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Phone: 630-323-0808 • Toll Free (IL): 800-572-0213 • Fax: 630-323-0761 • Infoline: 888-601-7223

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Hawthorne Late Closers

No Sure Things in Gals Late Closers

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Illinois General Assembly is scheduled to finish their spring session on Monday, May 31st. A budget is still not in place. There are on-going discussions between Democrat and Republican leadership. The hope is that the powers to be will find some common ground within the next week and do what is best for the citizens of Illinois by agreeing to a financial plan. How does that impact us as horsemen in Illinois? We have been told that a gaming bill will be addressed when a budget is agreed to. Regarding that covted gaming bill, it is highly unlikely, yet not impossible, that will occur anytime soon. The next realistic opportunity for us to get it passed for a third time will be in November although it is still possible we will be without a budget at that time, pushing our hopes further into the future.

There are some issues still currently pending that will affect us. An extension of our current ADW bill appears to be set for passage. An OTB bill allowing Hawthorne, Fairmount and Arlington Park to pick up the unused licenses left behind by Maywood and Balmoral has some traction. The IHHA is supporting both of those pieces of legislation. Neither, however, will have any immediate impact on our game. We have attempted to work with all of the other horse racing industry entities to try and add five video poker machines at our OTB’s as other liquor license establishments are allowed to do. We have explored the possibility of allowing historical racing machines at our racetracks. Unfortunately, nothing has gained momentum.

One very integral piece to our current racing status is insuring that traditional funding from "The Department of Agriculture" for purses for racing at the state and county fairs is included and appropriated in this year’s budget. Last year the money was included in the budget but all state spending was ceased by the Governor. We believe that injecting this added money into the industry is of utmost importance.

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Monday, May 23, 2016


As state searches for revenue, is gambling expansion back in mix?

Click Here For More

http://www.sj-r.com/news/20160521/as-state-searches-for-revenue-is-gambling-expansion-back-in-mix?rssfeed=true

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Starting tonight, for the remainder of the Hawthorne summer meet, first race post time will be 7:35.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Soft Drink Tax, Expanded Gambling Among Proposals for Budget Compromise

Click here for more.

http://northernpublicradio.org/post/soft-drink-tax-expanded-gambling-among-proposals-budget-compromise

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Trio of carryovers at Hawthorne on Thursday

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Butenschoen's Hambletonian hope this year

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Harness Tracks of America invites applications for scholarships.

Click here for more.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Milbert: IHHA President Engel hopeful for strong Hawthorne meet

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hawthorne Popular with Bettors

Click here for more from Mike Paradise.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Illinois horse racing fights fantasy sports bill

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Hawthorne Race course set to open Friday

Click here for more.

And for a more extensive look at Hawthorne’s summer meet, read Mike Paradise’s story.

Click on Mike’s name at the left of this page and then read “the Long Wait About Over.”

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Arlington, Illinois horsemen agree to two-year contract

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Winning bid emerges for Balmoral Park.

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

ITHA and Arlington agree on new contract.

Click here for more.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Hawthorne has added some events to their original condition sheet for opening weekend.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Illinois Governor "Optimistic" About Long-Term Budget Deal

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Mystery of sick foals: Was fracking to blame?

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Father, Son, Horse Selfie Wins Prize, Causes all kind of Drama

On the lighter side of life, click here for an interesting story.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Federal lawsuit against Arlington puts summer horse racing season in peril

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

ITHA Initiates Legal Action Against ITBOF, Arlington Park and IRB

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Last call for 2yo ICF stake payments; late closer deadline pushed back

Click here for more.

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Illinois Department of Agriculture Bureau of
County Fairs and Horse Racing

IMPORTANT NOTICE – April 13, 2016

Attached is the 2016 Abbreviated Illinois Racing & Stakes Guide.   It can also be found on our Standardbred website at: https://www.agr.state.il.us/standardbred-horse-racing/  and, it has been posted to the IL Department of Agriculture’s Face Book page:  https://www.facebook.com/illinois.agriculture/.   We anticipate ongoing updates to this Racing Guide throughout the summer so please bookmark these pages and check back frequently!  

There WILL BE racing at both the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair.  Although purse amounts for the State Fairs have not been finalized due to the lack of a state budget, we can confirm that the 2016 State Fair purses will be AT LEAST the same, and very likely higher, than they were last year.  Be sure to send in your nominations!

Be sure to email Kelly.beck@illinois.gov and provide her with your email address.  She sends racing updates via email to those who have provided us with an email address. 

Thank you for your continued support of Illinois harness racing!

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Qualifying times for Hawthorne will be 2:03 for pacers, and 2:05 for trotters. 

2 year olds allowed 2 seconds.  3 years olds get 1 second. 

Half mile track allowed 1 second as well. 

The 45 day rule will be in effect.  Race day to race day.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Daily Racing Form Article Regarding Challenge to ITHA

• Apr 8, 2016 

Daily Racing Form Article: Horsemen groups vie for control at Arlington

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Measure to legalize daily fantasy sports in Illinois delayed

Click below for more.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The United States Harness Writers Association has a new mobile website.

Click below for more.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Reminder from the Illinois Racing Board

Stewards/State Veterinarian Medication Alert

With today’s highly sophisticated equine drug testing anyone handling or party to any race horse must take precautions that with less sensitive testing were not necessary.

Many drugs or compounds legally and properly used by humans can and have shown up in post race blood or urine samples resulting in loss of purse money, as well as fines and suspensions for the trainer.

Products as innocuous or seemingly benign as coffee, colas, chocolate bars, cigarette butts or chewing tobacco can all trigger positive tests.

Recreational drugs as well as those taken for pain relief, blood pressure, and ADHD treatment all have the potential to contribute to positive tests in post-race samples if diligence isn’t taken by those with any interaction with a racing horse.

Suggestions to trainers to minimize the risk of introducing foreign substances into a horse’s body.

  1.  Educate all horse attendants about the necessary diligence that must be taken to avoid drug transfer.
  2. Stall urination should be forbidden. Persons on any medication or drug should thoroughly wash their hands after handling the medication. The handling of tongue ties and bits should be done with recently cleansed hands or those covered by disposable gloves and by responsible individuals only. Hands should also be washed between oral administrations to multiple horses.
  3. Emphasize to employees that source contamination is not limited to those that take prescription or recreational drugs. As stated above, many seemingly innocuous products or over the counter drugs have the potential to trigger a positive test.
  4. Closely monitor employee/horse attendant conduct in regard to required diligence.

