Home - IHHA - The Illinois Harness Horseman's Association
IHHA Contact Us

15 Spinning Wheel Road, Suite 432 • Hinsdale, IL 60521
Phone: 630-323-0808 • Toll Free (IL): 800-572-0213 • Fax: 630-323-0761 • Infoline: 888-601-7223

IHHA Navigation

Click here for IHHA savings.

Welcome to the IHHA

Mike Paradise Notes and QuotesHarness Line and Comments

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The IHHA has responded to some recent newspaper "letters to the editor" that were written on behalf of the riverboat industry. The following is our unedited response to those publications.


Let’s set the record straight

Tom Swoik’s recent Op-Ed about slot machines at racetracks is misleading on several fronts.

“Special legislation to bail out their industry?”

In the early 90’s, legislation that waived the requirement that riverboats cruise off shore was passed with the cooperation of the horse racing industry. In return for their help, the horse racing industry was promised money from the yet to be built 10th riverboat. That law passed and casinos immediately went dockside, establishing their boats as land based casinos and raking in unprecedented amounts of money. The tenth riverboat license was subsequently tied up in courts for years and the horse racing industry was left staggering.

“A dying industry?”

Horse racing is not a dying industry. Illinois horse racing may be dying but in other states that allow slot machines at their racetracks it is successful and it is flourishing. Sixteen other states currently allow it. Many Illinois horsemen have already left, taking their horses and their team to other states like Indiana where the purses are higher and the opportunity to earn a fair living exists. Horsemen and their stables are similar to other small businesses. They set up their stables where they have the best opportunities for their families and for their horses to succeed. That business success is realized in the form of purses. Those purses have skyrocketed in other states while they continue to fall in Illinois.

“Illinois has a saturated gambling market?”

Here’s the red herring. These riverboats are simply protecting their own interests, including the Hammond Indiana riverboat that markets to the Chicagoland area. They are simply using the Legislature to block the competition. All we are saying is let us compete in this gaming marketplace, give us the opportunity to compete for those gaming dollars. Let the market dictate what saturation is. These same riverboats that are complaining now will be the same ones lining up to apply for these new licenses. Many of them currently own and operate racetracks around the country that have slot machines.

“Casino Cafes”

Isn’t it ironic that it is ok for the riverboats to want protection from these “casino cafes” but the horse racing industry is vilified for wanting that protection from the riverboats? Horse Racing has been in existence for over 100 years in this state. It is illogical for anyone to understand how there are these mini casinos on every corner, but a racetrack that supports the horse racing industry and the thousands of verified, middle class jobs that go along with its agribusiness cannot.

The casino industry is fond of touting the money that they provide to the state and the jobs that they provide. While those jobs are important and the cash influx is welcome, the impact that horse racing has on Illinois’ overall economy reaches much further. Horse racing stimulates agriculture, Illinois number one economy.  Illinois grain and hay farmers find a market for their crops with horsemen. The Illinois horse racing industry impacts blacksmiths, veterinarians, truck and trailer dealers and more, something the casino industry can hardly claim. A robust horse racing industry provides good jobs that support families.

In seven months, June of 2015, without any legislative help from the Illinois General Assembly, Maywood Park, one of Chicago’s four racetracks will be the first to close its doors. A racetrack that has been in business since 1946, a business that has allowed horsemen to ply their trade and earn a living. The jobs that will be lost, the upheaval of the lives of all the backstretch workers who work and live there and the economic impact of that closure will be felt throughout Illinois.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Today, the Illinois Racing Board, decided on the 2015 racing dates.

Maywood/Balmoral has a signed contract with the IHHA that supports racing being conducted 2 days a week at Maywood and 2 days at Balmoral from Jan. 29 to June 30, 2015 and includes a dark period at the beginning of the year from Jan. 5 to Jan. 28. At the evidentiary hearing 10 days ago, both sides agreed to support that contract. The second half of the year is where the difference of opinion occurred.

The racetracks requested zero days of racing at Maywood for the last six months of the year and two days a week at Balmoral during that same period.

The IHHA testified that it seemed logical that if positive legislation indeed did pass then Maywood should race at least one day per week for the final six months of the year.

The IRB today ruled in favor of the schedule for the first six months of the year but also ruled that Maywood should race two days a week for the second half of the year if legislation passes.  They stated for the record that if no legislative help came to the industry then they would give strong consideration to allowing Maywood to vacate those two days for the final six months, which was basically the IHHA’s position from the start.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Chicago High School of Agriculture Sciences perseveres with help from one of Illinois great harness ambassadors. Click here for more.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Illinois Harness Horseman's Association Raffle Pennsbury Polished Aluminum Premier Training Jog Cart (With choice of two color detailing and stable name)
Value of $1,695
Tickets are $20 each or 3 for $50

Drawing to be held at the IHHA Hall of Fame Banquet on Monday, October 13.

For tickets, please contact Brenda Watson at 217-416-3973 or Jane Cross at 618-843-4476 or see Bernie Paul at Maywood. (Winner does not need to be present to win)

Also, if you plan on spending the night, discounted hotel room reservations at the Doubletree Hotel for the banquet are only available until Oct. 3rd.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Illinois Harness Hall of Fame Banquet is Right Around the Corner

Save the date and make your plans.

The Illinois Harness Horseman's Association is proud to announce that Randall Finn and David McCaffrey were chosen for induction into the Illinois Harness Hall of Fame.

Illinois-Bred champions, My Boy David and Thisbigdogwilfight will be installed into the equine category.

Also being honored with special recognition will be:

  • Persons of the Year…Mary Lea Jeffers and Adele Jeffers Everett
  • Caretaker of the Year…Sis Arnold
  • Caretaker of the Year…Enrique "Osli" Herrera
  • Lifetime of Dedication Award…Dick Siegel
  • Lifetime of Dedication Award…Jim Kennedy

We look forward to celebrating their achievements on Monday, Oct. 13 at our annual Hall of Fame Dinner at the Doubletree Hotel in Alsip. 5000 W. 127th
(by Cicero & 294) Alsip, IL. 708-371-7300

Tickets are $35per person.
Festivities begin with an open bar from 6p-7p, followed by dinner and awards.

