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Friday, January 30, 2015

Racing/Bankruptcy update:

On January 28, Maywood and Balmoral Park submitted to the bankruptcy court, as directed, their schedules and financial statements. This process gives the court and the creditors the opportunity to understand and estimate the true value or worth of the business and properties. As we have said before, this is a process. While the weeks and months of this process continue, we have to wait and see how it unfolds. 

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Racing/Bankruptcy Update - January 25, 2015

On Thursday, January 28, materials from Maywood and Balmoral are due to the bankruptcy court.  These materials will be collected, sifted through and analyzed by the court and the creditors.  That process will take some time; as a result we expect racing to begin as scheduled on January 29.  In addition, at this point, we feel confident that racing will continue through at least late winter.  Whether and how long we continue racing into 2015 is anyone's guess.

One misconception that should be clarified is about bankruptcy itself. Bankruptcy is a PROCESS that unfolds over time; it's not like a trial that happens on a specific date.  And, that process can go very quickly or can drag on.  How long the process takes depends on the creditors and the bankruptcy court and will ultimately tell the tale of how long we race.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Dispatch/Argus - Editorial - January 15, 2015

http://www.qconline.com/editorials/editorial-as-downs-takes-final-bets-focus-must-turn-to/article_5873197d-5e86-5fb9-be13-c6ebcf171574.html

Editorial: As Downs takes final bets, focus must turn to future

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015 12:00 am

The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus

Word that the offtrack betting parlor at Quad City Downs will close its doors Jan. 31 was met this week with little public fanfare.

In fact, many we heard from were surprised to learn that it was still in operation.

That’s hardly surprising given how little business is being done these days at 5005 Morton Drive, East Moline. The odds clearly are against the survival of what is rapidly becoming the dinosaur of legal state-sanctioned gaming: horse racing.

In an email statement earlier this week, Tony Petrillo, the general manager of Arlington International Racecourse which operates 11 Trackside facilities in Illinois, including the Downs, blamed the poor state of the gaming industry in Illinois for the East Moline facility's shuttering. That has included dramatic declines in pari-mutuel wagering since 2001.

Arlington is hardly alone. Horse racing is hurting everywhere in Illinois and even around the world as industry insiders endlessly examine what can be done to save it. “Is horse racing entering the final furlong?” the London Telegraph worries. “No, Horse Racing Can’t Be Saved -- Even by a Triple Crown Winner,” The Atlantic warned in May.

That hasn’t stopped the champions of the former sport of kings and the lawmakers who support it from trying. In Illinois, for example, proponents recently went all-in on a gaming expansion bill that would have put slot machines at Illinois racetrack sites. Proponents of “racinos” promised, among other things, a return to limited live harness racing at the Downs if the measure became law. It didn’t.

East Moline Mayor John Thodos said that on at least three occasions in the past 10 years lawmakers gave Q-C Downs’ supporters hope the track could be revived. A bailout never came and its slow decline, which began when riverboats took to Illinois Q-C waters in 1992, continued to accelerate. The latest blow was approval of those now-ubiquitous video gaming machines robbing revenue not just from race tracks but other state gaming operations including Jumers Casino Rock Island.

As for The Downs, though the loss of trackside is awful news for its employees and remaining patrons, it isn’t a huge economic blow to the city of East Moline. The gaming operation hasn’t been much of a government-revenue generator since live racing ended. It pays no gaming taxes to the city and East Moline is likely to see only a small drop in sales tax and utility service fees.

That doesn’t make this loss of a piece of Quad Cities history any less sad.

The Downs once was a Q-C entertainment destination.

It opened its doors with great promise in 1973. Ten years later, it was a thriving and growing asset to the community according to then president and general manager James Patten. He told The Dispatch, “We think of the Quad City Downs as more than just racing and betting. We think it should be and is something more than an entertainment center. We think the Downs should help the community.”