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Thursday, March 24

2016 Grand Circuit Review Stakes for both two year olds (#114) and three year olds (#113) have been cancelled until further notice due to uncertain state funding and few nominated horses.  We will refund the nomination payments for all those who nominated horses to the 2016 two year old and three year old events.  Further, we will not be accepting the yearling payment that is due on May 15. Please note that we will be racing at both the Illinois State Fair and the DuQuoin State Fair and those nomination payments are due April 15.  Nomination forms can be found on our website at:  https://www.agr.state.il.us/pdf/genericpaymentform.pdf. We plan to race four days in Springfield (Friday and Saturday, August 12 & 13 and Tuesday and Wednesday, August 16 & 17) and two days in DuQuoin (Saturday and Sunday, August 27 & 28).  Although purse amounts for the State Fairs have not been finalized due to the lack of a state budget, we can confirm that the 2016 State Fair purses will be AT LEAST the same, and very likely higher, than they were last year.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Downstate Classic

ATTENTION HORSEMEN: ILLINOIS TOPLINE NOMINATIONS ARE BEING LEFT OPEN, WE HAVE A LOW NUMBER OF NOMINATIONS PUTTING THE UPCOMING SEASON IN QUESTION, IF YOU WERE THINKING ABOUT NOMINATING TO THE TOPLINE PLEASE GIVE RANDY CALLAHAN A CALL (217-232-5003) OR JUST SEND IN YOUR NOMINATIONS. ALSO PLEASE SHARE THIS SO WE CAN GET THE WORD OUT.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Jersey voters to decide on new casinos in November

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Repair backlog at $180M for Springfield, Du Quoin fairgrounds

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Friday, March 11, 2016

The Walking and Colic Thing

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Florida decoupling bill meets its demise

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Friday, March 4, 2016

Bergman: Laser focus needed for harness racing to gain traction

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hoosier Park readies for 2016 Season

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Monday, February 29, 2016

Hawthorne announces Spring Late Closers

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Town Hall Meeting: Can Horse Racing Solve Its Biggest Problems?

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Expert vet talks about Glaucine situation

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Monday, February 22, 2016

How and Why Horses Help Our Children

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Will “decoupling” kill racing at Pompano?

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Florida bill allowing tracks to drop racing advances

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Giwner: The facts behind the Glaucine drug rumors

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Dear Fellow Horsemen:

19 years ago, I was first elected to the IHHA Board.  In that election, someone like me was considered a bit of a long shot - a first-generation trainer who was not well known and looked at with a bit of uncertainty.  I was fortunate to win that election and the seven straight elections after.  I am beyond grateful to have been given so much support.  

I have loved every minute of representing Illinois harness horsemen.  So, it is with mixed emotions that I want to announce that I have been offered and have accepted the position of Executive Director of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.  I will serve as their interim director immediately and will officially start in a full time role on March 28.  As a result, I will leave the IHHA Board and hand over the lines of the presidency effective February 16.  

I have spent a long time making this decision; it didn’t come easy. 

This is an opportunity for me to stay in Illinois and still fight for horsemen, continuing the great relationships that I have forged over the years. The partnership between the ITHA and the IHHA is groundbreaking in the horse industry and rock solid.  Without knowing that, I would not leave.  

The IHHA Board that I am leaving is a very good one.  All of the directors know the issues extremely well and each one brings their own knowledge and expertise to the table.  Tony Somone is a GREAT Executive Director and if people only knew half of what he does behind the scenes they would be amazed and grateful to have him.  Vice President Marty Engel will become President.  He is insightful and experienced and I am confident he will do a great job.

As I transition to the ITHA Board,  I will still be working closely with Tony and Marty and the entire IHHA board.  When all horsemen stick together, they are much stronger than if they are apart.   It is imperative that racetracks never, ever again pretend to represent Illinois horsemen in Springfield. 

I've been a part of good times - the state reimbursing recapture for three years, passage of the "Impact Fee" bill, and passage of two gaming bills - and I've been a part of bad times - from lockouts of horsemen, to tracks filing bankruptcy and sadly disappearing, and to crushing vetoes of the two passed gaming bills.  

Finally, before I sign off, I want to mention a few things:
Throughout the years, I have tried very hard to educate our membership.  It's important for horsemen to understand the necessity of getting a gaming bill passed and signed into law.  Without an infusion of money, harness racing in Illinois will disappear.  

As bad as things have been, not many understand or realize how bad things should  have been.  Because of contracts negotiated by the IHHA and Maywood/Balmoral over the past five years, we raced for purses that were $9.5 MILLION more than they should have been.  (Yes, you read that right!)  The contracts  essentially eliminated recapture over the last two years and prevented what otherwise would have been complete obliteration of our industry.  

Recapture, if unchecked, will destroy us.  Last year, our purses earned and we raced for about $11 million and the certified recapture amount was almost $5 million, meaning if Maywood/Balmoral had collected all that was certified, we would have raced for $6 million over the year.  To put that into perspective, 15 years ago we raced for close to $40 million!  As the amount for purses declined because of lower handles and a decrease in our blended rate, the impact of recapture balloons and the result is that the owning, breeding, and training side of the sport in Illinois becomes unsustainable.  It's happening.  

Please keep your eyes on the TOTAL raced for over the entire year, not the red herring of "purses per day."  It's all about the TOTAL size of the pie, not how many pieces the pie is cut into.  For example, we should all want to race for $60k per day over 200 days ($12 million) rather than $80k over 100 days ($8 million).  Tracks like to cite "purses per day," a statistic that is completely misleading and irrelevant.  The day when an Illinois track races just 20 or 30 times a year is fast approaching and it will be shameful if those tracks get away with saying, "Our purses per day will be awesome."   So what if purses per day are $200k or $300k but there are only 20 days?   That is not a livable racing program, it's a gimmick.  It is nothing more than trickery by tracks into getting people to believe that the industry is healthy when in fact it is anything but.  

So, there you have it.  I wish nothing but the best for all of you, the finest horse people I know!   Thank you all for giving a long shot - someone like me - a chance. 

David McCaffrey

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

HAWTHORNE & IHHA RELEASE 2016 STAKE SCHEDULE

The 2016 Illinois Conceived and Foaled stake schedule has been announced by Hawthorne Race Course and the Illinois Harness Horseman’s Association.

Payments are due for the three-year-olds by March 15th while those looking to stake two-year-olds will have until April 15th to get their payments in.

In a change from previous years the three-year-olds will have a single payment of $1,750 due while the two-year-olds will have a single payment of $1,250 due.

