President Cooke’s HHI Annual Meeting Report

The 2015 Harness Horsemen International’s Annual Meeting was held from March 1-4, 2015 in Deerfield Beach Florida. President Tom Cooke and Executive Vice President Sharon Roberts represented CSOA. This report is Tom Cooke’s reflection/comments/research on what took place over the three days of meetings. As you will read herein, CSOA was able to offer two Motions that received unanimous approval.

The 2015 Conference began with each of the represented associations making a brief presentation of the status of Standardbred racing in their state.


  • 20 years of slots revenue
  • VLT revenue is down
  • High concentration of casinos in neighboring states
  • 188 days of racing in 2015 (down 25% from the past)
  • Decline in horse population
  • Dover: 5 days a week
  • Harrington: 4 days a week
  • Expanded Sports Wagering? Currently, Delaware has a very limited system of sports wagering.

Illinois    (very sad story)

  • Relies on handle
  • 190 days of racing in 2015
  • Balmoral Park: 96 days of racing
  • Maywood Park: 96 days of racing
  • Maywood may not open in the 2nd half of the year
  • 2005: 30 M in purses
  • 2015: 10 M in purses
  • 50% of the funds go back to the race tracks
  • Maywood Park/Balmoral Park’s owner was found guilty of federal racketeering with ex-governor
  • $26 M judgment was x 3 (triple damages) = $78 M
  • $78 M owed to the riverboat
  • This matter is in Bankruptcy Court now
  • The Illinois HHA is part of the court process


  • Approved for HHI membership (March 2015)
  • Did not attend the 2015 Conference

Kentucky (historical racing is the focus)

  • The exciting news is the future of historical racing machines at the Red Mile
  • The new facility ($30 M) is being built now
  • 30 days of racing at the Red Mile in 2015; the number was 22 days in 2014
  • Thunder Ridge (Western, KY): Closed
  • The TR license was purchased by Keenland for a Quarter Horse meet in Corbin, KY.
    • The KY harness horsemen have claimed a cause of action against TR for the loss of the harness license … for years, the horsemen contributed to the track’s purse account
  • Kentucky Downs (Franklin): Instant Racing Machines
  • Ellis Park (Henderson): Instant Racing Machines
  • The Red Mile (established 9/28/1975) (Lexington) has been approved for Historical Racing (Instant Racing Machines)
    • $25 M investment
    • 48,000 sq. ft. building is currently under construction
    • 500 machines, sports bar, race track viewing area
  • Keenland has been approved for Historical Racing
    • 40,000 sq. ft. building
    • 600 machines

    Note:  To date, no historical racing machines have Harness racing … only Thoroughbred racing

  • KY Downs (Ft. Campbell, KY)
    • 1st location to have historical racing machines
    • This track may move to Standardbred racing
      • A 4-Year deal is in the works
      • 15-days a year of racing
    • Bluegrass
      • 15-days of racing


  • New Executive Director (Jason), Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association
  • Racino: Bangor, Maine
  • Casino: Oxford, Maine
  • Purse $ is down 3%
  • Overall revenue is down
  • 218 days of racing in 2015
    • 104 days of racing at Scarborough Downs (1950)
    • 55 days of racing at Bangor
    • 9 fairs offering 58 days of racing
  • A company named Whitesand Gaming has completed a study on casino growth in Maine
    • The study concluded that there is room for two more casinos in Maine
    • The independent study cost $150,000
    • Maine has OTBs


  • Slots revenue is down
  • Pari-Mutual revenue is down
  • There are 10 casinos within 2 hours of the race track
  • Horsemen’s board voted to reduce the number of races (was 15 a day)
  • 208 days of racing … with fewer races
  • Dave Palone continues to be the big attraction at the Meadows

Michigan (very sad story)

  • A very sad situation. Limited racing opportunities.
  • Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association
  • Horsemen have to pay $8,000 a day out of the available purse account to race at Northville
  • Horsemen have been forced to get out of the business, relocate their operations or ship long distances to race

Minnesota (small time industry)

  • Card clubs give 90% of the purse funds
  • Running Aces has 240 stalls; there are very few farms in the area of the race track
  • Running Aces Harness Park
    • June 6 – September 12
    • 4 days a week
  • There are only 75 USTA members who claim to live in Minnesota
  • There is only 1 full-time harness horseman in Minnesota
  • Breeder awards are very low. In 2014, one horsemen received a check for .79
  • Minnesota Harness Racing, Inc.
  • Canterberry Park (TBs) has an agreement with an Indian tribe that runs a casino (Mystic Lake Casino/Hotel)
    • TB racing from May 15 – September 12
    • 33 poker tables
  • Mystic Lake Casino
    • Slots
    • Cards
    • Pull Tabs