That was a long time ago and these days, a drive by The Downs gives few hints of what it once had to offer. Soon even the off-track wagering will be gone. Though it’s hard to gauge what a new Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner might do about efforts to revive horse-racing in Illinois, the chances for the Downs reopening as a live harness-racing track seem slim, especially as evidence mounts that Illinois has successfully saturated the legal gaming marketplace.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Below is the link to an interview that was on a local Aledo radio station yesterday. It was with Alex Norr, who headed the County Fair Impact Study for the University of Illinois. As we all know, harness racing at many county fairs (33) is a big part of this.  This study confirms one of the ways that agribusiness in Illinois works and the impact it can have on stimulating the economy and putting dollars directly back into the communities.
www.wrmj.com/illinois-county-fair-economic-impact-estimated-at-170-million

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

                                                     By Mike Paradise

  One of the bright spots the past few years in Illinois harness racing has been the well-deserved success of Casey Leonard who has risen in prominence to become one of the top catch-drivers on the Chicago circuit.

  The 37-year-old Harvard, Illinois native captured both the driving titles at Balmoral (204) and Maywood Parks (171) in 2014 and for the second consecutive year posted more dash winners in our state than any other horseman.

  Casey drove 385 winners last year. He posted 407 in 2013 with 562 more drives. Leonard’ horses earned purse money of $2.8 million and $2.3 million the past two seasons.

  It was only seven years ago (2008) that Casey did almost no-catch driving on the circuit, basically just steering the Leonard family’s horses. He had 19 winners that year before deciding to give catch-driving a try for the 2009 season at the age of 32, Casey went on to post 49 winners that season.

  Leonard vaulted to 184 winners in 2010, and had 235 and 231 in 2011 and 2012, going over the $1 million plateau for the first time in his career in those past two seasons.

   Casey’s mercurial climb up the ladder of success has surprised even himself.

  “I would be the first one to tell you that 10 years ago I never thought I’d be where I am today as a driver on the circuit.”

   The old proverb about “When Opportunity Knocks” certainly fits the narrative to Casey’s success.

  “The biggest thing for a catch driver is to make the most of your opportunities,” continued Casey. “When you do, you get better and better horses to drive.  It doesn’t mean you have to drive more aggressively, it means you have to take advantage of the opportunity and drive that horse accordingly.”

   “The last couple of years have been great. I’ve had the chance to drive some very good horses.”

  And Casey definitely took advantage of those opportunities.

  The late Chicago Cubs manager of the late 1960’s Leo Durocher once said: “Nice Guys Finish last.” Leo had no idea back then a guy like Casey Leonard would come along and prove him wrong.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Today’s bankruptcy court proceedings concluded with very little new  information. There were many rudimentary motions made, such as approval for additional counsel, changes of name and addresses for some creditors, authorization for the debtors to pay their lottery proceeds, adequate payment plan for utilities etc. The court is scheduled to return next week on a matter that at this time has no significance to us. The court has also scheduled a hearing for the following week, January 27th.

As we reported yesterday, the motion to extend the deadline to file schedules and statements or provide required information was extended until January 28, 2015. As of now, racing will resume on January 29th.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Maywood/Balmoral bankruptcy update:

Last week, attorneys for Maywood and Balmoral (Debtors) filed a “Motion for extension of deadlines to file schedules and statements.” They listed numerous reasons for this request. One of the most significant was because of the size and complexity of the Debtor’s businesses.  The bankruptcy judge in this case granted their motion and now the deadline for these filings has been extended through January 28, 2015.

As a result and as of now, the IHHA is confident that racing will resume racing on Jan. 29.  As time goes on and this unprecedented process moves forward, we will provide updates as they become relevant.

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Friday, January 9, 2015
 

Giberson Family Named 2014 HHYF Service To Youth Recipient

Westfield, IN- For the first time ever, the Harness Horse Youth Foundation has selected an entire family -the Gibersons of Spalding, Illinois - as the recipient of its 2014 Service to Youth Award, the organization’s highest honor. The Service To Youth Award is given to individuals, farms, or organizations who exemplify outstanding effort in facilitating youth participation in harness racing. Recipients show exceptional assistance (either financially or educationally as a catalyst) to existing HHYF programs or in their own successful efforts.

Not only have the Gibersons prepped HHYF Trottingbred Sweet Karen for her summer campaigns for  the past three years, they have opened their barn to the public regularly to introduce people to the sport, utilizing Karen as a primary ambassador. They have also hosted an annual picnic for students from Riverton Elementary School, which their children attend. This past summer their daughter Madeline organized a fundraising concession stand to honor their departed pacer Fax Valley Camo at this year’s Illinois State Fair races.  The event raised more than $2,000 for HHYF.

“We try to do business right,” explains Amy Giberson. “And part of that means giving back to the sport and reaching out to our youth.  But it’s a two-way street. Our own kids have learned so much working with Karen.”