The single staking payment will keep horses eligible to all four legs of the stakes series and the final or consolation.

The top 10 highest point earners in the four legs will make the finals which will be contested on Hawthorne’s Night of Champions which is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10th.  The consolations are scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 11th.

Please make nominating checks payable to: 

Hawthorne Race Course
C/0 Horseman’s Bookkeeper
3501 S. Laramie Ave
Cicero, IL 60804
(708) 780-3700

A complete list of the dates for the legs of the stakes click here.

To access the nomination form please click here.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

President Obama argues for a kinder brand of politics in

Illinois General Assembly speech

Click here for more

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

As the landscape for racing in Illinois has changed greatly in 2016, so too will the ICF stakes program have a different look this year. Instead of various stake races with an elimination and final format, there will be a series for each of the 2 and 3 year old divisions consisting of four legs throughout the summer with finals and consolations to be held on September 10th (finals) and 11th (consolations).  One staking payment will make a horse eligible for the entire series (four legs plus the final/consolation).  For 3 year olds, a nomination payment of $1750.00 will be due on March 15th.  For 2 year olds, a nomination payment of $1250.00 will be due on April 15th.  Horses will earn a spot in the finals and consolations based upon a points system for the four series legs.

Each of the four series legs will have a starting fee of $200.00.  There will be no starting fee for the finals and consolations.  Each leg of the series will carry a purse of between $10,000 and $15,000 per division.  Purses will vary within that range depending on the series.  The four trotting finals are expected to go for $75,000.00 each, with the four pacing finals estimated at $100,000.00 each.

It is our hope that Hawthorne Racetrack will finalize this agreed upon schedule and call it official. Nomination forms will be posted online as soon as possible.

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Fate of Florida's horse racing industry in Legislative Committees' hands

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Florida Horseracing Industry Argues Against New Gambling Bills

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

The IHHA would like to remind everyone that stake payments to the Illinois Department of Agriculture for the three year Cardinal and Violet events are due on February 15th.  While at this point Hawthorne has not released a stakes schedule for 2016, we want to make owners and trainers aware that these races have been scheduled for mid-July.  The three year old Violet and Cardinal Finals for trotters will be held on Thursday, July 14th, with eliminations on July 7th.  The three year old Violet Final for filly pacers will be held on Friday, July 15th, with eliminations on July 8th. The three year old Cardinal Final for colt and gelding pacers will be held on Saturday, July 16th, with eliminations on July 9th.  The two year old Cardinal and Violet events will be held the final two weekends of the summer meet in September.  Staking payments for the two year old events are not due until April 15th.

Staking payments for the Cardinal and Violent events are made to the Illinois Department of Agriculture.  Nomination forms and payment information may be found here: https://www.agr.state.il.us/pdf/genericpaymentform.pdf

The IHHA is standing by and is hopeful that Hawthorne will announce their complete stakes schedule and the specifics of it very shortly.

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Hawthorne Harness: Horsemen mull over options as meet concludes

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Comptroller: Illinois will fall $6.2B further into debt without budget

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Daily Racing Form reports on animal welfare and the fight in Washington.

Click here for more.

http://www.drf.com/news/hovdey-without-louder-voices-safe-act-passage-unlikely

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Maywood Park Bankruptcy Halts Betting At OTBs

Click below for rmore.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Illinois Racing Board approves changes

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Illinois Tracks Threaten Collapse of Live Racing

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Local Animal Named Illinois Harness Horse of Year

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2016 Illinois Department of Agriculture Stake Payment schedule has been announced.

Click here for more.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is accepting nomination payments for the Review, the Cardinal and Violet, the State Fairs and the County Fairs.  For your use, please see the attached Stake Payment Schedule and Generic Payment Form.  We will be sending the pre-printed nomination forms to eligible horse owners in the near future, but wanted to provide you with this information as soon as possible.  Please note that as of 1/14/16, the Illinois state budget has not been finalized.  Therefore, we do not know if there will be any additional funds for these races.  When the budget is finalized, we will get the funding information to you as quickly as we can.  In addition, we plan to publish a 2016 Racing & Stakes Guide but due to the current budget situation, it will be delayed this year.  

Please continue to check the IDOA website or the IHHA website for updates.  If you would like us to email updated information to you, please send your email address to Kelly.beck@illinois.gov.  Should you have questions, please call the Bureau of County Fairs & Horse Racing at 217-782-4231.  Thank you.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Prospect Heights Agrees To Advance TIF Funds For OTB Completion

Click here for more.

http://www.journal-topics.com/business/article_c79dc064-ba42-11e5-88a2-f75f70efad4e.html

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Longtime Chicago handicapper Tom Krish gives his thoughts on the new year at Hawthorne.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Chicago Ag Born-and-Bred Filly Off to the Races at Hawthorne

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Total handle for harness racing up in 2015

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hawthorne is kicking off their winter harness meet with a special promotion for their ADW platform.

Click here for more.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Harness: Hawthorne the new standardbred home in Illinois

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

DraftKings, FanDuel sue Illinois attorney general

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Balmoral: Large crowd bids farewell to Illinois track

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

Click here to smile.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Congress Passes Tax Bill with Horse Benefits.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Horse Racing in Florida could be in jeopardy.

Click here to read this horror story.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Harness: Balmoral, Maywood remain in the simulcasting business

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bids for Maywood and Balmoral Park and all of their assets were due in their attorney’s office by last Friday. Three bids were submitted, only one met the qualifying criteria. That bid was on the Balmoral property alone. Because of that tepid response, today, in bankruptcy court, attorneys for the racetracks and the riverboats motioned the court to allow them another two weeks to negotiate with the lone qualified bidder and to find more interested buyers to stimulate the bidding process. That motion was granted and the new auction date has been extended until Monday, December 28. In a separate but related incident Maywood and Balmoral Park were granted licenses by the Illinois Racing Board to operate their OTB’s and their intertrack facility in 2016.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Auction set for Balmoral, Maywood track assets

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Raymond Poe takes over Ag Department at difficult time

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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hannah Miller reflects on 2015 campaign

Click here for more

http://xwebapp.ustrotting.com/absolutenm/templates/article.aspx?articlei...