Door Prizes will be given out throughout the evening.
Reservations are required by October 3, 2014.

For ticket information, please contact Noel at the IHHA Office at 630-323-0808 or Brenda Watson at 217-416-3973 or Betsy, the bookkeeper at Balmoral at 708-672-1414.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Here's another example of local horseman giving back to the community.

Change of Pace for "He's So Hot"
Prize Winning Pacer finds new career at SMILES

Change of Pace for He is So Hot

Although every therapy horse in the SMILES herd is a winner, the newest member of the team boasts a celebrated career. "He's So Hot", a six year old Standardbred gelding, had an outstanding racing career as a pacer, until his career was cut short early on due to an injury. Family and friends saw more potential in this gentle horse, they recognized his young age, and investigated the possibility of a career in therapeutic riding.

PATH certified instructor Katey McClymont assisted in the process. As a friend of Bo and Vicki DeLong, the owners, she introduced the idea of donating this horse to SMILES. She also took him on as a project, training him in certain skills he would need in his new career. The time invested in this process was well worth it. A long trial period at the facility verified the temperament and traits of this equine candidate. "He's So Hot" is currently thriving with new horse friends, special need riders, and a new home at SMILES.

Not only a new home, he also sports a new name. The clients of SMILES could be easily confused by the literal meaning of "He's So Hot", and so a barn name was chosen to help the riders identify, and communicate with, their new therapy partner. The name "Del" was chosen to honor and to recognize the DeLongs, the generous donors of this horse to the SMILES program.

Although students are excited to ride a true race horse, they are surprised to learn that Del is surprisingly gentle and easy going, making him the perfect addition to the program.

Del can be seen, in action, at the "Superstar Student Horse Show" on September 20, at the SMILES facility in Darien, WI. The show begins at 11 am and promises to reward spectators with a sense of pride and inspiration. An Open House is also held on this date immediately following the student horse show. Details can be found on the SMILES website at smilestherapeuticriding.org.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Many harness horse participants and fans have inquired about the whereabouts and/or status of King Mufasa, 2013 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year.  Some people were unaware that he had been nearly fatally injured in a highway accident while enroute from Springfield IL to Hoosier Park to race on July 12, 2014.  We greatly appreciate your concerns and sadness.  Here is his story.

After being extracted from his significantly damaged trailer, which required several hours, King Mufasa was immediately transported to Purdue University Large Animal Hospital via horse ambulance.  At Purdue this very intelligent and personable athlete quickly won over the hearts of the very attentive medical staff while gamely trying to recover from his many serious life threatening injuries during a 44 day stay.  He is now resting at Mike Brink's Stable in Springfield receiving much TLC.  He will be retired from racing where we hope that he will enjoy a high quality life in a "green pastures" retirement.


Dennis Lakomy              Mike Brink                 Bill Wright


Monday, August 25, 2014

Here are some stories from the Southern Illinoisan about the DuQuoin State Fair:

Magee has big weekend in harness


Dave Magee, a 60-year-old veteran harness race driver, had quite a weekend at the Du Quoin State Fair.

For starters, he was the top-winning driver in the three-session program with six victories, including two in Sunday's 11-race card. The 10th, the $40,000 Governor's Cup event for 2-year-old colts and geldings, was his top prize.

After Saturday's races were completed, Magee jumped in a car and drove to Balmoral Park in southside Chicago and drove in four races there before getting back into his car and returning to Southern Illinois for Sunday's action.

He had a close call during the third race in Du Quoin. Challenging in a late stretch drive, Magee's horse was involved in a minor collision with another contender. The sulky was suddenly twisted and Magee was spilled onto the track. Fortunately Magee was not injured. He returned later to win two more races, including the featured event, the Governor's Cup and claimed top driver honors once again at Du Quoin. He's won more than 12,000 races in his career.

The 11-card program got off to an impressive start when Luvniecestopieces chopped 10.2 seconds off her previous best with an easy win in 1:57 flat, 10.2 seconds faster than her best ever time. Sportsmuffler came back in the second race of the afternoon with a new personal record of 1:55.2 seconds, six and four-fifths of a second faster than her previous best.

Nothing was proven or otherwise in the third race when a small and classy field of five went after a relatively modest purse of $8,000. However, there was drama involved. That's when Magee and Just By Design suddenly took over top action on the track.

No Respect was the race winner in 1:52.4.

The fourth race was more of what was beginning to be a superb day of racing at Du Quoin. Lotta Richess won the event in 1:56.4 lowering his lifetime best by eight full seconds.

There were no surprises in the fifth race of the afternoon when Frosty Dune, winner of six of his previous nine starts, captured another victory in 1:55.4, one second slower than his career record.

Fox Valley Qatar claimed the blue ribbon in the sixth race of the day in 1:58.4 before Magee proved to all in the stands that he was alright by winning the seventh race behind Unlocked in a blistering 1:51.3 which proved to be the fastest time of the day. Even though two full seconds and a piece slower than he won at Springfield two weeks ago, Unlocked could be a strong contender for horse of the year honors in the State of Illinois.

Captain Greedy won the eighth race in 1:59.3 before Mystical Walter won the ninth race in 1:52.0.

That's when Magee again moved to the front by winning the Governor's Cup before Dune Dude took the final race in 1:53.2.

Although the overall mutuel numbers were somewhat modest, Balmoral Park's general manager Jim Hannon called the Du Quoin State Fair meeting "overall a good weekend for harness racing in Illinois."


