03/25/2014 6:49PM

Mount Pleasant Meadows in Michigan to become training facility

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Mount Pleasant Meadows, a recently shuttered mixed-breed racetrack in central Michigan, will be converted into a training center, according to the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

A deal was reached Tuesday between a group of area horsemen and the Isabella County Co-Expo Board, which controls day-to-day operations of the county’s fairgrounds, to keep the four-furlong oval open for training, beginning April 1. The Michigan Gaming Control Board has indicated that an official clocker will eventually be made available for timed workouts.

According to the Michigan HBPA, stall rental will be $1 per day, payable in advance. There will also be overnight lots for recreational vehicles and mobile homes available for $10 per night.

“We’ve had a lot of interest,” said Ron Sanders, president of the Isabella County Co-Expo Board. “I’ve had probably 150 horses that are speculated to come in during the first week or two. We’ll have official workout days once a week, and they can come and gallop on a daily basis.”

Mount Pleasant Meadows, located north of Mount Pleasant, Mich. conducted live racing from 1985 to 2013, and was the state’s lone Thoroughbred venue since 2011. The track has about 300 stalls available on its backstretch.

Originally scheduled to host 16 live dates this year, Mount Pleasant ceased simulcast operations on Feb. 8 after a group of investors pulled its funding. Oil Capital Race Venture Inc., the group that leased the track from the fairgrounds, surrendered its racing license on Feb. 12.

Sanders said that the Co-Expo Board would not operate a live meet itself, but would be open to the possibility of leasing the venue for live racing once again if the right investor comes along.

“As far as us as the Expo Board, we will not be having any races there unless it can be worked out with some other entity that can come in and do it,” Sanders said, “not that it won’t happen, but there are some possibilities that we could open it up in the future.”

Michigan’s racing calendar has undergone significant changes in recent months, with the latest plan having Thoroughbreds return to Detroit-area Hazel Park Raceway from June 29 to Oct. 11, and a fall meet at Northville Downs contingent on racetrack improvements. Mount Pleasant is about 150 miles away from Hazel Park.

George Kutlenios, president of the Michigan HBPA, said that keeping Mount Pleasant active as a training center will be helpful for getting horses fit while Hazel Park continues the process of converting from a harness facility to a Thoroughbred facility.

“Even though we’re going to try to get the barn areas open as quickly as we can at Hazel Park, it was going to be tough for [horsemen] to get horses ready for opening day because they’ve always been at Mount Pleasant or somewhere else, so there were a lot of people who were concerned about what they were going to do,” Kutlenios said. “Having Mount Pleasant available as a training center will allow these guys to get horses ready, and if nothing else ship in from there in June to get ready for the races. It’ll sure help with horse supply.”