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Friday, December 4, 2015

9 Ways to Say Thank You to Your Farrier

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Storied Balmoral Park goes dark next year

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Wednesday, Dec 2, 2015

Illinois on the Brink - by Eric Mitchell

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Monday, November 30, 2015

GUEST COMMENTARY: Let’s race toward Balmoral Park’s survival

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Coldheartedrevenge gets a warm and cozy retirement

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Byrne claims “increasingly hostile” environment at racing board

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Wednesday, November, 18, 2015

IRB Member Pulls Slaughter Rule, Resigns

Click here for more

http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/96029/irb-member-pulls-slaughter-rule-resigns

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Tuesday, November 19, 2015

Show goes on with Du Quoin State Fair

Click here for more.

http://agrinews-pubs.com/Content/News/Latest-News/Article/Show-goes-on-with-Du-Quoin-State-Fair-/8/6/13605

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Representative Poe named State Agricultural Director

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Longshot effort to keep Maywood and Balmoral in business, click here for more.

Click here form more.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Lawmakers due in Springfield for session

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Rauner confident of budget deal — in January

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How Standardbred Racehorses Become “Army” Horses

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Commentary: Horse racing can thrive if states agree to uniform rules

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Horse racing falls victim to casinos, video gambling, politicians

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Friday, October 30, 2015

How the Illinois budget crisis is affecting suburban casino towns

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Illinois' casino towns plan budgets as gambling tax revenue withheld

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Statehouse Insider: Edgar and Thompson who? - Published 10/24/2015 in News

Gov. BRUCE RAUNER shrugged off criticism from fellow Republicans JIM EDGAR and JIM THOMPSON about his handling of this whole budget impasse.Their messages were basically to get a budget... Click here for more.

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Friday, October 23, 2015
Great story from today’s Daily Southtown.

Ag School riders headed to Special Olympics

Nine special-needs students have excelled in a pilot riding program at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.

Donna Vickroy… Daily Southtown

As 14-year-old Aidan Hughes prepares to saddle up, his mom marvels that until last summer her oldest son was afraid of horses.

Not only has a new program helped Aidan, who has autism, overcome his fear of riding, Mary Hughes said it has helped him transition into his freshman year at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, where the Special Olympics Summer Equestrian Pilot Program has been underway since July.

"He started coming here independently in the mornings over the summer to help out," said Hughes, standing inside the school's barn while the horses were prepped for the late afternoon ride. "It has been a great experience for him."

In addition to riding skills, Aidan has learned how to care for the horses and clean up after them, she said.

The teen, from Chicago's Beverly community, is one of nine riders set to compete in the equestrian event at the state's 2015 Special Olympics on Oct. 24 and 25 at BraveHearts in Poplar Grove, near Rockford.

Aidan said among the skills he's learned through the program are concentration, following directions and hand positioning.

More important, his mother said, he's having fun. And that has paid off for the entire family.

"The program has expanded his horizons, given him a new interest. We'd had chances in the past to go riding with the family and cousins, and he didn't want to go. He was just too overwhelmed. Here, within two days he was up on a horse. And because of this, our whole family was able to go on a trail ride this summer," she said.

Special Olympics equestrian coaches Marlene Karman and Chloe Willett said many of the students with special needs who signed up for the community equine therapy program had never seen a horse before.

"We started in the classroom: Here's your tack, here's your saddle, here's how you get on and get off," Karman said. "In a matter of months, we've taken them from start to equestrians."

Willett said participants include students from the school and members of the community. The group started with 27 riders, and that eventually was pared to 22.

"Now we have nine headed to the Special Olympics," Willett said.

Maggie Kendall, a teacher in the school's animal sciences program, said she hopes the school can continue the community program, which was made possible by a grant from Special Children's Charities.

The award provided funding for two part-time instructors. But to make the program work, the school also had to recruit and train volunteers to help with grooming and preparing the horses, as well as leading and guiding the riders.

"This was an enormous effort," said Kathy Sanders, who has been organizing the 50 or so volunteers to ensure there are enough horse leaders and side walkers at each therapeutic session.

The Beverly resident, who has a son at Purdue University and a daughter at Marist High School in Chicago, has been helping at the Ag School for years.

"I stopped by one day last summer to buy fresh eggs and started talking to Maggie," Sanders said. "She told me, 'I need some help. I really want to start a riding program, but I need some people with some horse sense.' I thought, 'Oh, gee, I could run around a barn a few hours a week. I used to ride in high school and college.' "

Other people, some from as far away as the city's North Side, also offered to help. Like the participants, the volunteers cross all age groups, from 14-year-old Keely Reardon, an Ag School freshman, to adults, including Ann Schoenecker, whose son, Thomas, is among the riders. Schoenecker's 14-year-old daughter, Kristine, also helps out.

Volunteer Emma Bunda, 15, is a student at Marist.

"I like horses, and I like helping people," she said. "I've helped with Special Olympics before."

Although the culminating event of the students' months of hard work is the chance to participate in the Special Olympics, Kendall said the benefits of the program go well beyond medals. Equine therapy can be empowering for all people, but particularly those with special needs, she said.

In addition to gaining physical strength, balance and spatial understanding, she said, students can experience emotional, social and behavioral growth.

"This is a chance for the student to be the one in control," Kendall said. "They're so used to following directions, always being helped. When they ride, they're the leader. They're the one in charge of this thousand-pound animal. A lot of pride comes out of it."

The community program is an offshoot of the academic equine programs at the Ag School.

It also further demonstrates the need for a new indoor riding arena, something Kendall and others have been campaigning and fundraising for over the past year.

"A year ago, we were awarded a $100,000 grant through Farmers Insurance for an indoor riding arena," she said. But after working with Chicago Public Schools architects and additional funding entities, she said, the expected cost of such a facility went from $600,000 to $2.6 million.

"We can't afford $2.6 million, so we started taking things off," she said. Among the amenities that landed on the cutting room floor: a viewing room, additional stalls and square footage.

"We had to get down to a reasonable budget of $800,000, and even that means we will still have to do additional fundraising to get to that," she said. Awarding naming rights is a possibility.

"Building an agricultural center in an urban setting has been challenging," she said. "We're hoping that we can build what the school and the city needs: an all-season arena for riders of all ages and abilities. We're hoping to be able to heat our facility and have a viewing room where other riders can observe and families can watch. That would make it a real learning space."

Not only does equine training build self-esteem and confidence in students, it provides post-school opportunity, she said.

"The equine industry is a $54 billion industry," she said. "A lot of jobs come out of that, for regular and special-needs people."

Outside, under an early-evening sun, Thomas Schoenecker, 17, rides Colonel, a Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse.

He leads the animal around the newly built outdoor arena, paid for by donors, through a pattern, around cones and into an area called a box.