New Jersey (uncertainty seems to prevail)

  • Under continued pressure <
  • Revenue is down <
  • Nov 2015 referendum for casinos outside Atlantic City
    • The Meadowlands will face competition for any new location in Northern New Jersey
    • The new racing facility at the Meadowlands cost $110 M
    • The Meadowlands has an agreement with the State of New Jersey that IF the Meadowlands does not get a casino … the State must pay Jeff Gural (73) $110 M
  • 4 casinos have closed in Atlantic City <
    • Rebel Hotel/Casino just sold (Toranto based, Brookfield Asset Management) for $110 M. It cost $2.4B to build the facility. The hotel/casino closed on 9/2/14.
  • Meadowlands: 82 days of harness racing and 14 days of Thoroughbred grass racing.
    • Horse shortage
  • Freehold: 110 days of racing
  • Jeff Gural and Monach/Stronach Group
    • Currently, the Monarch Content Management Group has prevented the live signal from Stronach-owned race tracks to Rosecroft and Mid-Atlantic Cooperative race tracks
    • The Monarch/Stronach Group owns a large number of important race tracks:
      • Santa Anita
      • Gulfstream
      • Tampa Bay Downs
      • Laurel
      • Pimlico
      • Golden Gate Fields
    • In addition to its race track collection, Stronach owns Xpress
  • The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative (23 race tracks).This entity is a “purchasing coperative.”
    • The theory behind the cooperative is that in numbers there is bargaining strength.
    • Executive Director, Phil O’Hara
    • 12 of the 23 race tracks are harness
    • Mid-Atlantic members have traditionally paid premium rates to the affiliated tracks

Commentary: It is my opinion that Jeff Gural, who is certainly affected by the dispute, has been working to break up the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative. Gural was recently quoted as suggesting that Rosecroft was at the center of the dispute.[1]

  • New Jersey Bets program sold to TVG
  • Lots of complaints over the ABC system – both tracks have returned (Feb 2015) to writing condition races


  • It took over 10 years for Ohio to get where it is today
  • The effort started in 2002
  • High praise for the current Governor, John Kasich
  • VLTs at 7 race tracks
    • 3 Harness
    • 4 TB
  • 2,500 mares bred in 2014
  • 2-year old population:
    • 2013: 376
    • 2014: 450
    • 2015: 930
    • 2016: 1100
  • 65 county fairs
    • 60/65 have pari-mutual wagering
  • 1,900 members of the horsemen’s association. In 2000, there were 3,000 members
  • $4,000 in sulky insurance


  • Not present at conference
  • Fair racing only

2015 HHI Meeting Highlights
At the 2015 HHI Annual Meeting, CSOA proposed two Motions each of which received a unanimous vote of approval:

Motion 1:  The Race Tracks be financially responsible for the on-track drivers’ insurance

Tom Cooke will propose a USTA Rule change in 2016.

Motion 2:  The respective parties to the Mid-Atlantic Coalition and Monarch dispute are encouraged to reach a settlement for the benefit of the race tracks, the horsemen and the betting public

A panel discussion on Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission’s NEW policy (November 1, 2014) on:

  1. The Use of the Whip Policy.
  2. The Pylon Policy
  3. Giving Holes/Making Room Policy
  4. Driving/Racing Violation Penalty Matrix

Keynote Speaker:

Dr. Mary Robinson, University of Pennsylvania, New Bolton Center “Equine Drug testing in the 21st Century”

  1. The new equipment is incredible and very, very expensive
    1. PHHA donated $470,000 to help purchase a state-of-the-art spectrometer.
    2. Other groups (Meadows SOA and Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association) also contributed.
  2. New Bolton is authorized to work with Pennsylvania race tracks only.
  3. PA collects 4 tubes of blood (1 tube stays at the track)
  4. Robinson quoted Dr. Lawrence Soma as suggesting that while TC02 levels may be raised by the using of baking soda, no one has ever proven its impact on performance. Note: This is what I understood Dr. Robinson to be saying. I have not been able to find an evidence of this position/conclusion in my internet research.[2]
  5. Robinson spent a considerable amount of time discussing the COBALT issue.
  6. Robinson identified the following substances as having COBALT in them:
    1. Red Cell
    2. VIT B12
    3. Vitamin supplements
    4. Sweet Feed
    5. VITA 15 **This Commercial product appears to have the highest concentration of COBALT.**
  1. New Bolton is currently undertaking a COBALT study.