The Gibersons' efforts have not gone unnoticed by the general public as the Springfield State Journal-Register reported in an August, 2014 story, “It’s not uncommon for unexpected visitors to show up at Giberson Racing Stable located on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. They are ambassadors of harness racing. Their barn door is always open. They offer visitors a chance to jog a horse around a track, brush one and take photographs. It is particularly the couple’s mission to promote the sport to youth.”

“We’ve never received an honor like this. We really didn’t do anything other than what we always do to help kids get involved with the sport. It’s so rewarding…and this award is so surprising, “Giberson says.

HHYF President Marlys Pinske commented, “"HHYF is deeply indebted to all of our benefactors and we are especially proud of the entire Giberson family. We welcome other families to follow their lead to assist with our important mission."

The Gibersons – Nick, Amy and their children Madeline (8) and Ethan (6) -- will receive the award at the U.S. T.A. District 5 Awards Banquet at the Artisan Building of the Illinois State Fairgrounds, on Saturday, January 17 2015.

The Harness Horse Youth Foundation is a charitable 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing young people and their families educational opportunities with  harness horses, in order to foster the next generation of participants and fans. The Foundation has been making a difference in young people’s lives since 1976, and its programs include interactive learning experiences with these versatile animals, scholarship programs, and creation and distribution of educational materials. For more information on opportunities through HHYF, or to support its mission, go to www.hhyf.org.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The first bankruptcy hearing for Maywood/Balmoral took place in the United States Bankruptcy Court at the Dirksen Federal Building today.  It was, as expected, a brief preliminary hearing.  Some procedural motions, made by representatives of the racetracks, were made and passed.  They anticipate filing more motions and or requesting for extensions in the following weeks. The IHHA has legal representation at these hearings and is officially considered an interested party by the court.  Our attorneys will monitor all future motions and  proceedings closely. Again, at this point in time, we expect racing the first four days of January to occur as scheduled.  We are also hopeful that after a short break we will resume racing, as scheduled, on January 29. The next court date is currently set for January 13, 2015. We may know more by then and we will provide updates as this complicated process unfolds.

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Racing Update - Monday, Dec. 29, 2014

On Tuesday Dec. 30, the first bankruptcy hearing for Maywood/Balmoral will take place in a downtown courtroom.  This is mostly a preliminary hearing.  As such, the IHHA believes with a high degree of probability that racing will be conducted the first four days of January.  We are also hopeful that racing will begin as scheduled on January 29.  

As a reminder, we have a contract with Maywood and Balmoral through June 30, 2015.  The Johnston's have indicated that they intend on honoring that contract.  As we move forward into 2015, the racing situation will hinge on how bankruptcy proceedings progress.  We will convey updates as quickly as we get them.

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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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Ruth Ann Austin, 76, dies
Tuesday, December 23, 2014 - from the USTA Communications Department

Columbus, OH --- Ruth Ann Austin, 76, of Lincoln, Ill., died Dec. 23, 2014, at Memorial Medical Center, Springfield, Ill.

Mrs. Austin was born Nov. 5, 1938, in Clinton, Ill., the daughter of Jean (Meachum) and William "Ted" Lillard. She was a graduate of Lincoln Community High School and Millikin University School of Nursing. She married V. James Austin on Dec. 24, 1960, in Lincoln, Ill.

Mrs. Austin was a registered nurse, spending much of her career as Director of Nursing at the former Lincolnland Nursing Home and served as President of the Director of Nursing Council. Upon her retirement, she consulted on a number of long term care legal cases. She was considered an expert in the field of long term health care.

In retirement, Mrs. Austin became immersed in the Standardbred industry, a passion she and her husband shared. The Logan County Fair racing program was a cherished event that involved the entire family.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her children, Jodi Becker, Jim (Gail) and Julie (Todd) Campbell; brother, Rex (Janis) Lillard; grandsons, Ethan Campbell, Austin Campbell, Owen Campbell, Cory (Sarah) Sisk, Matthew (Maggie) Becker and Luke Becker; great-grandson, Austin Becker; and special niece, Grace Lillard. She was preceded in death by her parents; and son, Jon William, who died in childhood.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday (Dec. 27) at Fricke-Calvert-Schrader Funeral Home, Lincoln, with Rev. Dayle Badman officiating. Burial will follow in New Union Cemetery. Visitation will be one hour (10-11 a.m.) prior to the service.