"Walk on, walk off, whoa," he said, explaining the various skills he's learned.

Thomas, who also enjoys yoga, bowling and scuba, said he likes horses because they are gentle and fun to ride.

Ann Schoenecker said the riding program has given her son more independence, more life skills.

"We see a lot of initiative on his part," she said. "He'll say, 'I've got to go do this, I've got to go do that.' He is showing more responsibility. He rides and picks up after the horses. He tells me, 'Mom, it's Wednesday. I have to go horseback riding.' "

Michael Rudd watches in awe as his son, Michael, rides around the arena, located on the southwestern edge of the school's property at 3857 W. 111th St.

"He sort of fell into the program this summer. He got interested and involved. And he's made a lot of progress," Rudd said.

Not only has the Ag School sophomore, who has autism, become so adept at riding that he "nailed a recent competition," his dad said, "he is enjoying this immensely.

"He is a knight."

dvickroy@tribpub.com

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Moody's downgrades rating on $26.8B in Illinois bonds

By The Associated Press

CHICAGO — Moody's Investors Service downgraded $26.8 billion in Illinois' general obligation bonds on Thursday, prompting another round of finger pointing over the condition of the state's finances.

In lowering the bond rating to Baa1 from A3, the ratings agency pointed to what it called the Illinois' weakening financial position as the year progress.

"The downgrades reflect weakening of the state's financial position during 2015 and our expectation that an ongoing budget stalemate will lead to further deterioration," Moody's said in a statement.

Fitch Ratings on Monday downgraded its rating on the state's outstanding bonds for the same reasons. The result of such action means it will be more difficult and more expensive for the state to borrow money.

In a statement released by spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton contended that under Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, the state's revenue has declined, services have been cut and job growth has slowed.

"President Cullerton joins the chorus of Republican leaders and rating agencies in asking the Governor to set aside his personal agenda in favor of a budget plan that reverses the damage and dysfunction of the last year," Cullerton said in the statement.

In response, a Rauner statement issued by spokeswoman Catherine Kelly, said Moody's action is confirmation that years of unbalanced budgets, deficit spending and mismanagement have damaged Illinois' fiscal health and major, structural reforms are needed to restore it.

"This is more proof that instead of blocking all reforms and passing a broken budget that was $4 billion in the hole, the Super Majority in charge of the legislature should partner with the governor to enact real reforms that will grow jobs and free up more resources to balance the budget," Rauner said.

House Speaker Michael Madigan noted in a statement that everyone wants economic growth, more business investment and more good-paying jobs in every part of Illinois. That is not in question.

"These priorities can be achieved through a state budget that takes a balanced approach with some spending cuts and some new revenue, not by slashing services and programs that families count on," Madigan said.

In addition to the general-obligation bonds, the downgrade also applies to Build Illinois debt and borrowings on behalf of Chicago's Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, which runs Chicago's McCormick Place.

Moody's said Illinois' structural budget imbalance, accounts payable, and other obligations "are back-tracking, despite a favorable economic climate, leaving the state more vulnerable to the next economic downturn," barring swift corrective actions.

Illinois is about to enter its fifth month without a budget. Rauner, a multimillionaire elected last year with promises to make Illinois more business-friendly, has refused to agree to raise taxes to close a roughly $5 billion budget hole until Democrats give in to some of his demands - including a push to weaken labor unions. Democrats have refused, with Madigan calling support for labor a core, and non-negotiable, principle of the party he leads.

Because of court orders and state law, some bills are being paid. But local governments aren't getting their portions of gas taxes or gambling receipts paid to the state and typically distributed to cities, counties and other taxing bodies.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

State’s Budget Impasse Starts To Bite In Southern Illinois

Click here for more

State's Budget Impasse Starts to Bite In Southern Illinois (Download PDF Crosstabs)

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Friday, October 9, 2015

There was an interesting story in yesterday’s “Paulick Report” concerning the Indiana Horse Racing Commission. Click here for more.

http://www.paulickreport.com/news/ray-s-paddock/gorajec-dismissal-would-be-assault-on-racings-integrity/

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Illinois Racetrack Closing Displaces Standardbreds

Click here for more:

http://www.thehorse.com/articles/36529/illinois-racetrack-closing-displaces-standardbreds

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Carol Marin and NBC did a story last night on the closing of Maywood Park. Click here for more.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Harness Racing Update" has a thorough story on yesterday's decisions by the Illinois Racing Board. Click below to read.

Harness Racing Update

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Today in bankruptcy court, Judge Cassling granted Maywood Park’s motion to vacate live racing after October 2nd while also mandating Maywood maintain their dormitory housing, barn area, and racetrack for training purposes for approximately 60 days.  As a result, the racetrack itself will remain open and operational until Saturday, November 21st. 

Hopefully, this is sufficient time for residents to find alternative housing and to place soon to be retired race horses from Maywood Park, Balmoral Park or anywhere in the state for that matter, in suitable, humane destinations as opposed to being sent to unsafe or unhealthy places.  It is important to remember that all horses who contributed to our occupations, should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their racing abilities  As a reminder, the IHHA is a supporter of Racer Placer - an adoption service for retired Standardbreds.  We also have phone numbers to "rescue" farms.  If anyone needs these contacts, we urge you to call us!   630-323-0808.  Please find good homes for these horses. 

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

There is an interesting article about Illinois gaming in today’s Springfield State Journal-Register. Click below for more.

http://www.sj-r.com/article/20150919/NEWS/150919428

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

“Harness Racing Update” has a great story on the rise of Ohio harness racing since the implementation of slots at their racetracks.

To read the full story and more, please click here:
Harness Racing Update

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

There is a good story in the “AgriNews” about the family traditions of harness racing. Click here for more  http://agrinews-pubs.com/Content/Farm-Family-Life/Farm-Family-Life/Article/Harness-racing-a-tradition-for-families-fair-/10/8/13219

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Standardbred Adoption Service

The IHHA wanted to remind horsemen that with the reduction in racing opportunities right around the corner, if you are looking for a good home for your retired racehorse, Racer Placers is an organization with a great reputation.  

Racer Placers, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit charitable organization dedicated to rehoming and retraining Standardbred harness racing horses whose racing careers have ended. Our mission is to find responsible adoptive homes where these horses can begin second careers as pleasure driving horses, riding horses, as well as many other disciplines. We occasionally accept other breeds of horses, ponies and donkeys for placement when space and funds are available.