Speed, career bests on Du Quoin track


Any disappointments in winning times posted opening night were more than wiped out in Saturday afternoon's harness racing card at the Du Quoin State Fair. Each of the 10 winners were clocked in less than two minutes and half of those established new lifetime records.

And, that is the name of the game in harness racing -- lifetime bests and records.

Seemingly after a so-so start to the 10-race afternoon, winning times improved most of the afternoon with only one exception.

Saint Simeon won the first race of the day in 1:58.2, matching his best time of the season in just his seventh lifetime win in 18 starts.

With the veteran Dave Magee doing the driving, Fox Valley Shiver captured the second race for 3-year-old fillies in 1:56.0, her best time of the season and just her second win in nine starts.

Syd's Lollipop, one of the most active filly pacers in Illinois this season with 17 starts, claimed the third race in a lifetime record time of 1:57.1 for trainer-driver Freddie Patton, Jr., who is a regular at the Du Quoin fairgrounds much of the winter/spring season.

Mack's Gold Band was an easy winner in the fourth race as he covered the mile oval in 1:56.3. It was his fifth victory of the season, although three seconds slower than his winning time at Springfield just two weeks ago.

The "Shawnee", a stake race for 2-year-old filly trotters, was won by Fox Valley Yoko in 1:59.1, just one-fifth of a second slower than her lifetime best. She now has three firsts and as many seconds in just six career starts.

Little Ms Chrissy won the sixth race in 1:56.4 for her second win of the season.

The Pronto Don race, named after one of the former Hayes Fair Acres Stables' most illustrious members by the same name, was taken by Nino Marino in 1:56.1. It was the colt's first win of the season and he received trophy and awards from Jane Rader, a member of the Hayes family, who made the presentations in Victory Lane.

Thesleazyprincess turned in the fastest winning time of the afternoon while winning the eighth race in 1:52.2. It was the 3-year-old filly's first win of the season and bettered her best winning time of last year by two full seconds.

Mr Leland's Filly captured the ninth race in 1:54 and Macie Rae won for the tenth time this season when capturing the tenth race in 1:55.1.

Sunday's final day of racing at this year's fair will feature the Governor's Cup event for 2-year-old colts and geldings. It will be the tenth of 11 races of the afternoon and carries a purse of $40,000 to be divided among the top five place-winners.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Today, Saturday, August 16, 2014 the IHHA held its Annual Meeting.

Elected as directors were: Clark Fairley, Mike Knicley, Kim Rinker, Dirk Simpson and Hosea Williams.

Congratulations and best wishes to all new directors.  Also, at the Monday,  August 18, 2014 Board Meeting, the board will elect officers to serve during the 2014/2015 cycle.

Thanks to all members who participated in the election process.   It is through your voice and support the IHHA can continue to address and work on those issues of concern to the horsemen and harness industry.


Friday, August 15, 2014



Click here for Nominations Guidelines 2013


Friday, August 15, 2014


Monday, August 18, 2014 - 1PM

Hackney's 123rd & Lagrange Rd.
Palos Pk., IL.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Carol Marin reports on the state of harness racing in Illinois. Click here for the video which aired last night in Chicago.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Today's races at the Springfield State fairgrounds have been cancelled due to continuing rain in the area. Today's card has been rescheduled for Wednesday.


Saturday, August 09, 2014



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois State Fair Friday increased biosecurity practices in one of its standardbred horse barns after learning that several horses in the barn may have been exposed to a horse at Balmoral Park in Chicago that was exhibiting symptoms of equine herpes virus (EHV-1), a contagious disease that poses no risk to humans or other animals, but can be fatal to horses.   

These practices were implemented after consulting State Veterinarian Dr. Mark Ernst of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Racing Board veterinarian Dr. David Fitzpatrick and were taken as a precaution to protect the health of all horses on the fairgrounds. 

Fortunately, tests came back negative for the virus and the heightened biosecurity practices, which included restricting access into the barn, are no longer necessary. 

Horse races at the fair are scheduled to begin Monday with a full card of 15 races.  Post time is noon. 

The Department of Agriculture is responsible for the detection and eradication of animal diseases, which is essential to protect not only the health of animals, but also the agriculture economy.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Today's races at the Springfield State Fairgrounds have been cancelled due to all of the recent heavy rain making the track unusable. Many of the races will be added to Thursday's card, the overnights will not.

Also, the quarantine is still in effect at the fairgrounds pending results from a test that is expected back tonight. After the results of that test are known, instructions will be given for the next action. Horseman are urged to take the temps of their horses twice a day.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Urgent statement from Illinois State Veterinarian David Fitzpatrick:

"There is a horse showing neurological symptoms (possible EHV) in Barn 26 at Balmoral.   As a precaution, Barn 26 is quarantined (no horses in or out and bio security measures should be followed by all who enter and work in that barn to prevent the transmission of the disease between horses).  In addition, horses from Barn 26 have recently been shipped into barn 103 in Springfield.  As a result, that barn (in Springfield) is quarantined also. 

And, finally, it is imperative that horsemen shipping into Springfield contact the stall men at the fairgrounds to find out what barn to ship into.

We're hoping to get test results Saturday night that will confirm or clear the situation."

Updates will be posted as they become available.


Friday, August 8, 2014

The races scheduled for today at the Springfield State fairgrounds have been cancelled.The scheduled stake races will go next Thursday. With rain surrounding Central Illinois, we are hopeful to get tomorrow's races in but that remains to be seen. Because of that uncertainty, an exact remaining schedule is still pending.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Horse Racing regulators to consider cobalt research. Click here for more.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Harness racing at the Effingham County Fair is in full swing. Click here for more.


