USHRAA Newsletter
November, 2018
Issue - 004

To advertise with us and for rates 
Call - 631 896-9838
Email - [email protected]
News & anouncements - [email protected]

USHRAA

Welcome

In This Issue

Introduction, by Freddie Hudson

Yonkers Raceway the Begining, by Freddie Hudson
Attitudes - In My Opinion, by Monica Bencal
Darwinism & the Current State of Harness Racing, by J. Bernstein
IFHA Delegates On Drug Rules, by Staci Hancock
Horse Industry Gathers in DC, by American Horse Council
RUS at Meadowlands, by Mid-Alantic RUS 
Brennan Reflects On 10,000 Wins, by Frank Drucker
A Grooms Journey Part II, by Oscar Belliveau
Just The Numbers, by Charles Martino​
Funny Stories From Roosevelt Raceway

Introduction
​By Freddie Hudson

Welcome to the November issue of the United States Harness Racing Alumni Association's newsletter. Our newsletter has been well received and we continue to receive many  complements. It is published on the first of each month. We cover horse and human interest stories and we  focus on the issues that are of concern to all involved in the thoroughbred and  harness racing industries.

The mission of the USHRAA is the enhanced promotion of the harness racing sport, the passage of legislation that benefits the sport, the promotion of equine assisted therapy for our veterans and the promotion of best practices in the aftercare of our horses.

In this months issue Monica Bencal discusses the sports attitudes in her "In My Opinion" column. Also in this issue we have an interesting article about Yonkers Raceway, that tells why there would be no New York Yankees if it was not for Yonkers Raceway. George Brennan reflects on winning 10,000 races in the Frank Drucker article. Other contributors include Charles Martino, Oscar Belliveau, James Bernstein, Mid-Alantic RUS,  and Staci Hancock. We also have some funny stories about Roosevelt Raceway.

I hope that you continue to enjoy  reading  our articles and that you find them educational. We welcome feedback and If you have an article,  an announcement, or comment for our next issue please email it to [email protected]

Thank you,

Freddie Hudson

​Freddie Hudson

USHRAA

USHRAA

History

Yonkers Raceway

Yonkers Raceway, founded in 1899 as the Empire City Race Track, is a half-mile standardbred harness racing  track and New York state-approved slots racino located at the intersection of Central Park Avenue and Yonkers Avenue in Yonkers, New York near the New York City border

Yonkers Raceway the Begining (1899)
By Freddie Hudson

William H. Clark was a board member of the Driving Club of New York and he is the founder of Yonkers Raceway. In 1887 the club’s trotting track, Fleetwood Park, was sold by its owners and the Driving Club of New York found itself without a racetrack to conduct its races. This caused a decline in membership and membership dues were not being paid. The club’s officers and members went in search of a suitable replacement. Two properties were located but members were in disagreement of both locations. Members at that time were seeking to build a half-mile track and many wanted the location to be in Manhattan.

William H. Clark had been the NY City Corporate Attorney under two mayors, Thomas Gilroy and Hugh Grant, and was a leading board member of Tammany Hall under the leadership of Richard Croker.

He was also a prominent thoroughbred owner, owning some of the best thoroughbreds in the country. He had made his fortune in real estate and the Wall Street stock market. In 1898 at the age of 43, he was considered a self-made millionaire.

Also a member of the Driving Club of New York was James Butler, an Irish immigrant who had made his fortune in the ownership of grocery stores. In 1900 his Butler grocery stores had over 1,100 stores nationwide ranking him as the second largest grocery retailer in the U.S. only behind the A&P stores.

Both men set out looking for suitable properties; Butler representing the driving club and Clark on his own. Butler found two properties that were put on the consideration list of the driving club’s board. Clark on-the- other-hand went out and purchased 100 acres for the sum of $150,000. The land was located between Yonkers, Mount Vernon and White Plains on what was then part of the Pease and Potter Estates.

While the driving club was only looking to build a half mile track, Clark’s plans were to build a mile track and to have both thoroughbreds and trotters racing at the new track. The plan called for the building of a grandstand, a mile oval track, and stable areas all to be constructed within a six-month time frame.

As Clark started his venture, his luck was about to change. Clark had always been lucky and received a lot of inside information from his associates at Tammany Hall. In 1897 Clark fell out of favor with the Tammany Hall members especially the leader Richard Croker. In the Suburban Handicap, in which his horse Banastar was the favorite, he  never got out of the gate. His real estate transactions were now costing him money and his stocks were falling in value. The cost of building his race track was far exceeding the projections.

Clark had applied for grand circuit dates and had received them. He had also applied with the Jockey Club to conduct a thoroughbred meet and was receiving the run around and had even scheduled a meeting in which their representatives didn't show up. They eventually denied his request.

The final cost of building the track was $850,000 and Clark didn't have the money. With the track near completion and the Grand Circuit's six day meet scheduled to start in early September, Clark went to Saratoga. With the remaining money that he had, he gambled it on the roulette and faro tables, losing in one night $40,000 and a total loss of over a $100,000 in a week’s time.

The Grand Circuit meet started on schedule in September of 1899 and was consider a successful meet with over 40,000 spectators attending the 5 days of racing. At this meet Clark introduced two new forms of racing. He reduced the best of 5 heats to the best of 3 heats and also attempted to introduce the single dash races which were boycotted by the horsemen causing the last day of the meet to being canceled.

With his finances in ruins, Clark went into hiding. Creditors were looking to be paid, and the Grand Circuit horse owners were looking for their purse earnings. On February 17, 1900, a news article was released that stated that Clark was in mental disorder and was financially ruined. His brother stated to the New York Times that there was no truth to either story and that his brother was recovering from bronchitis and was under his doctor’s care. The next day on February 18, 1900, it was reported that William H. Clark had died that morning of congested lungs. Many at that time did not believe that report and felt that it was a suicide.