For more information about Racer Placers go their website at www.racerplacers.com or to find out how you can help.  racerplacersinc@gmail.com or call at (262) 593-8051.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Just when it seemed that the future for Illinois harness racing could not possibly get any cloudier, it did. At today’s Illinois Racing Board meeting, a request submitted by Maywood Park for approval to vacate live racing on Thursdays and Fridays beginning Oct. 8th was granted. Illinois Racing Board staff recommended approving the request. After hearing testimony from the racetracks, who were seeking the approval to vacate and the IHHA, who was opposed to the closing, the ten commissioners who participated in the meeting then voted. The vote was 5 to 5. Majority is needed to grant the request. It appeared that the motion had failed. However, general counsel for the IRB, citing a rule from "the open meetings act,” then announced that because Commissioner Byrne was participating by telephone her vote could not be counted. When staff and all commissioners were pressed about that rule, no one could ever remember that rule ever being enforced and could cite many, many examples of votes being counted telephonically throughout the years. Because of this ruling, hundreds of horseman, racetrack employees and state employees will lose their jobs. Maywood Park Racetrack testified that they would save $165,000 in the last quarter of the year by doing this. Horsemen will lose the opportunity to race for approximately $1 million during that time period and hundreds of jobs will be lost. Maywood and Balmoral Park are currently operating under the jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court and before this Racing Board decision becomes final, it must be approved by that court. Stay tuned. For more specific answers to all of your questions, please come to an open horsemen’s meeting on Tuesday, September 1st at 7 pm at the Doubletree Hotel in Alsip.

Tony Somone

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Congrats go out to J.D. Finn who won his 1,000 race as a driver yesterday at the Effingham County Fair. Click here for more.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

For a link to the new Illinois Racing Board rules on medication, click here  and then open the “new” IRB medication notice and RCI medication schedule.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

The following applications for 2016 race dates were filed with the Illinois Racing Board. The 2016 Dates Hearing Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. at the James R. Thompson Center, Chicago, Illinois.

HARNESS

BALMORAL RACING CLUB, INC. - 87 Programs at Balmoral Park

  • January 2 through November 3
    • Racing 2 nights per week on Fridays and Saturdays.

MAYWOOD PARK TROTTING ASSOCIATION, INC. - 17 Programs at Maywood Park

  • November 4 through December 31
    • Racing 2 nights per week on Fridays and Saturdays. Dark December 24.

SUBURBAN DOWNS, INC. - 61 Programs at Hawthorne Race Course

  • January 1 through May 12 (dark host time)
    • No live racing;
  • May 13 through May 31
    • Racing 3 nights per week on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays;
  • June and July
    • Racing 4 nights per week, Thursdays through Sundays;
  • August
    • Racing 4 nights per week, Thursdays through Sundays. Dark August 7, 11, 12, 13, 25, 26, 27, and 28;
  • September 1 through September 11
    • Racing 4 nights per week, Thursdays through Sundays; and
  • September 12 through December 31 (dark host time)
    • No Live Racing

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Message from the IRB:

The budget negotiation stalemate in Springfield continues. As a result, on Tuesday, a Cook County judge issued a ruling barring the Comptroller from paying all state employees full wages. Instead, the judge ruled that only some employees can be paid the federal minimum wage. Unfortunately, Racing Board employees are not part of this group. Under this court's ruling, no state employees would be paid full wages.

If there were a shutdown, the impact to the industry at this point of the race season will be dramatic. We would not be able to regulate pari-mutuel wagering at the live race meet, ADW platform or simulcast locations.

This is strikingly similar to the 2011 Minnesota state government shutdown. The shutdown was the result of a fiscal dispute that was not resolved by the deadline on June 30. The shutdown started at midnight on July 1, and ended after a budget bill was passed and signed on July 20.

During the shutdown all less important parts of the state government that were not identified as critical services before the shutdown or in several court cases suspended their operations. Including the regulation of racing.

According to an email we received last night, the Administration has filed an expedited appeal in the First District Appellate Court seeking to overturn the order issued yesterday in Cook County. Additionally, a separate legal effort filed in St. Clair County is ongoing, and the Administration expects movement on that case later in the week.

Additionally, the Administration is currently drafting legislation that will make state employee pay a continuing appropriation for the fiscal year, guaranteeing wages paid. Legislators are already guaranteed their pay under continuing appropriations. The legislation will be introduced by Leader Durkin and Leader Radogno as soon as it is ready.

There are minute to minute changes on this issue and when details become available we will communicate them. Under this cover of uncertainty and until such time a decision is made the staff continues to manage the day today issues. Obviously, if any of these measures are successful during the next couple of days we should not expect any interruption.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Today the IHHA and Maywood/Balmoral agreed in principle for an extension of our contract. The agreement will extend our current contract from July 1 to Oct. 4. (96 days)  That means no purse cuts, we continue with 4 days of racing, 2 at Maywood and 2 at Balmoral, and all other pertinent items in the existing contract are still in place. However, please keep in mind, this is not official. This must be approved by the bankruptcy attorneys before being finalized. We will let everyone know if and when it becomes official.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Illinois Harness Racing Update

The Illinois General Assembly was originally scheduled to finish on May 31st, however, due to our state leaders' failure to pass a budget, they will continue to meet into the summer until a plan of action for fiscal year 2016 has been decided. We are told that this must happen sometime before July 15 in order for the state to pay their bills.  Because of the significant potential for revenue, the much discussed gaming bill, which we are told will include slots at the racetracks, is a significant piece of this puzzle. Obviously, we will monitor the situation very closely and keep everyone abreast as it unfolds.

A budget has passed both the House and Senate. The money earmarked for Springfield/DuQuoin and the County Fairs in fiscal 2016 (starts July 1, 2015) has been restored in this budget. However, Governor Rauner, for reasons not related to us, has said he will not sign it, thus the current stalemate and unclear future of fair races. 

Bankruptcy court continues to move at a snail’s pace. The court has ordered that Maywood and Balmoral must have a settlement with the riverboats by June 29th or a broker/investment banker must be officially hired to begin the process of selling off assets, including racetracks.

Our current contract with Maywood and Balmoral expires on June 30. Because of the ongoing session in Springfield, the real possibility of a pending gaming bill, and the uncertainty of the bankruptcy situation, the complexities of  agreeing to a contract are immense.

With all of these uncertainties, the only thing we are confident of is that our situation as harness horsemen in Illinois will be greatly affected by the unfolding of these events during the next four to eight weeks. Stay tuned as we try to navigate and survive during these tumultuous times.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Below is another story that speaks to the current status of a gaming bill within Illinois.