Friday, August 1, 2014

The Coles County Fair concluded their four day harness meet yesterday. Click here for more.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Logan County Fair off to a strong start. Click here for details.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Harness Racing Kicks off 136th White County Fair. Click here for details,


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Champaign County Fair held a matinee and an evening card last night. Click here for some video highlights.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

County Fair harness racing is in full swing as communities steeped in tradition march on despite difficult times. Click here for more on the Knox County Fair.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Logan County Fair has a new horse racing schedule. Click here for the details.


Friday, July 11, 2014

As of now, the F&M ICF "Sue Fee Stake" originally slated for Saturday, June 21st, which was a night that the races at Balmoral were cancelled, has not be rescheduled. We are told that if it goes, it will go later in the year because there is no spot for it right now.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

For an interesting story that highlights some of Illinois harness racing concerns, click here. http://wqad.com/2014/07/09/local-county-fair-trainers-highlight-horse-racing-concerns/


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Copyright © 2014 American Horse Council

Vet Mobility Act Passed by Congress

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (H.R. 1528) by voice vote. The bill is sponsored by Representatives Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Ted Yoho of Florida, both of whom are veterinarians. It was passed earlier this year by the Senate. The AHC has strongly supported this bill.

The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to clarify that veterinarians are allowed to transport, administer and dispense controlled substances and medications outside of their registered offices and hospitals. It would ensure equine veterinarians have the ability to provide mobile or ambulatory services in the field to the horse community as they traditionally have.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) changed its interpretation of provisions of the CSA regarding what veterinarians may carry with them and has stated it now believes it is illegal for veterinarians to transport controlled substances and medications for use outside of their registered locations, such as an animal hospital.

But equine veterinarians often provide mobile services and treat horses at farms, training facilities, horse shows, or racetracks. In many cases it is not possible for owners to bring their horses to a clinic or hospital. For this reason, veterinarians have for years carried any medications they may need with them secured in their vehicle. Their ability to do this and provide care to horses in the field is in jeopardy without this legislation.

This bill will now go to the President and he is expected to sign it into law in the near future.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

This is an interesting press release written by the RCI (Racing Commissioners International)

If A-Rod Was a Horse, He Wouldn't Be Allowed to Race

LEXINGTON, KY - New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is the latest example to surface underscoring how the "no doping" policies in horse racing are tougher than other sports that deploy a process to allow the hidden use of performance enhancing substances in competition.

"If Alex Rodriguez was a horse he would not be allowed to race," said Ed Martin, President of the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

According to a new book by Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts, "Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era", the baseball great was granted permission from Major League Baseball (MLB) in 2007 to play while receiving prohibited treatments of testosterone.

"Other sports and the Olympics allow therapeutic use exemptions which allow athletes to compete under the undisclosed influence of prohibited substances if they apply with the required medical request. In racing, we require that horses be scratched and not allowed to participate. It's a big difference that many people overlook," Martin said.

According to the book, 1,354 MLB players were tested in 2007 and exemptions to 111 players were allowed by the league to compete with undisclosed prohibited performance enhancing substances.

"Those who bet on baseball games in Vegas may want to shift their action to racing," Martin said, noting that Furosemide is the only substance allowed in a horse on race day and its use is almost ubiquitous in North America and disclosed to the public in the program.

While acknowledging that horse racing, like every sport, has a drug challenge, Martin said racing has a very aggressive anti-doping program and does not permit the undisclosed backdoor use of prohibited substances. "The Therapeutic Use Exemptions that were granted Lance Armstrong for the 1999 Tour de France and Alex Rodriguez would never be approved in racing. Are we concerned about the use of legal substances in horses being trained? Absolutely. But we test for them and a host of other things in post-race samples. If we find them at levels that can affect performance, charges are brought. As far as doping is concerned, it is not allowed."


Monday, June 30, 2014

Industry leaders unite for 2015 Illinois bred stake races.

Click here for more information.


Sunday, June 22, 2014
by Michael Paradise, for the IHHA

Hollywood return for Illinois champion

With the return to his home state and a start in Sunday's (June 22) eighth race at Balmoral Park, the former Illinois trotting champion Rock Hollywood has gone full circle for Springfield-based horseman Mike Brink.

Back in 2009, Brink, the breeder, owner and trainer, thought he finally had that "special horse" in the big, good-looking gelding and so did plenty of other people after who saw Rock Hollywood breeze in his career debut in a small ICF stakes.

Rock Hollywood is a son of Illinois stallion Psychic Spirit out of Brink's broodmare, Serfafine The Great, a daughter of Balanced Image.

Springfield State Fair Photo
Rock Hollywood was Illinois state champ at both 2 and 3 before racing in Norway.

"I've always believed the horse would be a good one and maybe that's why he wasn't an easy horse to sell," explained Brink. "I hadn't been offered what I thought was a fair price for him until I got a call from Mr. (Kjell Magne) Andersen from Oslo, Norway, who had some people come out and look at him. I guess you could say Mr. Andersen made me an offer I couldn't refuse."

That offer was reported to be six figures.

"Mr Andersen wanted a trotter to race in the Hambletonian and thought that Rock Hollywood could be that horse."

The sale was made and five years later it has become a case of Brink "having his cake and eating it, too."

Rock Hollywood went on to earn over $95,000 as a freshman in Illinois, winning both the Springfield State Fair and Lincoln Land Finals. At 3 the trotter made another $92,000-plus and posted a second Springfield championship. Those two years the horse went 7 for 14 under Brink's care and 1-for-5 for Andersen's east coast trainer.

As it turned out Rock Hollywood never did make it to the Hambletonian in New Jersey. Instead he made it to Norway.

From 2011 through three starts in 2014 Rock Hollywood competed in Norwegian races where, quite frankly, he flopped through no fault of his own. He won only one race in 33 starts over various distances in excess of a mile and a made only a little over $20,000 mostly because he developed a bleeding problem and Norway doesn't allow Lasix.

"I saw the horse wasn't doing any good so I talked to his owner and asked him what are you going to do with Rock Hollywood?" Brink said. "He told me he might give him away to some 'cowboy' down the road who was going to use him as a riding horse.