Yonkers Raceway 1942 Post-Card

After his death it would later be known that Clark was close to half a million in debt. The Jockey Club in order to help raise money for Clark’s widow granted a two week race meet to the Empire Racetrack for a 1900 fall meet. Also the track was awarded Grand Circuit dates for the fall of 1900 with a grantee of purse monies being available. Both meets went off and were successful.

In early 1901 the track was put on auction so as to pay off Clark's debts. The winning bidder was Frank Farrell who at that time was known as the Pool Hall King. He was New York City's most successful bookie, owning a Manhattan casino and several thoroughbreds. His winning bid for the Empire City Racetrack was $218,000, a bargain for a racetrack that cost $850,000 to build.

The estate immediately challenged the bid stating that they had someone that was willing to pay more than the $218,000. The judge gave them two weeks to produce a bidder. The Driving Club of New York offered $300,000 for the Empire City Racetrack and the judge and estate accepted the bid.

Frank Farrell on the other hand with prohibition now being enforced in New York was forced out of the bookmaking and casino business. In 1903 he took the money that he would have used to buy the Empire City Racetrack and he bought a baseball team from Baltimore called the Baltimore Orioles. He then moved the team to New York and changed the teams name to New York Highlanders. Then in 1910 the Highlanders would change their name to the New York Yankees.

In 1905 James Butler would purchase the Empire City Racetrack from the Driving Club of New York. Also at that time he would have a falling out with the harness racing Grand Circuit over the fact that his trainer didn't make the stake payments as he was supposed to and the Grand Circuit wanted him to return all of the purse money that had been awarded to him. He would then sell all of his trotting horses and concentrate on thoroughbreds.

Empire City Racetrack under Butler’s ownership would become an official Thoroughbred Racetrack and the Driving Club of New York would continue to have meets at the Empire City Racetrack until 1915. The track would host thoroughbreds until 1941 and then due to the war and a tax demand by the city of Yonkers, it would switch it's meet over to the Jamaica Racetrack in Queens. Harness racing would return to Yonkers for a short meet in 1943 and then Yonkers would become a full-time harness track in 1950.

USHRAA

USHRAA

In My Opinion 

Attitudes
By Monica Bencal

In my column last month, I stated that I thought we could all agree that Harness Racing is in a state of decline. I then went on and listed nine (9) areas that I felt needed to change if there was to be any chance of reviving the harness racing industry. My hope was that each month I could address an area in depth. Of course, the goal of addressing each of these areas would be to see if we, as an industry, can come up with some workable ideas that could actually be implemented so that the decline we are experiencing can be reversed. In my opinion, it is our industry’s attitudes that are the very thing causing our decline. Given that, it should not surprise anyone that the first thing I think our industry needs to change are its Attitudes.

As a woman, I know all too well about feelings and attitudes (or at least that is what my husband would say 😊 ) but it is my opinion, that our attitudes, beliefs, and industry culture are the most pressing problem in harness racing today because they are the very things that are keeping us from seeing how the issues in our industry could be resolved. Put more simply: We need to change how we think about things before we can begin to change how things are done.

What exactly are these attitudes, beliefs, and industry culture that I think need changing? Before we look at examples of those, I think it is important to understand the generic terms of these words. The word attitude can be described as a settled way of thinking about something. A belief is the acceptance that this “settled way of thinking” is true. Our attitudes and beliefs influence our opinions about what is happening in our surroundings. We also decide whether what is happening is right or wrong or good or bad. Taking that a step further, one can define an Organization’s Culture as the underlying beliefs, assumptions, values, and ways an industry interacts with its members and the outside world. Another way of saying this is how we think, influences how we act, and the way we think and act as a group, influences how we are defined by the people outside the industry.

So how are we viewed by people outside the industry? If you look at the on-track attendance figures at any racetrack in the country, the definitive answer is … not very well. The question becomes how do you begin to change the way we as an industry think, so that we can then change how things are done? The answer is that we need to look outside of our bubble and see that the views and opinions we hold on important issues inside our industry, are different from the views and opinions of the people we are looking to lure towards harness racing. This is an important statement because it highlights our biggest problem: I believe that the customer does not want to come and see the show we are putting on because our attitudes and values inside the industry (how we act and react to issues) are diametrically opposed to the attitudes and values the larger public holds. They simply do not like what we stand for or how we operate and that means they are not going to watch harness racing.

What is the public  telling us that  they don’t like about Harness Racing? For that answer, I asked a friend of mine for an opinion on harness racing. Keep in mind that this friend is not in harness racing game. This friend mostly knows about harness racing because of what they hear from me and my involvement in the game. And since this friend of mine is also a Facebook friend of mine, there is a dose of “insider information” contained in the answer. Keep in mind that I knew before I asked the question that our image was tarnished, but I honestly did not expect the harsh assessment of the industry that I received.