WBBM 780 AM & CBS Chicago - May 5, 2015
http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2015/05/04/rauner-open-to-chicago-casino/

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Chicago Tribune sheds some light about the complexities of passing a casino bill and the current climate on gaming in Illinois in the article below.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-illinois-gambling-expansion-met-0505-20150504-story.html

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Monday, April 6, 2015

On March 27th, Governor Rauner signed House Bill 318, a bill to fill holes in the FY15 (FY15 concludes on June 30, 2015) budget.  This law allows the government to sweep money from funds with balances and use those funds to fill the holes in other areas of the budget.  Monies that were to be used to fund county fair racing in June, as well as moneys to subsidize the Cardinal and Violet stake races this May at Balmoral have also been swept.  The June county fairs and the Cardinal and Violet stakes, if conducted, are unlikely to have any state subsidized money added to the purses because of these sweeps.  The IHHA will continue to work to get these funds restored. The money for our County Fairs for fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016) is also in serious jeopardy but that budget has not been approved or finalized yet.  We will update this website as these issues unfold.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The General Assembly is not in session for the next few weeks (they are scheduled to return on April 14th) but the discussion of a gaming bill this Spring continues. Here are a few recent articles that relate to us.

Daily Southtown - March 20, 2015

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-kadner-casinos-st-0322-20150320-column.html#page=1

The Intelligencer (Editorial) - March 30, 2015

http://www.theintelligencer.com/commentary/article_f37cf794-d6f5-11e4-99cf-335ba1ae0fdb.html

Southern Illinoisan - March 29, 2015

http://thesouthern.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/simon-poll-illinois-voters-mixed-on-state-revenue-ideas/article_a9b0a6d8-e7f1-537c-8f6e-e6287f83581c.html

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Monday, March 30, 2015

The IHHA wanted to give a shout out to Hose Williams for donating a harness and a jog cart to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.

Just another example of horseman doing a good thing, Way to go Hosea!

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Thursday, March 20, 2015

IHHA horsemen participated with students from the Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences recently in a job shadowing program. It was a great experience for everyone involved.

Click here to watch a brief video.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A house bill was scheduled for executive session today in Springfield. The bill would have introduced the possibility of historical racing machines at Illinois racetracks. The details of the bill were never discussed with horsemen and was also not supported by the racetracks, consequently, it was never called and is unlikely to advance in its current state.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

We wanted to let everyone know that in Governor Rauner’s recent proposed budget for the State of Illinois, appropriations for the Illinois Standardbred Breeders and Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders funds were cut. These “Standardbred Breeders Funds” are used to provide purses for races at the Illinois State Fair, the DuQuoin State Fair and over 30 county fairs throughout Illinois as well as for purse supplements at the pari-mutuel tracks. As budget discussions continue, the IHHA will try to repair this situation. We encourage Governor Rauner to restore the funding to the FY15 levels. We are also taking this opportunity to educate the Governor on who we are, what these funds are specifically used for and how our industry enhances the agribusiness in this state. Stand by for updates.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

The General Assembly is in the early stages of its Spring session but “slots at the racetracks” talk has already begun. Click here for more.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Horsemen teach Chicago high school students

Juniors and seniors try their hand in the driver’s seat

HINSDALE, Ill. – Juniors and seniors from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences took the reins this month at Maywood Park in Chicago’s near west suburbs when they job-shadowed local Standardbred trainers for a day. All students participating in the shadow days are seniors and juniors who gain hands on experience by working directly with trainers and horses.

High School Junior Paulina Arellano studies animal science and hopes to one day work in the horse racing industry. Paulina said that during her trip she and the other students “learned a lot about what exactly happens to the horses, trainers, and workers off the horse track.”

In 2010 The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences embarked on a Standardbred breeding program spearheaded by local horse owner Denny Pietranduono. The school's first yearling was sold in 2013 for $6,200 at public auction.

The Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association is a vocal supporter of the breeding program at the High School and was eager to help students learn more about horse racing. “It was a great opportunity to spend time with young people who are excited to learn about the horses and the sport,” said IHHA President Dave McCaffrey. “Even though Standardbred trainers are part of the agricultural community in Chicago, we don’t always think about them that way. These students were a reminder that even in a big city, agriculture and agribusiness employs people and supports the economy.”

Trainer Dave McCaffrey gives a student a driving lesson. Credit: Paulina Arellano

Arellano said that her favorite part of the trip to Maywood Park was when students were allowed to jog a horse around the track. “To me, it was like heaven,” she said. “Because I love race horses and working with them.”

McCaffrey said that the IHHA is excited to participate more with students in the animal science program at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. “It’s great to see the passion in the students’ faces,” he said. “I think it helps remind us of why we got into the business in the first place.”

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Maywood and Balmoral filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection a little after noon on December 24.  As a result, over the next several days and weeks many meetings and court proceedings will occur.  Because horse people are an interested party and are affected by  certain decisions made by the bankruptcy court, the IHHA will be involved in the proceedings as much as possible.  We will keep our membership informed as this process unfolds.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Illinois horsemen braved the inclement weather Monday night to attend a General Horsemen’s meeting concerning the “atom bomb” that was dropped on our industry by the recent $78 million verdict against Balmoral and Maywood Parks and one of their chief executive officers. Although all questions were addressed, because of the unique circumstances, many definitive answers were simply unavailable at the time.

IHHA President Dave McCaffrey did a superb job of explaining to horsemen the entire plight of the Illinois harness racing situation after a recent jury took only three hours, after a five day trial, to rule in favor of the four riverboats and their lawsuit against Balmoral, Maywood and John Johnston.

Nevertheless, McCaffrey went on to tell all, at this time, no one knows what kind of a future is in store for Illinois harness racing. And for that matter, if we’ll even be racing after this weekend.

“You can expect Balmoral/Maywood and John Johnston to file for bankruptcy this Wednesday and first day motions will be filed the following Friday or Monday.”

 “From that point on, the only thing certain regarding Illinois harness racing is that nothing is certain.”

“I am confident that we will be racing this weekend. After that, I’m about 70 per cent certain that we’ll race the first four days of January, but that’s a decision the Illinois Racing Board will make,” continued Dave.

“We have a contract that we will honor with the two racetracks through June 30. However, the bankruptcy judge may or may not cancel that contract. Right now we just don’t know what the judge will or won’t do.”

Lawyers from the IHHA, the two races tracks, the four casinos awarded the $78 million judgment and perhaps other interested parties, will begin filing motions in Bankruptcy Court on the first day of the proceedings. Then sometime between 5 and 15 days thereafter the judge will rule on those motions.