Jerome L. Hauck Scholarship (HHI)

Deadline:  May 1
Amount of Scholarship: $4,000 ($2,000 over 2 years)


  • Child of a full-time groom and a member of an HHI association (CSOA is a member). Children of CSOA members are eligible.
  • Education Level:  High school senior or 1st or 2nd year college student
  • Financial Need:     Will be considered

Please contact the CSOA Office for an application.

[1]   In order to understand what Gural is thinking and saying you need to appreciate the fact that Penn National and the Maryland Thoroughbred industry are currently in arbitration (Cross Breed Agreement) over the signal issue on the Maryland State level. While that simulcasting dispute is separate from the Stronach-Mid Atlantic dispute, in a certain way they are indeed connected. Under the Cross-Breed Agreement, Rosecroft continues to receive the Laurel signal while the matter is in arbitration. Stronach is tying the two separate agreements together. Gural appears to siding with Stronach on this issue. Obviously, Gural is being hurt financially by his inability to send the Meadowlands signal to the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative race tracks – Rosecroft and Ocean Downs being members. Ocean Downs & Rosecroft-Penn National Gaming are being hurt financially by the inability to receive the simulcating signal from Meadowlands, Santa Anita and Gullstream among others.

[2]   My independent research suggests that there is a split of opinion on the subject of “milkshaking.”  Higher TC02 levels may help to limit muscle fatigue and increase endurance.

[3]   The recommended usage is 2 X a week. The COBALT takes a long time to be eliminated from the blood.

Final Approval to MSS and MSRF Regulations

Final Approval was given by the MRC at the March 17, 2015 MRC Meeting concerning changes to the MSS and MSRF Regulations, after no comments during the public comment period. U(1)(c) 55 percent, 30 percent, and 15 percent to the first three finishers, respectively, if only three horses finish; AA(1)(c) 55 percent, 30 percent, and 15 percent to the first three finishers, respectively, if only three horses finish; K(2)(b)

Age and Gait Time
2-year-old pace 2:08
2-year-old trot 2:10
3-year-old pace 2:07
3-year-old trot 2:09 O(2)(b)

Age and Gait Time
2-year-old pace 2:08
2-year-old trot 2:10
3-year-old pace 2:07
3-year-old trot 2:09

New Policies for Rosecroft’s Spring Meet

As many of you know, the issue of racing “preferences” has been a subject of inquiry by the Maryland Racing Commission since last fall. At that time a “handful” and I want to emphasize a “handful” of horsemen and women expressed their opposition to any “preferences” at Rosecroft. While everyone has the right to their opinion, the opposition failed to take into account that CSOA had successfully negotiated for racing preferences, designated races and bonuses on behalf of the horsemen and women. In my opinion, the impact of the opposition to preferences of any type could have had dire consequences on Maryland Standardbred racing and breeding.

The long and short of this story is to let you know that on February 25, 2015, the Maryland Racing Commission, after having a conversation with Cloverleaf, announced that effective with the start of the Spring 2015 meet at Rosecroft the following procedures would be in place.

• 80% of the races at Rosecroft and presumably Ocean Downs will be designated as Maryland restricted races. Since the term Maryland restricted races may be a bit confusing, the term “Maryland Preferred” will appear on the Rosecroft Condition Sheets. The term 80% refers to the number of races actually run.

• Within the category of “Maryland Preferred,” the following groups will have a priority order (note that we are no longer using the word “preference.” Please note the working definitions/explanations provided under each category.

1. Maryland Owned
A horse 100% owned by a Maryland resident. If a horse is owned in partnership, each of the partners must be a Maryland resident. Horses that are privately purchased by a Maryland resident will not be considered as Maryland owned until after 60 days from the official transfer of ownership with the USTA. Horses that are purchased at a public auction or claimed in a race are exempt from this rule. Horses purchased by way of an on-line auction or sale are considered horses that are privately purchased.

2. Maryland Sired
A foal whose Sire was a Stallion registered to stand in Maryland at the time of the breeding.

3. Maryland Bred
The owner of the Dam of a Foal at the time of conception was a Maryland resident.

Finally, I want to wish everyone a successful meet at Rosecroft Raceway.

Welcome back!

Maryland Horse World Expo – Great Success

1617946_1066300286729066_5858555349114128521_oRepresentatives from Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners’ Association, Maryland Standardbred Breeders Association, and Rosecroft Raceway spent the weekend at the Maryland Horse World Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds sharing their passion for Standardbreds with the rest of the equine community.

Daily during the Parade of Breeds representatives from Starting Gaits: Standardbred Transition Program showed off the versatility of Standardbreds in the arena for the crowds along with a brief history lesson on the breed.