What was the harsh assessment I received? Well my friend’s first complaint is that Harness Racing is BORING! In a world where every young person in their 30’s and 40’s is doing six different things at once, young people are not going to participate in something that requires them to hunch over a program for hours on end to maybe win a few bucks and call that entertainment. What they want to do is to sit around with their friends laughing, eating, drinking and having a good time! What we need to do is make betting on Harness Racing fun and effortless. We need innovative ways to place bets that do not require a great deal of thought like maybe Quick Pick Trifectas. If you don’t think this is the way to go, I would tell you to step into a slot room and watch how many people lineup to put money into a machine in order watch the wheel go around. People go out to be entertained and for a little diversion. I believe we would be more successful in luring young people to harness racing if it was fun and easy AND there is a possibility they could win money. I am not saying to take away serious handicapping. What I think we should do is have additional ways to make a wager. Currently when you bet, if you know nothing about harness racing and you can’t read a program your chances of winning are almost non-existent. Heck, even IF you know something about gambling on harness horses, your chances of cashing a ticket are not that good. The reason why slots and the lottery are so attractive to the average person is that you do not have to do much for the opportunity to win. But So, the emphasis on betting today, if we are going to capture a larger customer base, must be based on the concept of fun and easy. Nothing else will do.
Another thing that a large part of the population today dislikes about harness racing, according to my friend, is that the public believes we are a cruel industry that abuses the animals it races. It is well documented that the public does not like the fact that whips are used. What people REALLY do not like is what they view as excessive whipping. It turns their stomachs. But their aversion to harness racing is not just that whips are used: It is more than that. Try this exercise: Go to your browser, type in the words cruelty and harness racing and see what you come with. What I found, was the following: “5 Reasons Why Horse Racing is Cruel | Save Animals | Peta Kids, save-animals, horse racing; and “Harness Horse Racing Cruelty to Horses Soon to End in New Jersey” – put out by Animal Liberation Front where in their article written on 3/16/2010 the first line reads “…and they’re off to the slaughterhouse.”. These articles document a host of other issues that the public has concerns about beyond the whipping aspect.

Please understand that this view is not only being promoted by what some would consider extreme organizations. There was also an article put out by the Atlantic in 2014 with the title “The Ugly Truth About Horse Racing”. Even the benign social media site PinInterest has a pin entitled “This is not funny! Harness Racing is cruel and it causes the horse psychological and physical damage. | Harness Racing | Pininterest | Horses and Racing”. Even HRU published an article on Jan. 15, 2017 that contained the phrase “… the well-documented checkered history of harness racing…”. Regardless of whether you believe these things to be true or not true, the perception of a large portion of the population outside of the harness racing industry is that we are cruel and inhumane to the horses we race. Saying that these things are not true will not change how the outside world view us. We have to SHOW people that these things are not true. And in order to change how we are viewed, we are actually going to have to change some of the practices that are entrenched in our industry.

People also believe that cheating in harness racing is rampant and the game is fixed. Stories about the corruption do not help our image. My friend used the terms corruption, greed, and cronyism. The problem for me was that I had no counter to his argument because, at the time, we were discussing the recent scandal in PA that involved the regulatory body and some horsemen. My friend did not buy the argument that a person who stands to gain financially can be the same one that regulates the rules of the game. I am still not sure if I buy that argument either.

I have heard from a few people that they think the answer to the problem of how the outside world views us is for the media to stop publishing negative stories. Unfortunately, I do not agree. The biggest reason I do not agree with this approach is that I do not think this is a realistic solution to our problems. In today’s world with social media access and 24/7 information at our fingertips, I believe we actually need to change our practices so that our attitudes and beliefs match the attitudes and beliefs of the outside world. We need to show people we love and care for the animals that work for us. To do this we need to stop the practices, like whipping, that the general public finds objectionable. As an industry we also need to stop shrugging off instances of cheating. This is especially true if illicit drugs are used in racehorses. We, as an industry need to come down harsher against those that  break the rules. If we do that, and publish that story, we may have a chance of having the betting public come back to harness racing.

I also believe that we are not addressing some of the problems our avid harness racing fans have with the way we do things. The things that are problems for this group, like post time drag, large take-outs, small fields and bad food, will also be a problem for any new fan that comes through the door. We not only have to get new fans to come through the door, either at the racetrack or through a technology connection, we also have to KEEP these fans. And to keep these fans, we need to implement real and sustained change.

The problem, as I have stated before, is that change is difficult. If you are looking to change something the first thing you need to do is to admit there is a problem. I have read that some of our industry leaders believe that “all is well” in Harness Racing. What I think they should have said is that “all is well” currently in their segment of the industry. Even if one or two areas are currently prospering (like the yearling market or a racetrack receiving slot money) that does not mean that the industry as a whole is healthy. It does not even mean that their current state of prosperity is sustainable. If the harness racing declines much further, all areas of the harness racing Industry will eventually be adversely affected.

And the last thing that I think is a problem is that no one in our industry has a long-term strategy that will promote the changes that are needed so that every segment of the industry benefits. Harness racing needs to stop thinking only of short-term gains and start thinking about long-term investments. Please do not misunderstand: I do not think that profit and capitalism are bad. I think profits and capitalism are the elements that are necessary to create and help sustain a healthy company and / or industry. I just believe that in addition to short-term profits, our industry needs to start thinking about a long-term investment strategy.

Someone once told me that real courage is moving forward when the outcome is uncertain. I would add that for harness racing, moving forward is necessary if this industry is going to survive. In addition, we need to change if we are going to be able move this industry into the future. We can no longer afford to be dismissive of ideas that will change, maybe even radically change, our industry because change is coming one way or the other. Only by initiating the change can we guarantee what harness racing will look like in the future.
This article and the opinions expressed within are solely the opinions of the author. This article is the second in a series of articles exploring the changes that would be necessary to reverse the downward trend seen in the harness racing industry. Each month the author will address one issue that was listed in the first article of the series. Please feel free to express your opinion on this or any topic presented

. Any questions or replies to the article may be addressed to the author and sent to [email protected] or in the comment section below the article in this month’s newsletter. All responses will be acknowledged and printed provided that a name and contact information is provided. The next article will examine the issue of Leadership in the Harness Racing Community. Thank you and see you next month!
Become A USHRAA Member
Comments

USHRAA

Introduction: In a recent Paulick report (10/15/2018), the issue of “super-trainers” in the British and US thoroughbred industry was discussed. This same situation exists in harness racing today. What Mr. Berstein has done is given this phenomenon a name -- Darwinism. In the following article, he outlines both why he believes this happened and the traits of Darwinism. He also discussed both its long and short-term effects.

