12/19/2013 3:44PM

Northville Downs Thoroughbred license denied

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The Michigan Gaming Control Board on Wednesday denied a request by the Northville Downs harness track to conduct Thoroughbred and mixed-breed racing in 2014.

The northwest Detroit-area track amended its 2014 dates application in October to include Thoroughbred and mixed-breed licenses in addition to its harness license. In December, Northville reached an agreement with the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association to convert to a full-time Thoroughbred track beginning in October 2014, pending state approval.

The agreement would have Northville and fellow Detroit-area harness track Hazel Park Raceway each run 10 harness dates during the spring, then begin construction in May to become permanent Thoroughbred venues on a spring-to-fall circuit. The state has yet to issue a ruling on Hazel Park’s proposal for Thoroughbred racing dates.

Northville would have hosted 16 days of Thoroughbred racing in 2014 from Oct. 12 to Nov. 16, contingent on adequate purse funding and the readiness of the racing surface, then switched to a spring meet in 2015 and beyond. The fate of an account-wagering bill currently in the state’s legislature would have largely determined whether the money would be available for a 2014 meet.

Mike Carlo, Northville’s operations manager, gave a soft estimated cost of about $200,000 to convert the four-furlong track to Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing.

In its ruling, the board stated that Northville’s management had “failed to demonstrate a definitive, specific, and detailed plan” that could be approved according to state law.

The reliance on non-concrete factors, such as pending legislation, to host the meet was of particular concern to the board, which cited “no assurance” of sufficient simulcast purse pool money, funding for track conversion, or the safety of the racing surface as reasons for denying the track’s request. The board also stated that Northville failed to supply a convincing plan to assure a sufficient horse population for the proposed meet.

Additionally, the order called the request “untimely,” noting that the track’s originally approved race dates begin in January, which does not allow for a complete vetting of the application. Northville was originally allocated 26 harness dates from Jan. 31 to April 26.

“The submitted plan does not appear to be in the best interest of horse racing in the state of Michigan for 2014,” the order read.

Michigan’s 2014 Thoroughbred and mixed meet, as originally approved by the board, was allotted to Mount Pleasant Meadows in central Michigan, featuring 43 live dates from May to September.