"I asked if I could have him and he asked me what I was going to do with him. "I said hopefully put him on Lasix and race him. I told him I would pay the cost to fly him back if he gave me the horse. He said, 'I'll you what I'll do, I'll fly him back and give you half of the horse and keep the other half' and that is what he did.

"It's been seven years since foaled here and Rock Hollywood is still the nicest horse you can ever want to be around. He's a big horse, about 17 hands. He looks the same as he did when he left, but maybe not as well as I would like health-wise. But he's ready to go now.

"I wasn't sure how I wanted to race him in his qualifier and I then decided I would just let the horse race the way he wants to race. So I took him behind the gate with no over-check, no nothing, and off he goes.

"He was trotting along kind of easy-going and went the first quarter in 29 and change and the half around 59. When we got to the three-quarters somebody pulled and he took off and went a little faster.  In the lane I look down at my watch and said to myself: 'He's going to qualify in 56.' And he did with a 28.2 last quarter, winning by 17 lengths.

"The horse finished the qualifier cocky and all full of himself.

"With all those long distances he was racing the past few years that qualifying mile was nothing for him. I kept waiting for him to get a little tired and he kept waiting for me to ask him to go a little faster.

"I don't know if he'll be any good now that he's back but it doesn't matter. I'm just happy to have him back and I'm sure he feels the same way, too. I can always turn him out somewhere or give to some 12 year-old to ride.

"I do know it'll be fun to drive him in a race Sunday."

Despite the four months in between races I still think Rock Hollywood is a rock-solid play Sunday, so much so I made him my "Best Bet" of the night.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Notice of Annual Meeting of the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association

The annual meeting of the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association will be held Saturday, August 16, 2014 at the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association office, 15 Spinning Wheel Road, Suite 432, Hinsdale, Illinois at noon. The following members filed nominating petitions seeking election or re-election to the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association Board of Directors.

  • Clark Fairley
  • Mike Knicley
  • Kim Rinker
  • Dirk Simpson
  • Hosea Williams

Since there were only a total of five members who filed petitions for the five positions open on the Board, the IHHA has decided to forego the expense of a formal election.  This decision was made after conferring with our attorney and the CPA firm that acts as the election supervisor. IHHA members will still be sent a form asking for your proxy and consent of the candidates for the five board seats.


Sunday June 8, 2014
By Mike Paradise

 Dave Magee, the Chicago circuit's most successful and admired driver, reached an extraordinary accomplishment last night at Balmoral Park by going over the $100 million plateau in money earnings.

The 60- year-old resident of Big Rock, Illinois became only the 17th driver in North America ever to do so.

  A victory behind Tour Hall in the $25,900 Hanover stake for 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings put Magee only $1,291 from the major milestone and one race later a third place finish with Real Or Magic in  the fifth race $15,000 Invitational sent him over the $100 million plateau.

  Magee started his driving professionally in the late 1970's and back the Wisconsin native never dreamt he would go on to have such an illustrious career, one that would earn him a place in the National Harness Racing Hall of Fame in Goshen, New York.

  "Obviously when I started out I never had the inclination I would have the good fortune that I have had," said Magee. "I've been blessed through the years with good trainers with good horses."

  Dave is well on his way again to record his 36th consecutive year with horses at his lines earning over $1 million in a season and he doesn't plan any time soon to hang-up his driver colors.

  "I still enjoy driving horses that are competitive, and exceeding to get the results that are expected," continued Dave. "It's frustrating when they don't do what you expect them to do but it is very rewarding when you do get those accomplishments.

  "I'm not hitting any home runs, I'm just getting done out there what probably should be getting done."

   Through the years the modest driving King of Illinois has racked-up 11,769 "base hits" and an abundant number of home runs including close to three dozen American National championships with horses like Odds Against, Keystone Raider, Staying Together, Continentalvictory and Color Me Best, just to mention a few.

  Dave delivered a Breeders Crown (1988) champion with Anniecrombie and netted a Canadian Pacing Derby (1984) winner with Mr. Dalrae.

  Along the way he's been in the bike behind 29 Super Night champions, won a record 12 driving crowns at Maywood Park, and nailed down 11 more, the most ever, at one-time Sportsman's Park and has bagged titles at Balmoral, Hawthorne and old Quad City Downs.

  As you can see Mr. Magee has knocked it out of the park over and over again, year after year.

  In his career Dave has won more than 90 per cent of his races in Illinois and he did it through our best of times and our current lean of times.

  "Things have always worked out for me and I have to believe they still will. I'll just show up and try to do the best job I can. I'll still make some mistakes out there but you try to limit them and learn from them".

  Dave has one more upcoming driving feat to accomplish and this one will certainly test the patience of the unflappable father of six.

  "The years just keep rolling by. Even my youngest isn't a little girl any more. Emily is old enough now that she wants to drive the car. I guess I can get through teaching one more how to pass a driver test and hopefully live to tell about it," he added laughing.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kadner: Casino bill's demise a murder mystery

From the Southtown Star
By Phil Kadner pkadner@southtownstar.com May 30, 2014 11:22PM

Updated: June 1, 2014 2:11AM

The casino gambling bill was as dead as Marley's ghost. There was no doubt whatever about that.

The register of its burial may as well have been signed by Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and witnessed by as House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The bill was dead as a doornail, that's a fact.

State Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, the chief sponsor of the legislation in the House, should have known it was dead months ago, but he refused to acknowledge that reality despite the stench of political decay.

On Friday, as the spring session of the Legislature drew to a close, Rita publicly acknowledged what everyone else knew — there seemed to be no interest among this state's political leaders in achieving casino expansion this spring.

Why Quinn and Emanuel would want to play Scrooge in this saga remains a mystery because both men have indicated in the past that they want a casino in Chicago and maybe four more in other locations throughout the state.