Darwinism and the current state of Harness Racing
by, James. Bernstein, 10/28/2018

Darwinism in relation to the sport of harness racing has short-term effects and long-term effects. The short-term effects are negative; the long-term effects could be positive. Darwinism defined as “survival of the fittest” pertains to the industry.

In order to look pragmatically at the current state of harness racing one must focus on what has begun to transpire:

Over the past 5-10 years multiple racetracks have closed especially in the Midwest and Canada. The closing of a track is devastating to a local horseman in that vicinity. They either relocate or find another vocation.

Over the past 10-20 years alternative forms of gambling have replaced betting on horse racing especially in harness racing. (It is interesting that Thoroughbred handle has not been affected to any great extent.) This has led to small pari-mutual betting pools at harness tracks. It has also led to the decimating of a “live” fan base at tracks.

From 1990 through 2015 membership with the USTA has declined from around 35,000 per year to 17,000 per year.

Since the advent of “racino’s” purses have increased at geographically located racetracks providing much higher purse structures. However, over the past 5-7 years competition within local areas for casino gambling has blossomed exponentially. Thus, purses have begun to decline.

These are all short-term effects of Darwinism and are major negatives in my opinion for the industry in general. Unfortunately there has been basically no active marketing at the local level to correct some of these issues.

Looking at the long-term effects of Darwinism I can make a case that as tracks close; as horseman leave the industry, the tracks and horseman that survive will be fewer in number and possibly prosper. Tracks will have less competition with each other. Horseman who survive and have well healed owners will have larger stables. The interesting fact here is that at the same time as all of this is occurring there is a racehorse shortage in the industry as a whole. With a healthy economy owners are buying more horses that are available; and spending larger sums of money. However, the negative to this is that fewer and fewer horseman will receive these horses, i.e. Darwinism.

In closing I believe this is a realistic picture of the harness racing community. I also believe a case has been made for the positive aspects of Darwinism.
Comments

USHRAA

USHRAA

Racehorse Integrity Act

Staci Hancock

Staci Hancock owns Stone Farm with her husband, Arthur Hancock III. Stone Farm bred, raised, and campaigned Kentucky Derby winner Gato del Sol and
raised and campaigned Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence. The farm has also bred, raised, and sold horses such as Fusaichi Pegasus, Risen Star, Air Force Blue, and Mastery. Hancock is the president of Stone Agency, a boutique insurance agency that focuses on equine and property policies. She is a co-founder of the Water Hay Oats Alliance and the Kentucky Equine Humane Center.

IFHA DELEGATES WEIGH IN ON DRUG RULES, INTEGRITY OF COMPETITION
​By Staci Hancock of the WHOA

Delegates who attended the 52nd International Conference of Horseracing Authorities on October 8, 2018 in Paris, France heard presentations relating to the health, welfare, and safety of jockeys, the harmonization of rules, and the stimulation of betting handle.

In the days leading up to the conference, several of them took the opportunity to share their respective thoughts on Article 6 of the IFHA International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering.

Article 6 addresses the " biological integrity of the horse", prohibited substances, genetic and cellular manipulations, prohibited practices, medication in training, and out-of-competition testing.  It is designed to ensure that a horse is allowed to compete only when free from the influence of drugs and medication, and it includes assurances that the horse has not received alterations to its genome with the intent of enhancing performance.

Among the provisions of Article 6 is the relatively new 6E, which provides specific guidance for out of competition testing, a regulatory initiative of increasing importance to detect more sophisticated attempts to enhance performance.
Since its inception in 2012, the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA) has continuously lobbied for a ban on raceday medication in North America to align with international standards in Article 6.  WHOA's goal is the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 and the creation of a Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority in the U.S.

Under the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority, there would be full adoption of the specific principles contained in Article 6.

Following are comments provided to WHOA by some of those IFHA delegates.

Louis Romanet, International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities:

"Horse racing is an increasingly global sport. In order to safeguard the fairness of competition and confidence of stakeholders, bettors, and the public at large, racing authorities throughout the world must adopt and enforce robust doping control measures that include out-of-competition testing. Only under these regulations will we ensure that racehorses do not compete under the influence of any prohibited substance."
  
Nick Rust, Chief Executive, British Horseracing Authority:

"In Great Britain, along with most other leading horseracing nations, we have subscribed to Article 6 of the IFHA agreement, which prohibits the use of such substances. We realize the difficulties of introducing such measures across all states, but we would like to see the United States follow suit so that there is widespread adoption of Article 6 throughout the world."
     
Brian Kavanagh, Horseracing Ireland:

"Horse racing and thoroughbred breeding are now truly global activities and it is only a matter of time before we see uniform medication and anti-doping rules worldwide. Drug testing and anti-doping policies are the cornerstone of our industry and as the equine world becomes smaller, the rationale for uniformity becomes more obvious."
 
Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chairman, Asian Racing Federation:

"The Asian Racing Federation's guiding principles are based upon a commitment to the values of fair competition, transparency, health and welfare of racehorses, and respect for fans.   The use of prohibited substances is fundamentally contrary to these values."

Staci Hancock

Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing, Hong Kong Jockey Club: 

"The Hong Kong Jockey Club adopts a zero tolerance regulatory approach to the use and abuse of prohibited substances and backs it up with stringent enforcement. This approach is consistent with our world view that there is simply no place for doping in racing at any time."
     
Dr. Makoto Inoue, Presidential Counselor for International Affairs, Japan Racing Association:

"The Japan Racing Association strongly believes that there is simply no place for the misuse of doping agents in racing. The JRA takes pride in our comprehensive integrity system, which ensures a high level of testing of racehorses, both in and out of competition."
 
