09/07/2017 4:14PM

Escrowed purse money distributed to Hazel Park, Michigan harness horsemen

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The Michigan Gaming Control Board ordered the release of about $1 million in purse pool money from Hazel Park Raceway on Tuesday, dividing the money between the track and the state’s harness horsemen.

Under the terms of the executive order, the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association will receive 85 percent of the funds, about $850,000, for purses at Detroit-area Standardbred track Northville Downs, or any race meeting in the state for which it has a contract.

Hazel Park, which now hosts Michigan’s Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse meet, will receive 15 percent, about $150,000, for track operation and enhancements. The track must report to the Gaming Control Board on how the money is used toward those purposes.

Florida-based management for Hazel Park’s ownership group, Hartman & Tyner, was unavailable for comment on how the money would be spent due to local preparation for the incoming Hurricane Irma.

The purse pool money was placed in escrow in February 2015 when Hazel Park and the MHHA did not sign a race meeting contract for that year, despite being allocated race dates. Hazel Park has not hosted standardbred racing since May 2014, and Northville Downs has become the state’s primary harness venue.

The funds were released after the Michigan Legislature amended the state’s horse racing law last year to allow the distribution of the money if the track and harness horsemen did not come to terms on a meet by Sept. 1, 2017. When the deadline passed, MGCB executive director Richard Kalm proceeded with dividing the pool.

When the money was first placed in escrow, and it was apparent that Hazel Park would become a venue strictly for under-saddle racing, the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association explored splitting the purse pool money between the Thoroughbred and Standardbred groups, but an agreement could not be reached.