"I'm going to ask for meetings with the administration of Gov. Quinn and the administration of Mayor Emanuel," Rita told me Friday. "I want to hear what they have to say about the bill and what they would like to see."

Rita became the surprise sponsor of the casino expansion bill last spring when it seemed likely to pass.

Quinn, who previously had vetoed such legislation, suddenly was saying he wanted a bill on his desk. Emanuel was lobbying for a casino that would be owned by the city and operate independently of the Illinois Gaming Board.

Because gambling expansion twice had passed the Senate and House, it seemed logical in 2013 to think that the time was right to get the deal done.

But Rita never called the bill for a vote last year, sending the governor into a tizzy. Rita said he wanted to hold public hearings. He said interested players, for and against casino expansion, had contacted him to say their voices had not been heard.

Indeed, past gambling bills had been cobbled together in back rooms, with state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, hanging all sorts of goodies on them to try to attract enough votes for passage.

A "Christmas tree" bill is what people called it, and the legislation contained all kinds of special funds using casino revenue to appease Hispanics, blacks and other voting blocs in the House.

Rita held his public hearings and ripped out all those little goodies, apparently without consulting anyone.

Then he did something else that was surprising. He came up with two entirely new ideas for casino expansion.

One would create only one new casino, a mega-gambling palace in Chicago that would be owned by the state, not the city. Was that the governor's idea? Madigan's?

No, Rita told me, it was his idea in response to Quinn's concerns about a city casino being independent of the state gaming board and overexpansion of gambling in Illinois.

Obviously, if the state owned the casino, the gaming board would have oversight. And only adding a giant casino in Chicago would address fears about Illinois becoming a new Las Vegas.

Rita's second plan was for a smaller state-owned casino in Chicago and four others throughout Illinois, including one in the south suburbs. Horse tracks would get slot machines under that proposal, but only half as many as in previous bills (about 600).

What did the governor think about that idea? Rita never talked to him. Quinn never called Rita.

As for Emanuel, when Rita held a public hearing in Chicago on the two proposed bills, the mayor didn't show up.

What about Madigan? He has recused himself from the process, citing a conflict of interest.

"He has never talked to me about the bill," Rita said.

Quinn contends that Illinois will have to slash billions of dollars from education and other essential programs unless the 5 percent state income tax is made permanent.

Emanuel said Chicago must raise its property tax rate to fund city pensions.

And there remains more than $4 billion in unpaid bills to the state, even with the higher income tax rates in place for 31/2 years.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability estimates that casino expansion in Illinois could generate $500 million to $700 million in new annual revenue, according to testimony before Rita's House committee.

A developer for a potential casino in Country Club Hills said he's prepared to invest $200 million in a casino complex in that suburb. A Chicago casino likely would attract an investment of $1 billion.

Yet, there's no interest now in building more casinos in Illinois.

The people running the 10 existing casinos, some of whom also are running casinos across the border in Indiana, have made it clear they don't want more competition.

As for the governor, last spring his staff called me saying he wanted the expansion bill called and implying that Madigan was working behind the scenes to stop it. This year, despite numerous requests for comment, Quinn's office had nothing to say.

I figured the Republican candidate for governor, Bruce Rauner, might be interested in all this because he has been talking about the need for job creation, and casinos would create thousands of jobs.

Rauner's spokesman sent me an email with the following statement: "Bruce believes this is primarily a local issue that is about local control and what the community wants — and that's who should be driving the decisions."

Rita told me that he plans to call a revised casino bill for a House vote in the fall session of the Legislature. He may even hold another public hearing.

As for the Senate, which twice passed casino bills, it did nothing this spring.

Maybe Illinois' government doesn't need any more cash. Maybe jobs aren't as important as people say.

No one's talking. And the casino bill is dead.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Knowing the importance of cash flow to horsemen, the IHHA is pleased to be able to advance the Illinois Department of Agriculture portion of purses earned for the Cardinals, the Violets and the Maywood Paces this year. As we all know our state can be very delinquent in paying their bills, so the IHHA Board of Directors decided again, as we have done so many times in the past, to get the money into horsemen's hands as soon as possible. We are able to do this because currently there is still enough funding left in our purse account from the 2011 "3% money."


Friday, May 30, 2014

From Chicago Sun-Times.com

Casino expansion plan dead for legislative session, sponsor says

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 9:38am

Jon Seidel

@SeidelContent | Email

A bid to expand gambling in Illinois appears dead for the spring's legislative session after the south suburban lawmaker pushing the measure announced Friday he won't call the bill for a vote. 

"The time was not right to build the support needed for the bill to pass the Illinois House and Senate and be signed into law by the governor," Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, said in a written statement. "I am disappointed we could not move this issue forward this spring, but I am determined to prepare a bill for consideration in the fall veto session."

Rita sent a letter to legislative leaders last week, hoping to give the bill new life after what he described as an "underwhelming" response to two alternative proposals he pitched in March. 

The first would authorize a state-owned Chicago casino with 4,000 to 10,000 gaming positions. By comparison, existing Illinois casinos are limited to 1,200. Under that plan, Chicago would split the casino's revenue equally with Illinois, though Cook County and south suburban communities would get a cut of Chicago's half. 

The alternative plan would give Chicago a casino with 4,000 to 6,000 gaming positions and allow casinos in the south suburbs and Lake, Winnebago and Vermilion counties. 

Rita held public hearings, including one in Chicago and another in the south suburbs, hoping to craft a bill that would finally pass muster with Gov. Pat Quinn, who has vetoed previous attempts by the legislature to expand gambling in Illinois. 

But in his letter last week to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, Rita said he still saw "several obstacles to passing a gambling expansion bill that the governor can sign into law."

He mentioned local squabbles, fear of competition by existing casino owners and the lack of participation in the debate by Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has insisted on tackling pension reform ahead of gambling expansion. 