Frances Nelson QC, Racing Australia: 

"Stringent anti-doping measures are key to ensuring that horses compete in races free from the presence or effect of substances which may be performance-enhancing. Racing Australia fully supports the IFHA's approach to Article 6. Without it's global adoption, the integrity of racing is compromised."
 
Oscar Bertoletti, OSAF, South American Organization for the Promotion of Thoroughbreds: 

"Thoroughbred racing is following the same path as other sports have, regarding the process of globalization, the uniformity of rules, and the welfare of its athletes. It is in this direction where OSAF has been continuously working, in line with IFHA´s strategic policy of Tolerance Zero regarding the use of forbidden substances in competition."
 
It is WHOA's firm belief that through passage of The Horseracing Integrity Act  now before congress, U.S. racing will be able to fully support the provisions of Article 6 and meet uniformity with the highest international standards.

USHRAA

 Join WHOA’s 1,700 members that includes 85 Standardbred Members, including Track Owner Jeff Gural, HOF Trainer Jimmy Takter, HOF Member Bob Marks and leading Owner/Breeders Cindy and Steve Stewart, and support the Horseracing Integrity Act. From owners and breeders to trainers and drivers, from industry professionals to racing handicappers – YOU have a stake in the game. By simply adding your name to the membership roster, you will support WHOA’s national grassroots movement. Visit our website for more information.

USHRAA

USHRAA

Legislative

American Horse Council

The American Horse Council is a trade organization in Washington, DC representing the horse industry. The organization formed in 1969, with a committee that became the Coalition of State Horse Councils forming in 1970, now having 43 states participating. American Horse Council Foundation was founded in 1991.

Horse Industry Gathers in DC, Moves Key Priorities Toward the Finish Line

September 26 and 27, horse industry representatives gathered in Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers and advocate for passage of the industry’s top legislative priorities.  During a meeting with leaders of the Congressional Horse Caucus and other industry allies on September 26, members learned more about positive developments related to a funding boost for equine assisted therapy and industry-specific provisions of the 2018 farm bill and guest worker visa legislation.  Prospects for another enforcement delay for the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate and progress on trails legislation also emerged as reasons to run into the home-stretch of the 115th Congress on a high note.  During the two day meeting series, horse industry advocates met in the offices of more than 35 elected officials.   Below are summaries of highlights emerging from the Fall “Ride-In.”    

Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) Emerges as a Win-Win for Heroes and Horses


Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) briefed horse industry representatives on the latest boost to EAT funding included in the new FY2019 Veterans’ Affairs spending bill, which the president signed into law on September 21.  The new law increases EAT funding to $1.5 million, a 50 percent increase from FY2018 levels.  Rep. Barr (R-KY) spoke passionately about the dual benefits to veterans returning to civilian life, and the opportunities for working horses to have “second careers” as therapeutic animals.  Studies show that EAT can effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts many U.S. veterans. 

Farm Legislation Includes Cutting-Edge Animal Health Programs, Lawmakers Address Industry-Specific Statutory Definition


While the industry has successfully advocated for a trifecta of livestock health programs in both versions of the farm bill – creation of the National Animal Health Vaccine bank, a new National Disaster Preparedness Program and support for the National Animal Health and Laboratory Network - differences over the scope of nutrition assistance programs have stalled agreement on a final package.  House Agriculture Committee Vice Chairman G.T. Thompson (R-PA) informed AHC that he believed that the House and Senate would ultimately find common ground on a final bill before the end of the year.  Echoing statements made during several meetings, Rep. Thompson (R-PA) also expressed optimism that the final bill would drop language included in the senate version that defines horses as “pets” within the context of a “Pet and Women Safety” (PAWS) provision.  Industry has suggested that lawmakers delete “horses” from the proposed, statutory definition of “pets,” but retain “horses” as a stand-alone category.  This would retain the long-standing classification of horses as “livestock,” while allowing equines to fall within the scope of property damage subject to compensation within the parameters of the PAWS Act.     

Congressional Allies Continue to Fight for Guest-Worker Visa Flexibility, Equine-Specific Labor Needs


House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) discussed the AG and Legal Workforce Act of 2018 (H.R. 6417), which would reform the broken agricultural guest worker visa program.  Among other benefits to the industry, the legislation clearly states that personnel involved in the “management and training of equines” will qualify to participate in a newly-created H-2C visa program for farm workers.   Since Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the bill in late June, it has gained 110 co-sponsors.    
 
Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) discussed a second vehicle important to the industry, his provision in the FY2019 DHS (H.R. 6776) appropriation which addresses the stringent 66,000 cap imposed on the issuance of H-2B visas by providing an exemption for returning workers.   This “returning worker” exemption not only provides much needed cap relief, but will reduce red tape for seasonal employers.  Congress will likely not finalize the bill until after the November election.
  

Julie Broadway (AHC President)

Will Trails Legislation Cross the Finish Line?
 
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) lauded the fact that both the Recreation Not Red-Tape (RNR) Act (H.R. 3400) and the Restore Our Parks Act (H.R. 6510) passed his committee favorably, and are placed on the House calendar for a possible vote before the end of the year.  While neither companion bill in the Senate has yet received a hearing, senate aides stated that there was reason to be optimistic that Restore Our Parks (S. 3172) would receive a hearing in the fall.  Of the two major trails bills that the horse industry supports, it appears that Restore Our Parks, which would address backlog trails maintenance, has the better chance of crossing the finish line before the end of the year.  Stay tuned. 
 
Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act Gains Supporters
 
No new information emerged during the meeting series to raise the prospects for passage of the PAST Act.  However, the Senate version of the bill (S. 2957) has gained 32 cosponsors.  Sen. Crapo’s (R-ID) office stated that they were optimistic that the bill would have no shortage of supporters during the next congress. AHC will continue to keep you updated on any changes to the prospects for this important equine health legislation.
 
