07/15/2009 12:00AM

Horsemen come to Pinnacle's rescue


Four stakes races and the showcase Michigan Sire Stakes will have smaller purses, but Pinnacle Race Course is now set to run through Oct. 19, general manager Mike Mackey said Tuesday.

The former racing commissioner Christine White issued an executive order slashing race dates at Pinnacle and other state tracks, including harness racing and a mixed meet at Mt. Pleasant Meadows, due to the state's budget crisis.

After much negotiation between the state and the Michigan Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the horsemen have given up more than $460,000 in simulcast revenue to fund the Office of the Racing Commissioner in August and September and the track's stakes program. They had to give up the first five Mondays of the meet as well as the final three days of the meet, which was originally set to close on Oct. 24.

"We saved the race meet by covering the state's expenses," said Gary Tinkle, the group's executive director. "It takes $4,700 a day for that, then $284,000 will cover the stakes."

He said that the stakes fund was in danger after the ORC took operations money from the Department of Agriculture Equine Fund, which comes from parimutuel taxes and funds stakes supplements, breeders' awards and the sire stakes, as well as non-racing equine matters.

Four of the sixteen stakes races, all for statebreds, were cut from $50,000 to $20,000. The six sire stakes, which were worth $150,000 each in 2002, are listed as $50,000-estimated. Last year at Pinnacle's inaugural meet, they were worth between $84,533 and $89,834.

Oct. 1 starts a new fiscal year and the state funding should not be a problem then, "but we'll have to start all over again for 2010," Tinkle said. "I don't think we can offer much more. This is problematic."

Dominic Perrone of the Dept. of Agriculture said he thought that the ORC would get an interim commissioner soon to replace White, who took a job in the Obama administration, but there was a possibility that racing would be put directly under control of his department, rather than the governor, eliminating the need for a replacement.

"There's a myriad of possibilities and that is one of the things that has been discussed," Perrone said Tuesday.

Tinkle said he hoped a new commissioner would remember that the job includes a mandate to promote the industry.

"That is something that was always overlooked in recent years," he said.