Rita said again Friday that support from Quinn and Emanuel is key to passing a casino bill. The same goes for the horse racing industry and communities that would host a new casino, he said — around Chicago and Downstate. 

"My commitment is to find solutions for their issues, including restoring gaming positions at the race tracks and providing an agreement that allows slots at Fairmount Park in the Metro East," Rita said. "We should have a special opportunity to make our case for gambling expansion at the end of this year, and I want to do everything we can to take advantage of it."


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The General Assembly will be adjourning this week and it appears unlikely that our "jobs" bill, the gaming bill will be called. As we have repeated far too many times, there is politics happening in Springfield that is really out of our control. The entire horse racing industry, as well as numerous other groups, (to see the full fact sheet, click below) want to see the original SB1739 called with just the added stronger regulatory concerns that the Governor requested. However, once again, we are told "it's not the right time yet." Pensions issues (City of Chicago and the State) are still not solidified, the income tax hike passed in 2011 sunsets this year and our budget for the fiscal year is still being debated. These are a few of the reasons being reported to us as to why? Like it or not, believe it or not, these are still the answers. And yes, we do ask legislators, when is it our turn to do what 15 other states have done to save their horse racing industries and all the jobs that go with it?

> Fact Sheet


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Here are a few more links to newspaper stories related to the gaming bill that have been published in the past few days:





Sunday, May 18, 2014

The following story about a gaming bill in Illinois appeared in this weekend's Southtown Star.



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

As we head into the final weeks of the Spring legislative session, passing a gaming bill or as we call it "our jobs bill," which includes slots at the racetracks, is the priority of the entire horseracing industry. Besides us, there are many other groups that would benefit from this piece of legislation and are engaged in trying to get this bill called in its original format. The session is scheduled to conclude on May 31. As everyone recalls, we have passed this bill on two separate occasions only to have it vetoed by the Governor. Since then stronger regulatory and ethical oversights have been added to the bill to comply with the Governor's wishes. Rumors (positive and negative) are rampant, as they always are at this time of the year. For us, calling a gaming bill appears to be a no-brainer. However, we live in a unique state that is incredibly difficult to understand and navigate. The IHHA will continue to communicate with legislators. We will continue to push and lean on our friends in the General Assembly. Stay close for updates.


Friday, May 9, 2014

This was posted in yesterday's "Capitol Fax."

SILENCE FROM HIZZONER Senate President John Cullerton recently said that he thought the Senate could pass a new gaming bill, but the chamber was waiting on the House. The House's sponsor Rep. Bob Rita, held several public hearings on the issue over the winter and introduced two bills, but pretty much nothing has happened since then.

I asked Rep. Rita this week why he wasn't moving forward and he said he hadn't yet heard from some of the top dogs, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Neither Emanuel nor his people, Rita said, had approached him this spring to discuss a Chicago casino. Without a 5th Floor green light, there was no sense in moving the bill, Rita explained.

I checked into this and learned that the mayor doesn't want any talk about a casino while the pension reform issue is still out there. Aldermen are already jittery about raising taxes to fund the city's end of the bargain, so having casino revenues dangled in front of them could make them even more reluctant to vote for new taxes.

(Capitol Fax)

Posted by Rich Miller


Monday, April 28, 2014

Associated Press - April 16, 2014
Chicago casino plan draws more support at hearing

Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) -- A proposal for a state-owned Chicago casino won praise Wednesday from business groups and a warmer reception from a state regulatory board than past attempts to expand gambling, but the plan also drew criticism from downstate officials and the horse racing industry who said it would cheat them out of needed revenues and jobs.

The hearing in Chicago, which wasn't heated like public exchanges in other parts of Illinois, was the latest attempt to bolster gambling, but questions were also raised about support for the legislation in an election year where other major fiscal issues are pending. Previous bills approved by legislators were twice rejected by Gov. Pat Quinn largely over ethical concerns about corruption, and last year's bill calling for five casinos fizzled out after the Illinois Gaming Board scrutinized plans that would have allowed Chicago to have authority over a casino.

State Rep. Bob Rita, a Blue Island Democrat sponsoring the plans, said he wanted to gauge interest in a Chicago-only plan and give lawmakers options. Two proposals are on the table: One adds five casinos, including in Chicago, plus slots at racetracks. The other calls for a mega-casino in Chicago. In both plans, the Chicago casino would be state run, which Rita said was in response to past criticism.

Though neither Quinn nor Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have weighed in recently, the board that regulates Illinois' 10 existing casinos highlighted the changes.

"There are certainly improvements," gaming board attorney Caleb Melamed told lawmakers. "This is a significantly different piece of legislation than previous years."

He voiced other concerns about the potential of saturating the market with other Chicago area casinos. He also questioned a state-run casino, a model that's unusual among other states. The Chicago Crime Commission objected to the structure, calling for an operator-owned model like other casinos and more protections against corruption. Chicago area pastors and anti-gambling groups also warned lawmakers of possible social costs on either plan, such as more people hooked on gambling.

"Casino gambling is really nothing more than an increased tax on those who can't afford it," said Matt Fitzgerald, senior pastor at St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago.

Noticeably absent from Wednesday's hearing were Chicago city officials, even while chamber of commerce groups said a downtown Chicago casino - in either plan - would create jobs and benefit the economy with estimated revenues between $450 million to $950 million. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and urban planners envisioned a Chicago casino as a draw for tourists and locals, with shopping and live shows. They said possible locations included the Congress Plaza Hotel, the top floors of a downtown Macy's department store or the James R. Thompson Center, which a state building.

"Chicago is an incredible prize for the gaming industry," said Kim Goluska, president of Chicago Consultants Studio Inc. "The revenues are going to be huge no matter what they are."