 
Horse Industry Focuses on Congressional Leaders, Leverages Message
 
While the bulk of the Hill meetings during the ride-in focused on constituent-specific officials, the industry also met with leaders who have jurisdiction over the sector’s major legislative issues.  Horse industry representatives were able to meet with chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee and House Natural Resources Committee, as well as the Vice Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.  On the Senate side, AHC members and guests talked to senior staff in the offices of the Senate Majority Leader and Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, among others.   If you’d like more information related to the meeting series and next steps, please contact Bryan Brendle at [email protected] or 202-296-4031. 

USHRAA

Racing Under Saddle

No Recess scores convincing RUS MidAtlantic victory at Meadowlands
Sunday, October 21, 2018 - from RUS MidAtlantic

East Rutherford, NJ --- A field of eight trotters converged on The Meadowlands Saturday (Oct. 20) to compete in the second leg of the RUS MidAtlantic series. When the dust settled, No Recess, ridden by Sietske Dijhkof, scored a convincing 10 length victory, stopping the timer at 1:59 over the fast track.

Hyway Marcus finished second while French trotter Atout De Fontaine, making his first start in North America and first overall since April at Angers in France, finished third, a half-length further back.

When the gate opened, Hyway Marcus went right for the lead with Atout De Fontaine pushing the perennial circuit winner to the first quarter, parked in a :28.3 split. Keenan, taking advantage of the rail position, managed to get away third with Funny Photo parked fourth. No Recess, the eventual race, winner got away sixth.

Through the rest of the race to the three-quarter marker, the race was close as Hyway Marcus took the field through fractions of :57.3 and 1:28.3. By the time the field reached the three-quarters, a stalking No Recess made up enough ground to be second. Funny Photo, who was parked the entire way, was third.
Once the field hit the stretch, No Recess hit his best stride, opening a two length lead over Hyway Marcus, who used early was unable to engage the leader. Continuing his drive, No Recess was the victor by open lengths. Atout De Fontaine, fourth at the top of the stretch, managed to finish third just behind Hyway Marcus as the tough trip took its toll on Funny Photo who managed to hold on to fourth, two lengths further behind. Puddin N Pie, making his first start under saddle, picked up the final purse check in fifth. Finishing further behind (in order) were Keenan, One True Friend, and Credit Blues.

The winner is a 9-year-old altered son of Rich Boy–Riann Photo and is trained by Kyle Spagnola for Spagnola Racing. With Saturday’s victory, Sietske Dijhkof now has a riding record of 4-3-0-1 for 2018.
The final leg of the RUS MidAtlantic series will be contested at Rosecroft. The date has not been finalized as of press time.

USHRAA

USHRAA

Spotlight on
George Brennan

Brennan reflects on 10,000 wins
October 24, 2018, USTA News Archive
by Frank Drucker, Publicity Director, Empire City at Yonkers Raceway

Yonkers, NY — About seven weeks ago, an evening or so after Brian Sears won the 10,000th race of his career, there was George Brennan, sitting next to him inside Yonkers Raceway’s drivers’ room.

“We’re the old guys in the room,” Sears said.

Well, ‘Old Guy’ Brennan joined Sears in the five-figure club, mimicking Sears and winning his 10,000th career race this past Friday night (Oct. 19) at the pair’s home away from home, Yonkers Raceway.

When diminutive Down Under Our Zak Whitby A went the distance in that evening’s second race, chauffeur Brennan became the 16th North American driver to reach that number.
A rare race off the night before allowed the 51-year-old Brennan a chance to reflect on what was then a milestone-in-waiting.

“It’s a good number, nothing I was aiming for,” Brennan said, “but I understand it’s significant. “I don’t know if my approach is any different than when I was 30 or 40. I still love what I do, show up every night, keep myself in good shape and know the horses.”

Of course, getting dibs for Ron Burke and Scott DiDomenico, among other leading trainers, doesn’t hurt.

“The horsepower is the key,” Brennan said, adding, “The game has changed. Speed stays longer, the horses — pacers and trotters — have a lot more go-go. You don’t always have to be forwardly-placed, but it usually doesn’t hurt.”

If there has been one concession Brennan had made, it’s to his schedule.

“I’m here (Yonkers) about 98 percent of the time,” he said. “There’s no more traveling and getting home at three in the morning. Sometimes, I go to Freehold, the Meadowlands or Philly, but always local. “It keeps me fresh.”

The Brennan resume recital is too meandering for this missive — the man’s no one-hit wonder — so he was asked to choose a few that stood out.

In no particular order:

Glidemaster (2006 Yonkers Trot) – “It was unfortunate for John (Campbell). The colt won the Hambletonian and Kentucky Futurity, then John was injured and (trainer) Blair (Burgess) asked me to drive. The race was late that season (Nov. 25), and it was a very cold night here. He won first-up in (1):55 (actually 1:55.4) to win the Triple Crown, so to be a part of that was pretty special.”

(author’s aside…Brennan had driven Glidemaster in his previous start, finishing second in the Breeders Crown at Woodbine)

Artist’s View (2007 Breeders Crown 3-year-old colt/gelding pace, Meadowlands) – “Without a doubt, one of my favorite races. He was out every step from the 10-hole and won (at 42-1). His trainer, Buzzy Sholty, is one of my best friends, so that was great.”

Holborn Hanover (2006 US Pacing Championship, Meadowlands) – “I put a world record (1:46.4) on him that day. Old bike, record lasted for years. Loved him.”

(another author’s aside…Holborn Hanover’s effort remains the standard for older pacing geldings. He was five at the time)

And then there was THAT day, Aug. 6, 2011, at the Meadowlands. In a span of 35 minutes, Brennan polished off the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks (Bold And Fresh, 1:53.1) and $1.5 million Hambletonian (Broad Bahn, 1:53) at odds of 24-1 and 6-1, respectively.