Memorial contributions may be made to West Lincoln Broadwell School.

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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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Simmons’ Old-Timer Wild About Small Tracks (12/11/14)

Posted Thursday December 11, 2014           

By Mike Paradise

   The veteran campaigner of the Tom Simmons Stable is Clinard Properties’ Kansas Wildcat who despite being only a few weeks away from his 11th birthday, is still winning his share of races, especially on Maywood Park’s half-miler.

   Kansas Wildcat goes into Friday’s tenth race, a mid-level conditioned pace with 53 career victories and 38 of them have come on half-mile tracks. He’s paced his last three season marks all on the Maywood Park oval.

  “He’s a lot like me,” said his trainer Tom Simmons. “He’s older and wiser now. He likes it better on a half-miler. He can’t go as fast as he did when he was younger so the half-miler at Maywood suits him just fine.”

Kansas Wildcat was acquired by Simmons at the end of his 3-year-old season, back in December of 2007. The son of Blissful Hall has earned almost $300,000 in his seven seasons of racing for his Mt. Sterling owner even though he’s never won a purse of over $10,000 for his Springfield based conditioner.

  His win for Simmons with a $10,000 pot came in a 3010 Balmoral Open when he beat Annieswesterncard (1:49, $1.4 million).

  Kansas Wildcat has won at least five races each year for Simmons and has never made more than 32 starts during a season. His best campaign came in 2019 as a 6-year-old when he captured nine races.

  “What holds him up now days is keeping him racing at Maywood rather than going back and forth at Balmoral with him. Once he’s at Balmoral in those high conditions he doesn’t do so well. I have to wait until he gets knocked down out of that class and is eligible again to race at Maywood.”

  Can we expect to see Kansas Wildcat back in action next season?

  “Oh yea, he’ll be back to race in 2015 as an 11-year-old,” replied Simmons who has over 3,300 wins as a driver and more than 1,500 as a trainer. “Heck, he's as sound as a bull. He’s a well-made horse. You couldn’t ask for a horse to be made any better.

  “Kansas Wildcat loves his work and he’s a gamer. If he gets any breaks at all out there, he’ll race hard.”

  Despite landing the 7-slot in Friday’s 8-horse 10-race field Kansas Wildcat is the 2-1 morning line favorite with a class drop for regular driver Brian Carpenter. The Nelson Willis trained entry of Jerrico (Casey Leonard) and Don’t Worry B Happy (Mike Oosting) is next at 3-1 odds, followed by Crankin It Up (Kyle Wilfong) at 7-2.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Today, the Illinois Racing Board, decided on the 2015 racing dates.

Maywood/Balmoral has a signed contract with the IHHA that supports racing being conducted 2 days a week at Maywood and 2 days at Balmoral from Jan. 29 to June 30, 2015 and includes a dark period at the beginning of the year from Jan. 5 to Jan. 28. At the evidentiary hearing 10 days ago, both sides agreed to support that contract. The second half of the year is where the difference of opinion occurred.

The racetracks requested zero days of racing at Maywood for the last six months of the year and two days a week at Balmoral during that same period.

The IHHA testified that it seemed logical that if positive legislation indeed did pass then Maywood should race at least one day per week for the final six months of the year.

The IRB today ruled in favor of the schedule for the first six months of the year but also ruled that Maywood should race two days a week for the second half of the year if legislation passes.  They stated for the record that if no legislative help came to the industry then they would give strong consideration to allowing Maywood to vacate those two days for the final six months, which was basically the IHHA’s position from the start.

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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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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

This is an interesting press release written by the RCI (Racing Commissioners International)

If A-Rod Was a Horse, He Wouldn't Be Allowed to Race

LEXINGTON, KY - New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is the latest example to surface underscoring how the "no doping" policies in horse racing are tougher than other sports that deploy a process to allow the hidden use of performance enhancing substances in competition.

"If Alex Rodriguez was a horse he would not be allowed to race," said Ed Martin, President of the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

According to a new book by Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts, "Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era", the baseball great was granted permission from Major League Baseball (MLB) in 2007 to play while receiving prohibited treatments of testosterone.

"Other sports and the Olympics allow therapeutic use exemptions which allow athletes to compete under the undisclosed influence of prohibited substances if they apply with the required medical request. In racing, we require that horses be scratched and not allowed to participate. It's a big difference that many people overlook," Martin said.

