01/22/2014 3:31PM

Michigan Thoroughbred racing approved at Hazel Park, Northville Downs


The Michigan Gaming Control Board approved a schedule Tuesday that would bring Thoroughbred racing to Detroit-area Standardbred venues Hazel Park Harness Raceway and Northville Downs.

The new schedule closely resembles the plan proposed by the tracks and the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association in early December. Each of the harness tracks will host reduced 10-day Standardbred meets early in the year, with Northville running Fridays and Saturdays from March 7 to April 5, and Hazel Park running Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from April 12 to May 3.

Mount Pleasant Meadows will open the state’s Thoroughbred/mixed schedule May 3 and race Saturdays and Sundays through June 22, reducing the meet from the originally approved 43 days to 16. Plans for the track beyond 2014 are yet to be determined.

Hazel Park would then host 23 Thoroughbred dates from June 29 to Oct. 11, running primarily on Friday and Saturday nights with some exceptions. The track previously hosted Thoroughbred racing from 1949 to 1984.

“The Michigan HBPA and the horsemen and women of our sport are ecstatic with this new relationship between Hazel Park and our organization,” Michigan HBPA president George Kutlenios said in a release.

Thoroughbred racing would then move to Northville Downs for 16 afternoon cards on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Oct. 12 to Nov. 16.

The board had denied Northville’s application for a 2014 Thoroughbred meet Dec. 18, but stated in its newest executive order that additional information was provided by the track’s management that merited reconsideration.

The board laid out conditions for Northville, requiring its racing surface to be flattened to a grade more conducive to Thoroughbreds by May 15. Additionally, Northville must add a chute and rail by June 10, install additional fencing by July 10, and build a 10-horse saddling paddock and walking ring by July 30. Both harness tracks must submit monthly progress updates to the board’s executive director.

Sports Creek Raceway remains scheduled to host 11 harness race dates, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 31. However, the Michigan HBPA has stated that the track has been in negotiations to convert to Thoroughbred racing in the future, as well.

The Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association plans to appeal the board’s ruling. In a statement released Tuesday, the MHHA took issue with the timing of the decision, which moves the starting date of the state’s harness schedule from Jan. 31 at Northville, as originally planned, to March 7.

“We are horrified by the MGCB’s decision and have expressed our concerns about both the moral and legal implications of today’s orders,” the statement read. “Time will tell if the tracks’ apparent strategy to wrestle complete control of the industry away from the horsemen will succeed, but there is no question that the short-term impact will be harmful to thousands of horsemen – not to mention countless local agricultural economies around the state.”

Joel Reitzloff More than 1 year ago
I hate harness racing with a passion. I'm happy it's getting shoved aside for real racing.
Mark Bottenhorn More than 1 year ago
Mt.Pleasant Meadows has closed as of Saturday. So many tracks have closed under the leadership of Richard Kalm. I wonder how he still has a job. Maybe he should resign and let someone else try to help the industry recover.
Tim Leineke More than 1 year ago
Throughbred owners who left michigan, are you coming back for this? Doubt it! I hope the bettors at hazel and northville enjoy 4 and 5 horse fields. Great job MGCB very smart, way to know the business ins and outs. How about investigating what harm this will have on our state and ask states were horse racing is doing well, if this is a good idea. The ignorance of a few will be the death of all!
Longshot More than 1 year ago
I can understand why my response to your comment on the MHHA site was deleted Tim. To save you embarrassment. Your comment: Tim Leineke Your right Longshot Drc, i didnt care. I really dont know the history behind your breed and why it hasnt flourished in michigan. My response: Why Thoroughbreds hasn't flourished? lol Even unknowledgeable non horse people know where "Seabisquit" started. The Detroit Fairgrounds 1935. 28,000 fans to watch this T.B. stake. Yes we never flourished here in the State.
Tim Leineke More than 1 year ago
no you didnt, it doesnt take a rocket scientist to know that thoroughbred racing has been dead for yrs in michigan, no fault to standardbreds. How about those 450.00 starting fees , and losing simulcast dollars for the purses, nice negotiating! I bet all kinds of Tbred owners and trainers are gonna run right back to michigan for that deal!
Shannon Teeter Barrett More than 1 year ago
I am sickened by this entire mess. SO many un - answered questions about the legality of it all. I can only hope that one day the harnessmen will be able to rise again without being a slave to the powers that be. Good luck to the three remaining Michigan tracks. I think you may have just sold yourself to the devil.
Longshot More than 1 year ago
George Kutlenios hasn't even been in the horse racing business but for 7 years basically starting at Pinnacle Race Course, he hasn't a clue and he has never been right on anything because of the lack of knowledge. He is leading the thoroughbred horsemen/women off of a cliff this time doomed for good. Hartmen & Tyner were partners with Ladbroke on Caterbury Downs when they shut down that track. If you don't think they didn't play a hand in the destroying of the Detroit Race Course, their thoroughbred competition think again. Richard Kalm denied Northville a license on Dec. 18, one of the reasons being SAFETY of thoroughbreds running on even smaller track than MPM, all of a sudden it's a go? No viable stable area's at either track and nobody is ecstatic over this 5 year contract with the devil who rejoiced when they demolished DRC & PRC went down. Are people forgetting about Dan Adkins (Hartmen & Tyner's boy) petition to the Board of State Canvassers in 2010? No Provisions for LIVE Racing, Simulcasting, Purse Revenues or Contractual Agreements. MIHBPA then obviously cautious & against it. Now President Kutlenios & rest of board trusts them? Fools On Dec. 18 last 3 main reasons. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mgcb/NVD_Denial_of_2014_Thoroughbred__Mixed_Meet_Race_License_442855_7.pdf 4. No assurance that the track will be safe for the proposed function and on par with industry standards. 5. No assurance of funding for the track conversion. 6. The submitted plan does not appear to be in the best interest of horse racing in the State Of Michigan for 2014. Accordingly, Northville Downs’ amended application for a Thoroughbred and Mixed Breed race meeting license is denied. Richard Kalm, Executive Director Michigan Gaming Control Board IT IS SO ORDERED. All of a sudden on Jan. 21 it's a go? Now you can pay to kill your thoroughbreds who run at 40mph when they crash through the fences at quarter turns. This collusion of harness tracks & Kalm's decision should be fully investigated by the Mi. State Attorney General. The only agenda & motive I see here is the demise of live racing here by both breeds. This is a travesty.
Jennifer More than 1 year ago
In any business, they always put people in charge that know nothing, just someone's friend!
Allan Schott More than 1 year ago
Great job. Paying $400 to start in an overnight race. How is this good for the t-bred industry, when you are starting each race $400 in the hole?
Tim Leineke More than 1 year ago
this is definitley a horrible decision by throughbred asociation management. They gave northville and hazel everything they need to put live racing out for good! The.y shoulda teamed up with the mhha and the mess they made coulda beevn avoided. They coulda had simulcast dollars and not paid to race. Instead they gave up simulcast money that helps fund their purse monies and they wil pay to race. Who in their right mind believes thats a good deal.
Bugsy Anderson More than 1 year ago
$4000 claimers..... enjoy.
Old timer More than 1 year ago
Horse racing in Michigan is such a mess. While Hazel Park has had the flat races in the past, Northville does not seem suited to it. Plus this appears to be the death knell for harness in Michigan. 10 days? Why even bother?