“Who thinks that’s going to happen?,” he said. “It was a hell of a day.”

George Brennan (Mike Lizzi Photo)

During the conversation, around a mundane 10-race overnight card, Brennan bemoaned one aspect of the game that he says has changed.

“I miss not having the classy 10- and 11-year-olds out there competing the way they used to,” he said. This night featured ‘just’ three 10-year-olds, although several of the races were age-restricted.

It didn’t take very long to connect the dots between that musing and one Foiled Again.

“What’s he’s done has been incredible,” Brennan — who won thrice with him — said of the sport’s richest-ever equine. “It was an honor to get to drive him.”

Alright, George Brennan, let’s put the finishing touches on ‘What 10,000 wins means to me.’

“I think what I’m really proud of is that when I came down here (New York metropolitan area) for good in 1994, I didn’t have 1,000 wins,” Brennan said. “So, to win 9,000 or so races driving against top-notch competition, that’s something to me.”

Brennan, a native of Monticello, N.Y., won his first race — behind Rob Ron Romper — at his hometown track as a high school junior back in 1982. His career purse earnings exceed $171 million, ranking seventh all-time, according to the United States Trotting Association.

Asked when he thought he ‘became good,’ Brennan offered that “I was going to drive horses for a living regardless, but when I had early success at Monticello (inserting credit to stepfather Joe Ricco Jr.), it helped.

“I’m 51, but I’m still learning, so if younger drivers are picking things up from me, I’m picking things up from them, too.”
Related Articles:

Brennan reaches 10,000 career win plateau (Friday, October 19, 2018)

Driver George Brennan won the 10,000th race of his career Friday night (Oct. 19), doing so at his second home, Yonkers Raceway. Brennan, who entered the night with 9,998 wins, immediately knocked off the ‘to do’ list when he took down the chalky daily double in the down-the-road fashion.

USHRAA

RR Fractional Ownerships plans to develops and manage horse racing partnerships which will provide individuals unique opportunities to fulfill their dreams of owning a racehorse and to compete at the highest levels of the sport. As the next generation in racing partnerships, we give our Partners access to a level of the game that might otherwise be unavailable to them, and use our unparalleled institutional knowledge and customer service to provide an insider experience which is positive and memorable every step of the way to the Winner's Circle.
This month Randy lee and Freddie Hudson will be interviewed about the harness racing industry and RR Fractional Ownership, on the Mick Bazsuly Show. Mick's show airs on WSBR Money Talk Radio and he has over a million listeners. The show airs in South Florida 740AM, 96.9FM & 103.9FM. The show is aired  worldwide and we will send out a link to the recorded show when it becomes available.

USHRAA

Then and Now

A Grooms Journey (Part II)
By Oscar Belliveau

Anyway, in late August, school was going to start in a short time, and I didn't want to go. I had fallen behind, (I was by all measure a terrible student, although it was apparent to
me that I was good at certain things, but other subjects not so much. Add to the fact that the teachers were at a loss as to how to teach me, and I became an academic failure) and I just didn’t want to have to repeat the disaster of the previous school year, so, that Friday evening I thought about it and
decided to run away again. Actually, it was more that my heart said “go”! On the following Sunday morning, I left the house
with my jacket and about 27 cents, not much, and told my mother that I was going to church, but in reality, I went through the woods and made it to the highway going north and started hitchhiking.

That Sunday was a beautiful day! I hitchhiked until the early evening, but I still hadn't gotten very far. I was in the small village of Bouctouch N.B, about 70 kilometres from my home and it was evening. I had an aunt that lived there and decided to go there to sleep. I told them that I had missed my ride home, so she let me spend the night. I was worried that she might call my mom, but she didn't. On Monday morning I got
up early and started hitching. I got some good rides, actually, they were better than the previous day. I made a lot of progress and by the evening I had made it to a town called
Bathurst New Brunswick. It was at about 7 pm and a man picked me up. He asked me where I was going, so I told him my parents had moved to Quebec City and I was supposed to take the train, but that someone had stolen my bag and money, so I had to hitchhike. I was good at making up stories. He owned a hotel in town and gave me a room. I think he was gay, because he gave me a bath, but since I was so young, he didn't touch me! I was lucky. They had a restaurant so he got me dinner as well. In the morning, he woke me up and gave me breakfast! Then I left and started to hitchhike again. I was about half way there, but the rest of the way was going to be more difficult.

Oscar Belliveau

The next part of the journey was much more difficult I started to hitchhike and the place I was headed to was called the Gaspe region of Canada. It was a wilderness area, with few cars and houses. Hitching a ride there would be difficult. I got a couple of short rides and finally, I was at a small store and I met a black man. He was about 18 or 20, and we started hitchhiking together, but nobody stopped to give us a ride.

We walked for hours and still no rides. He wanted to go to Greenland, and as he was telling me this, I realised that he was a little off in his head. Greenland isn't accessible by road and I saw at that moment that he was really a bit off mentally. He was ok in many ways and not a bad man, just lost in his understanding of life. Eventually, I understood that the reason we weren't getting a ride was because of his black skin. I saw racism for the first time! 

I told him that I was tired and that he could go on without me, which he did. I sat and waited by the road. Remember, we were in the countryside and there were few cars or houses.
After about 25 or 30 minutes, a car came and I hitchhiked a ride from him. I mean, it was the first car that came and he gave me a ride right away. The driver was a priest, who was
supposedly a man of god, but as we caught up to my black skin companion, he didn't slow down for him. I saw his face, and I could see his pain and confusion. I felt a guilty that I had gotten a ride because of my skin colour, and he couldn't.

I have often wondered what had happened to him. More to come!

