 – post time 6 p.m. October Monday, October 17 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, October 19 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, October 21 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, October 24 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, October 26 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, October 28 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, October 31 – post time 3 p.m. November Wednesday, November 2 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, November 4 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, November 7 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, November 9 – post time 3 p.m. Friday, November 11 – post time 6 p.m. Monday, November 14 – post time 3 p.m. Wednesday, November 16 – post time 3 p.m. Reprinted with permission of The Main Edge

Scarborough Downs will once again host the biggest party of the season on Kentucky Derby Day (Saturday May 7) but this year, particular local attention will be paid to the "greatest two-minutes in sports", as prominent state of Maine horse owners will saddle one of the morning line favorites in the $2-million classic. Exaggerator, who is owned in portion by Old Orchard Beach brothers, George, Jamie and Michael Kerr, will start from post position 11 on Saturday and has been installed as the 8-1 second choice on the morning line by Churchill Downs. The three-year-old son of Curlin is coming off an explosive victory in last month's Santa Anita Derby, an effort which has been described as "...one of the most impressive of this year's Triple Crown prep races." The Kerr brothers, who traditionally view the Derby via simulcast from the Scarborough Downs Clubhouse, will instead be in attendance at Louisville this year, to witness their colt's historic run for the roses. Doors will open at Scarborough Downs at 10:00 AM on Saturday with a 12-race live harness racing program commencing at 2:00 PM. The Kentucky Derby will then take center stage with post time scheduled for 6:34 PM. For more information, visit www.ScarboroughDowns.com or our Facebook page. By Michael Sweeney for Scarborough Downs

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