At this time the entire future of Illinois harness racing is “up in the air.”

A few significant points that McCaffrey tried to explain to the group was that total monies earned for 2015 horsemen’s purses (derived from all mutual handles such as the racetracks, OTB’s, ADW’s, etc.) is expected to total between $11 and $12 million. However, recapture will devour almost $5 million or about 45% of that. It’s possible that future recapture money could also end up in the pockets of the winning riverboats as assets.

It’s estimated that about 70 per cent of the 510 horses on the grounds at Balmoral and Maywood and the 300 more at local farms and training centers wouldn’t be able to compete at tracks outside the Chicago circuit. The closing of the two racetrack’s backstretches could also make as many as 350 of those horses homeless and perhaps headed for “death row.”

 McCaffrey took a stream of questions from the attentive crowd and was able to clear up several queries. Such as:

Is the money in their Horseman’s Bookkeeping Services accounts safe from the bankruptcy proceedings?  “The HGCA is a separate holding company from the racetracks and purse monies are held safely and securely there in segregated accounts.”

What about stake payments made to Balmoral or Maywood for 2015 races?

“They could end up with the four winning riverboats as part of the $78 million in awarded assets if the bankruptcy judge decides to go in that direction.” Dave alerted horsemen to hold off on those stake payments for right now.

Why can’t we race at Hawthorne?

“Quite simply, right now Maywood and Balmoral were awarded harness dates for 2015. Legally they are their dates. Unless the Illinois Racing Board changes that, it is not an option. If the IRB revokes or suspends the license of Maywood and Balmoral, we will look at all of our options.”

My gut tells me in some shape or another there will be harness racing in Illinois in 2015. It may look very different and it may have some interruptions but we will race.  I’m sure that many horses and their owners hope my gut is right.

by Mike Paradise

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

As many of you know by now, a court decision against the ownership of Maywood and Balmoral Park was handed down earlier this week.  The judgment against Maywood/Balmoral is unprecedented in it's size and scope and has left the harness horseman of this state in a precarious position.  At this point in time, there are plenty of rumors about our future but very few facts that lead us to solutions or clarity.  We will do everything in our power to protect the owners, grooms, trainers, drivers, breeders, etc. who have supported the Illinois harness industry for so long and update you as soon as more facts are ascertained.

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The IHHA has responded to some recent newspaper "letters to the editor" that were written on behalf of the riverboat industry. The following is our unedited response to those publications.

Let’s set the record straight

Tom Swoik’s recent Op-Ed about slot machines at racetracks is misleading on several fronts.

“Special legislation to bail out their industry?”

In the early 90’s, legislation that waived the requirement that riverboats cruise off shore was passed with the cooperation of the horse racing industry. In return for their help, the horse racing industry was promised money from the yet to be built 10th riverboat. That law passed and casinos immediately went dockside, establishing their boats as land based casinos and raking in unprecedented amounts of money. The tenth riverboat license was subsequently tied up in courts for years and the horse racing industry was left staggering.

“A dying industry?”

Horse racing is not a dying industry. Illinois horse racing may be dying but in other states that allow slot machines at their racetracks it is successful and it is flourishing. Sixteen other states currently allow it. Many Illinois horsemen have already left, taking their horses and their team to other states like Indiana where the purses are higher and the opportunity to earn a fair living exists. Horsemen and their stables are similar to other small businesses. They set up their stables where they have the best opportunities for their families and for their horses to succeed. That business success is realized in the form of purses. Those purses have skyrocketed in other states while they continue to fall in Illinois.

“Illinois has a saturated gambling market?”

Here’s the red herring. These riverboats are simply protecting their own interests, including the Hammond Indiana riverboat that markets to the Chicagoland area. They are simply using the Legislature to block the competition. All we are saying is let us compete in this gaming marketplace, give us the opportunity to compete for those gaming dollars. Let the market dictate what saturation is. These same riverboats that are complaining now will be the same ones lining up to apply for these new licenses. Many of them currently own and operate racetracks around the country that have slot machines.

“Casino Cafes”

Isn’t it ironic that it is ok for the riverboats to want protection from these “casino cafes” but the horse racing industry is vilified for wanting that protection from the riverboats? Horse Racing has been in existence for over 100 years in this state. It is illogical for anyone to understand how there are these mini casinos on every corner, but a racetrack that supports the horse racing industry and the thousands of verified, middle class jobs that go along with its agribusiness cannot.

The casino industry is fond of touting the money that they provide to the state and the jobs that they provide. While those jobs are important and the cash influx is welcome, the impact that horse racing has on Illinois’ overall economy reaches much further. Horse racing stimulates agriculture, Illinois number one economy.  Illinois grain and hay farmers find a market for their crops with horsemen. The Illinois horse racing industry impacts blacksmiths, veterinarians, truck and trailer dealers and more, something the casino industry can hardly claim. A robust horse racing industry provides good jobs that support families.

In seven months, June of 2015, without any legislative help from the Illinois General Assembly, Maywood Park, one of Chicago’s four racetracks will be the first to close its doors. A racetrack that has been in business since 1946, a business that has allowed horsemen to ply their trade and earn a living. The jobs that will be lost, the upheaval of the lives of all the backstretch workers who work and live there and the economic impact of that closure will be felt throughout Illinois.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Chicago High School of Agriculture Sciences perseveres with help from one of Illinois great harness ambassadors. Click here for more.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Carol Marin reports on the state of harness racing in Illinois. Click here for the video which aired last night in Chicago.

http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Dying-Illinois-Race-Tracks-Seek-Gambling-Expansion-271019981.html

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The General Assembly will be adjourning this week and it appears unlikely that our "jobs" bill, the gaming bill will be called. As we have repeated far too many times, there is politics happening in Springfield that is really out of our control. The entire horse racing industry, as well as numerous other groups, (to see the full fact sheet, click below) want to see the original SB1739 called with just the added stronger regulatory concerns that the Governor requested. However, once again, we are told "it's not the right time yet." Pensions issues (City of Chicago and the State) are still not solidified, the income tax hike passed in 2011 sunsets this year and our budget for the fiscal year is still being debated. These are a few of the reasons being reported to us as to why? Like it or not, believe it or not, these are still the answers. And yes, we do ask legislators, when is it our turn to do what 15 other states have done to save their horse racing industries and all the jobs that go with it?

> Fact Sheet

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Click here to see the negative consequence of recapture on Illinois horseman.

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