According to the book, 1,354 MLB players were tested in 2007 and exemptions to 111 players were allowed by the league to compete with undisclosed prohibited performance enhancing substances.

"Those who bet on baseball games in Vegas may want to shift their action to racing," Martin said, noting that Furosemide is the only substance allowed in a horse on race day and its use is almost ubiquitous in North America and disclosed to the public in the program.

While acknowledging that horse racing, like every sport, has a drug challenge, Martin said racing has a very aggressive anti-doping program and does not permit the undisclosed backdoor use of prohibited substances. "The Therapeutic Use Exemptions that were granted Lance Armstrong for the 1999 Tour de France and Alex Rodriguez would never be approved in racing. Are we concerned about the use of legal substances in horses being trained? Absolutely. But we test for them and a host of other things in post-race samples. If we find them at levels that can affect performance, charges are brought. As far as doping is concerned, it is not allowed."

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Industry leaders unite for 2015 Illinois bred stake races.

Click here for more information.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kadner: Casino bill's demise a murder mystery

From the Southtown Star
By Phil Kadner pkadner@southtownstar.com May 30, 2014 11:22PM

Updated: June 1, 2014 2:11AM

The casino gambling bill was as dead as Marley's ghost. There was no doubt whatever about that.

The register of its burial may as well have been signed by Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and witnessed by as House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The bill was dead as a doornail, that's a fact.

State Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, the chief sponsor of the legislation in the House, should have known it was dead months ago, but he refused to acknowledge that reality despite the stench of political decay.

On Friday, as the spring session of the Legislature drew to a close, Rita publicly acknowledged what everyone else knew — there seemed to be no interest among this state's political leaders in achieving casino expansion this spring.

Why Quinn and Emanuel would want to play Scrooge in this saga remains a mystery because both men have indicated in the past that they want a casino in Chicago and maybe four more in other locations throughout the state.

"I'm going to ask for meetings with the administration of Gov. Quinn and the administration of Mayor Emanuel," Rita told me Friday. "I want to hear what they have to say about the bill and what they would like to see."

Rita became the surprise sponsor of the casino expansion bill last spring when it seemed likely to pass.

Quinn, who previously had vetoed such legislation, suddenly was saying he wanted a bill on his desk. Emanuel was lobbying for a casino that would be owned by the city and operate independently of the Illinois Gaming Board.

Because gambling expansion twice had passed the Senate and House, it seemed logical in 2013 to think that the time was right to get the deal done.

But Rita never called the bill for a vote last year, sending the governor into a tizzy. Rita said he wanted to hold public hearings. He said interested players, for and against casino expansion, had contacted him to say their voices had not been heard.

Indeed, past gambling bills had been cobbled together in back rooms, with state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, hanging all sorts of goodies on them to try to attract enough votes for passage.

A "Christmas tree" bill is what people called it, and the legislation contained all kinds of special funds using casino revenue to appease Hispanics, blacks and other voting blocs in the House.

Rita held his public hearings and ripped out all those little goodies, apparently without consulting anyone.

Then he did something else that was surprising. He came up with two entirely new ideas for casino expansion.

One would create only one new casino, a mega-gambling palace in Chicago that would be owned by the state, not the city. Was that the governor's idea? Madigan's?

No, Rita told me, it was his idea in response to Quinn's concerns about a city casino being independent of the state gaming board and overexpansion of gambling in Illinois.

Obviously, if the state owned the casino, the gaming board would have oversight. And only adding a giant casino in Chicago would address fears about Illinois becoming a new Las Vegas.

Rita's second plan was for a smaller state-owned casino in Chicago and four others throughout Illinois, including one in the south suburbs. Horse tracks would get slot machines under that proposal, but only half as many as in previous bills (about 600).

What did the governor think about that idea? Rita never talked to him. Quinn never called Rita.

As for Emanuel, when Rita held a public hearing in Chicago on the two proposed bills, the mayor didn't show up.

What about Madigan? He has recused himself from the process, citing a conflict of interest.

"He has never talked to me about the bill," Rita said.

Quinn contends that Illinois will have to slash billions of dollars from education and other essential programs unless the 5 percent state income tax is made permanent.

Emanuel said Chicago must raise its property tax rate to fund city pensions.