One thing the representatives of the Maryland Standardbred community heard was how owners of off-track Standardbreds loved their horses and wouldn’t trade them in for a more popular breed.

CSOA, MSBA, & Rosecroft send out our thanks and appreciation to all that helped make our Standardbreds shine during the expo. Thanks to Rosecroft’s Paddock Judge Cheri Collison, Harrah’s Philadelphia Announcer and Maryland Resident Michael Bozich, Race Charter Jennifer & husband/trainer Merle “Moe” LaFountaine, trainer Kenny Schlotzhauer, MSBA President Dan Myer & wife G.G. all who spent time volunteering at our booths. Teresa Willabus for once again stepping up to the plate and coordinating with Starting Gaits and Starting Gaits Standardbred Transition Program for doing such an excellent show with their Standardbreds.

Standardbreds at the Maryland Horse World Expo

Cloverleaf SOA, Maryland Standardbred Breeders Association and Rosecroft Raceway are participating in the 19th Annual Maryland Horse World Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium Maryland January 16 – 18, 2015.  Show hours are 12 noon–8 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.–5 p.m. on Sunday. General admission for each day is $10 (adults) and $5 (children ages 6-12).

The group’s booths will be located in the Cow Palace B-18 – B-20 with a variety of brochures, equipment and other informational pieces to showcase Standardbreds on and off the track to the equine community. For more information concerning the 19th annual Maryland Horse World Expo please visit:

Thanks to the efforts by volunteer Teresa Willabus and Starting Gaits Standardbred Transition Program, Standardbreds will be hosted in various venues throughout the weekend.

Friday’s Event Participation:
Parade of Breeds at 12:15pm
Equitainment at 4:00pm
Celebration of Gait at 6:45pm

Saturday Event Participation:
Equitainment at 4:00pm
Parade of Breeds at 6:00pm

Sunday Even Participation:
Trail Champion Challenge at 9:00am
Equitainment at 1:00pm
Parade of Breeds at 3:10pm

Thanks to the USTA for providing us with many of the informational pieces we will have available.

Maryland Racing Commission – Warnings regaring Methocarbamol and Compounded Medications

Attention Horsemen:

Recent research suggests the possibility that when phenylbutazone is co-administered with methocarbamol (Robaxin), the clearance time of the methocarbamol is delayed. Accordingly, if you are administering phenylbutazone in conjunction with methocarbamol, the recommended withdrawal time for the administration of methocarbamol should be extended. We strongly recommend that you consult with your veterinarian regarding the use of these medications in combination.

Please also be advised that the recommended dosage and withdrawal time recommendations contained in the new Uniform Medication and Drug Testing Program do not apply when using compounded medications. There is limited regulatory oversight and quality control on how these medications are prepared.

October Meeting Notice

CSOA & Rosecroft Raceway to participate in Harness Horse Youth Foundation’s Drive for Youth, the organization’s annual fall fundraiser on October 18, 2014!

We ask that our members, make pledges either Saturday, October 18, 2014 at the track or by downloading the form below.

Top driver and HHYF trustee Corey Callahan is again challenging his fellow horse people to participate.  “Last year was a great success and of course we want to improve on that this year,” he explains.” We really appreciate everyone’s help to continue with these programs so we can see more epic HHYF stretch battles like we saw on Hambletonian day this year. Those kids left with a wonderful experience and memory and the Drive For Youth fundraiser guarantees that many more will have that great experience.”

Owners, trainers and drivers can pledge either a percentage of their earnings during Drive for Youth week, or they can pledge a flat amount as Executive Director Ellen Taylor explains. “We are thrilled to have the support of horsemen at Hoosier Park on October 10, and The Meadows and Harrington Raceway with dates soon to be announced, but we are requesting all trainers, drivers, and owners to participate. Their support ensures longevity for our programs including our summer camps and scholarships.”

To make a pledge to Drive for Youth, download the pledge form from You may also contact Taylor at 317- 867-5877 or by e-mail: for additional information.


President Thomas Cooke has called a meeting of the CSOA Board:

Monday, October 20, 2014 at the VFW in Grasonville, Maryland at 6:00 pm


Approval of August 5, 2014 minutes
PGRV/CSOA Contract Update
OD/CSOA Contract Update
OD 2014 Meet Update
Legislative Update
Update on Trial Testing at Rosecroft
MSRF Advisory Board Update
CSOA Banquet Date February 21, 2015
CSOA Annual Meeting / Election Date February 18, 2015
New Business
Next CSOA Board Meeting
December 1, 2014 – VFW, Grasonville, MD
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