USHRAA

USHRAA

Then and Now

Just The Numbers
by, Charles Martino

After spending a few days with my daughter  at the Meadows and watching her and others work,  I realized how much harder they work today in the business then I had to when I first got involved.

With that I decided to think about the difference in  Numbers, both in dollars and time. When I made these comparison the results sadden me to say the least.  In 1975 when I first started rubbing horses you would  take care of 2 or 3, I had 3 most of the time, being I started at Freehold, the pay was 50 dollars a head with $25 dollar paddocks. So using those numbers I made $150  for rubbing horses weekly and if  I only had 2 horses race a week I had another $50 dollars in Paddocks. That was $200.00 a week, so I made $10,400.00 for the year. The median income of 1975 was $11,800.00, the math works out to be that  I made 88% of the median income.

If we applied that to today's median income of $59,000.00 the people doing the same job I did back then should be making nearly $1,000.00 a week, but we know that is not happening. What has happened  is that most grooms today are rubbing 5 horses or more, or they are working in an assembly line system were they keep up a torrid pace to get the work done.

Their work day is longer and harder and for that privilege of working harder they get paid 1/2 of what I did in real dollars, earning if they are lucky somewhere in the $500-550. a week.  I started my day at 6:30 am and by noon I was done, except on race days. We were stable at the track so I drove back and forth,Home to work.  That changed a little when I went  to work in NY where the races were run at night, but then I also went to 75 dollars a head and 30 dollar paddocks. With that I was then making more then the median income and it was still only one trip home. Now most are driving to the barn then to the races and then driving back to the barn and then  home. That is because today more then half the  horses  are stabled  at training centers. 

Charles Martino

Back then it was fun, exciting and promising. I always knew I would progress, and the crowds of people on the tarmac made me want to be part of something others  found intriguing.  I never felt trapped, yet I am not sure that is what those who are working so hard in the industry today feel.

What else was inspiring, at that time there were many who had 1  or 2 horses that were actually making a good living, but somewhere that changed. Today's workers have it much harder almost to the point of being shut out of any real opportunity. Yes in this business you can still hussle and get by, but is getting by enough? I have said that racing is a Microcosm of what is going on in the Country, this may be most evident in the fact that slot money has really only help those at the top.

The big barns win most the races, the big owners take most the purses. but those on the bottom still struggle. I couldn't have imagined working in this business without the feeling of hope, in my visit that is what seemed to be missing.

Without real opportunity were will tomorrow's trainers come from? Who wants to be part of something that only a select few have opportunity?  In most aspects people in the business wouldn't want their kids to follow them, that may be the ultimate sign we are on the wrong path. We not only have failed to cultivate our fan base we are failing to cultivate our future!  

USHRAA

USHRAA

Hey, You’re Wearing My Colors!
Driver/trainer Billy Myer had a set of colors stolen from the locker room at Roosevelt Raceway. About a month later, as Myer was driving down Post Avenue, he spotted a kid walking down the street wearing his stolen colors. Immediately, Myer pulls his car over and yells to the thief to stop and that he was wearing his colors. Immediately, the young man took off running in Myer’s colors, but the trainer was unable to catch him. He never did get his colors back!

​Billy Myer

Funny Stories From Roosevelt Raceway
A Good Tip
Throughout the many glorious years that Roosevelt Raceway was operating, many events and situations took place that became “legends” to many people. Most of them are funny, some are hard to believe—but believe us, they really did happen! In this section, we have listed a few of them. We hope you enjoy them!

Frank Popfinger

One day, trainer/driver Billy Hudson went to the barber shop to get a haircut. The barber gave Hudson a “tip” on a horse that ironically, Hudson was scheduled to drive. When Billy asked him who he got the tip from, the barber said, “I got it from Billy Hudson, the driver. He was in here yesterday to get a haircut!
Winning Without Racing

​Billy Hudson

It was a foggy night at the races. The visibility was very poor—the drivers could only see a short distance ahead. Leaving the gate, driver Alan Myer took his horse to the outside and took his horse all the way to the outside fence. Once there he  slowed the horse down to a walk and he waited until he could hear the other horses coming around the clubhouse turn. Once he heard them he reentered the race about 10 lenghts on front. He won the race having only racing his horse less then half a mile. The funny thing is that nobody noticed.

Archie Niles, Jr. “The Pool Shark”

One day at Roosevelt Raceway, they announced over the PA system that they were looking for a driver who was good at playing pool (billiards) to participate in an exhibition game with  Willie Mosconi. The horseman all agreed Archie Niles Jr. was the harness drivers’ best pool player. So as not to be too embarrassed, Archie practiced eight hours a day for the next two weeks before the exhibition. When the time came for the exhibition, Niles was as good as he could be. Niles ran the table on Mosconi three times until the management had to stop him from shooting so his opponent could shoot.

​Alan Myer

Feedback

I'm Frank Popfinger

One night before the races, a man walks into Mimmo’s, walks up to the bar, and orders a drink. Sitting at the bar were driver/trainers Jack Richardson and Archie Niles Jr. After the man finishes his drink, he orders another. He soon starts a conversation with Richardson and Niles, introducing himself as Frank Popfinger. Unbeknownst to the man, the two drivers were good friends with the real Popfinger, and they let him rattle on. The man claiming to be Frank Popfinger tells his new two “friends” that he has three horses in races that evening, and not to bet him for he would be “stiffing” all of them. Finally, one of the drivers said to the phony that Frank Popfinger was a good friend of his, and that the imposter was not who he said he was. Embarrassed and in shock, the man excused himself to go the restroom…and never returned!
The foregoing content of articles is solely the opinion and facts of the author, not that of the U.S. Harness Racing Alumni Association. We reserve the right to clarify wording and/or edit any articles without modifying context prior to publication.