And there remains more than $4 billion in unpaid bills to the state, even with the higher income tax rates in place for 31/2 years.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability estimates that casino expansion in Illinois could generate $500 million to $700 million in new annual revenue, according to testimony before Rita's House committee.

A developer for a potential casino in Country Club Hills said he's prepared to invest $200 million in a casino complex in that suburb. A Chicago casino likely would attract an investment of $1 billion.

Yet, there's no interest now in building more casinos in Illinois.

The people running the 10 existing casinos, some of whom also are running casinos across the border in Indiana, have made it clear they don't want more competition.

As for the governor, last spring his staff called me saying he wanted the expansion bill called and implying that Madigan was working behind the scenes to stop it. This year, despite numerous requests for comment, Quinn's office had nothing to say.

I figured the Republican candidate for governor, Bruce Rauner, might be interested in all this because he has been talking about the need for job creation, and casinos would create thousands of jobs.

Rauner's spokesman sent me an email with the following statement: "Bruce believes this is primarily a local issue that is about local control and what the community wants — and that's who should be driving the decisions."

Rita told me that he plans to call a revised casino bill for a House vote in the fall session of the Legislature. He may even hold another public hearing.

As for the Senate, which twice passed casino bills, it did nothing this spring.

Maybe Illinois' government doesn't need any more cash. Maybe jobs aren't as important as people say.

No one's talking. And the casino bill is dead.

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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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Friday, March 7, 2014

Wright, family enthusiastic about racing

By BRYAN VEGINSKI

Times Newspapers

MORTON — Harness racing is a passion for a local family.

While Bill Wright has seen his share of highlights and disappointments in the sport with which he has a longtime involvement, last year was particularly memorable. King Mufasa, the trotter he and wife Maddy Wright co-own with Mystical Marker Farms of Dyer, Ind., won a prestigious honor last month in Springfield. King Mufasa was selected as the 2013 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year after recording 14 wins in 18 starts, including 12 in a row. "There's nothing more fun than to get in the winner's circle," Bill Wright said. The vote for top horse is conducted annually by fellow horsemen and horsewomen.

"He was pretty dominant," said Wright of King Mufasa. "He was exposed all over the state."

Some of the notable victories for King Mufasa, who was trained by Mike Brink, were: the Cardinal, Hanover and Su Mac Lad in Chicago, the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and DuQuoin and the Circle City in Anderson, Ind. King Mufasa, who had limited success prior to the '13 campaign, perks up around people. "He's a very good-natured, lovable animal," said Wright. "He's as nice in the barn as he is on the track." Wright and his partners typically sell horses after they are 3 years old, but plan to make an exception with King Mufasa. If he is healthy, King Mufasa will race in 2014 as a 4-year-old, mostly in Indiana.

King Mufasa, along with Dreamaster and Classic Photo, who took part in the acclaimed Hambletonian, rank as some of the best horses Wright has raced in the sport. Wright, along with his co-owners, buy two-three horses per year on average in what is an extensive process of going through detailed information in catalogs and attending sales where they can see the animals in person. It takes a team effort. "It's a challenge buying the right yearling in the first place," said Wright. The focus for the group is on trotters rather than pacers. Relatives and friends regularly are at the race site. "It's really a family thing," Wright said. "It's unique really in that the whole family can get involved. We really get into it."

Wright, a Morton resident for more than 40 years, followed his parents and grandfather. "I was born and raised in the business and I just stayed with the program," he said. Wright would clean stalls and feed the horses, then eat his breakfast before heading off to school. He raced horses in the summer while attending Millikin University in Decatur. After a 33-year working career at Caterpillar Inc., during which time his participation was limited, Wright jumped back in harness racing. He started buying horses in 1988. Most have been equal partnerships. "I feel very honored to be in the sport," said Wright. "It's a beautiful and gracious sport." Maddy Wright mentioned how the family has been blessed to travel a lot to places such as Canada and the East Coast.

Bill Wright was named Illinoisan of the Day in 2010 by state Gov. Pat Quinn, one of the daily recipients during the State Fair's annual run. He has served in various roles with organizations to help harness racing grow and does not forget all the folks who contribute. "I'm a big believer in promoting the sport and thanking people for getting us where we are," said Wright.  Wright plans to be in harness racing for the foreseeable future. "As long as my family loves it, I'll stick wit it," he said.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

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

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