An Update From Tom Barrett

Members,

Let me start by saying how much I appreciate your patience during these difficult times. The board and I understand how hard this pandemic has been on our industry and our members. While we have been working round the clock to get things ready for racing we have been waiting on the official green light from the Governor and our state regulators. Our goal has always been to resume racing as soon as possible while doing everything we can to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and protect everyone involved in harness racing.

To that end, I want to highlight some important developments that should be a welcome sign for our industry and our members. Our board and our team have been working as fast as possible to allow for these activities while in compliance will state laws, regulations, and executive orders.

Pending Qualifiers

Northville Downs has requested the scheduling of qualifier to the Michigan Gaming Control Board. We believe that this is consistent with Executive Order 2020-110, that Horsemen be able to access the facility at Northville Downs in preparation for reopening. We have asked for formal guidance from our regulators and the Governor’s office on these activities and hope to have a formal answer soon.

Gate Training at Fowlerville Family Fair

The MHHA is also teaming up with the Fowlerville Harness Horsemen to host a gate training day on Sunday, June 21st, 2020. Post time will be 12 pm and horsemen should enter on Friday, June 19th from 8 am to noon by calling Claudia Davidson at 517-294-003 or Kathy Black at 517-518-0927.

Additional items to consider for gate training day include:

  • Gate Fee is $10/colt
  • Classified by Age, Gait, and Training Time
  • Race Bikes on the Gate
  • Helmets Required, Driving Colors are not Required
  • Licensed Drivers and Trainers Only on Track
  • Stalls Are Available – No Stall Fee (No Straw Allowed, Please Clean Up After Yourself)
  • Social Distancing is Required
  • Face Masks Are Suggested

Advanced Deposit Wagering Update

We also have good news to announce related to Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW). Earlier this week the MHHA, in conjunction with Northville Downs, secured our first two contracts with 3rd party facilitators (TVG and Twin Spires) to allow for legal wagers on horse racing over the internet and mobile applications. The contracts mean that anyone placing wagers online through these providers will be helping horse racing in Michigan as a portion of the funds wagered will go to Northville Downs, the MHHA, and the Ag Equine Fund. It’s too soon to know how much revenue this will bring in, but we hope to have better estimates within a few months. We are excited to finally see the benefit of this legislation (sponsored by Hank Vaupel) passed in December.

Summer Fair Program

Lastly, we have had several conversations with the Department of Agriculture and the MI Association of Fairs and Exhibitions (MAFE). We are expecting to have a summer racing program hosted by fairs across the state. While the fairs may look a little different, and the grandstands may have capacity limitations, we are excited to continue our partnership with Michigan fairs and bring harness racing to local communities.

We intend to have a modified summer fair schedule next week with more details, but please know that we are planning on continuing fair racing in some capacity this summer.

REMINDER: June 15th Late Supplemental Payment for Colt Stakes Program Due

I also wanted to take the time to remind horsemen that since the payments were delayed due to COVID-19 that the late supplemental payment original due May 15th is now due on June 15th. This payment is only necessary for horsemen who properly nominated to the colt stakes program, but who missed the sustaining payment deadline on May 15th (originally April 15th).

Thank you all for patience and your contributions to harness racing in Michigan,

Thomas Barrett
President, MHHA