Still, Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said the mayor wouldn't address expanded gambling until the city solved its pension problem. State lawmakers have approved a partial fix to Chicago's pension problem, but Quinn hasn't indicated if he'll sign it. Quinn's spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the Chicago Democrat hadn't seen the two gambling expansion plans.

Rita said he hadn't spoken to either Quinn or Emanuel about the proposals, but wanted to call his legislation for a vote before the end of May. He's said that the political climate in Springfield could be more favorable than last year when lawmakers were considering plans to address the pension system, which is the worst-funded in the nation. Quinn has since signed a pension law. Lawmakers are also looking for additional revenue sources in this election year as the temporary income tax increase rolls back next year and creates the potential for major budget cuts.

One of his current plans calls for a Chicago casino with up to 10,000 terminals that'll share revenues; Half would go to Chicago and the other half statewide for education and capital construction spending. The other plan would call for a 4,000 to 6,000-spot Chicago casino and smaller, 1,200-position ones in a suburb south of Chicago and the counties of Lake, Winnebago and Vermilion. It would also allow for slot machines at most horse racetracks. The second plan would also allow for revenue sharing.

The idea to separate out the Chicago casino has already drawn opposition from the Illinois' horse racing industry and mayors elsewhere, particularly in economically-depressed areas. They've argued for job creation with the five-casino proposal. The Illinois Casino Gaming Association, which represents most of the state's casinos, said it opposed both plans citing revenue drops over the years and market saturation.

The bill is SB1739.

> view pdf



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chicago Sun-Times - April 20, 2014


Casino bill must include  Chicago — and safeguards

Haggling over legislation to bring a casino to Chicago has become a springtime ritual. This time around, state Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, has dealt out two new amendments that just might get the job done.

To our way of thinking, that's welcome news, but only if the talks in Springfield have no influence on City Hall's continued efforts to sharply reduce costs, especially the costs of pensions. Chicago's finances are in dire straits, and a casino — years down the road, if ever — promises at best a relatively shallow pot of gold.

The Legislature has twice passed gambling bills, but both were vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn. Last year's version never made it as far as Quinn's desk. But Rita has been holding meetings since summer and full-fledged hearings since January to try to shape a bill that can actually pass. His latest two amendments, floated at a hearing on Wednesday, both would give Chicago a casino.

The narrower version would provide for a single Chicago casino that could be the largest in the world, with revenues divided between the city and state. The broader plan would add four other casinos in southern Cook County, Lake County, Vermilion County and Winnebago County, as well as slot machines at most horse-racing tracks. Chicago's casino under that scenario would be smaller, with a maximum of 4,000 positions instead of 10,000.

We'd be fine with a Chicago-only plan, because the city, which already draws many visitors, is the best place in the state to plunk down a new casino — or any casino. A city casino would not only encourage current visitors to spend more money while they are here, but also draw additional travelers and conventioneers, people who would spend money in restaurants, hotels and stores. Facing serious financial problems, Chicago needs the financial boost. We share the concerns of critics that casinos bring problems, such as binge gambling and crime, but that's already here, just past the city limits and over the state line.

The Chicago-only plan might not fly in Springfield, where many lawmakers salivate at the thought of the casino revenues and jobs that could boost struggling towns such as Rockford and Danville. In the end, unfortunately, the plan that works politically might prove to be the broader option for five new casinos. A strength of both casino bills is that they call for all revenues to be earmarked for education, capital projects and pensions.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made it clear he wants to reform the city's finances before pursuing casino revenues. He really has no choice. Revenues from a casino wouldn't begin to flow, city officials say, and even after seven years of operation likely wouldn't produce more than $120 million annually.

If that seems like a lot of money, consider this: Chicago's pension liability alone comes to $18.8 billion.

At its very best, that is to say, a Chicago casino would never be more than a somewhat modest part of the solution to the city's problems.

The question now is where Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan stand. Members of the Emanuel administration did not testify on Wednesday, but if the mayor wants this to be the spring that casino legislation becomes law, he needs to go to Springfield and make his case.

There is a real chance for a serious bill to emerge this legislative session.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Contract Update

On Thursday, May/Blmp and the IHHA, adhering to an edict put forth by the IRB, signed a contract that begins today and expires June 30, 2015.  As a courtesy to horse people and like all of the past five year's contracts, we will post the contract on this website (in the next few days).  It's actually only about 26 pages; when I wrote last night that it was 50 pages, it must have just seemed that way to me.      :-)

Good racing to all! 

Dave McCaffrey


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Contract Update.

Since last Thursday, representatives of the IHHA and representatives of May/Blmp have been busy finalizing the details of the contract.  Last Thursday, we agreed on the outline of a contract and I'm pleased to report that both sides have honored that outline.  The process of "dotting the i's and crossing the t's" is tedious but is very close to being completed.  The IRB is requiring a signed contract by Friday.   When we sign the final contract, we'll report that on this website and put the actual contract up here (all 50 pages or so of it). 

Dave McCaffrey


Friday, March 7, 2014

Wright, family enthusiastic about racing


Times Newspapers

MORTON — Harness racing is a passion for a local family.

While Bill Wright has seen his share of highlights and disappointments in the sport with which he has a longtime involvement, last year was particularly memorable. King Mufasa, the trotter he and wife Maddy Wright co-own with Mystical Marker Farms of Dyer, Ind., won a prestigious honor last month in Springfield. King Mufasa was selected as the 2013 Illinois Harness Horse of the Year after recording 14 wins in 18 starts, including 12 in a row. "There's nothing more fun than to get in the winner's circle," Bill Wright said. The vote for top horse is conducted annually by fellow horsemen and horsewomen.

"He was pretty dominant," said Wright of King Mufasa. "He was exposed all over the state."

Some of the notable victories for King Mufasa, who was trained by Mike Brink, were: the Cardinal, Hanover and Su Mac Lad in Chicago, the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and DuQuoin and the Circle City in Anderson, Ind. King Mufasa, who had limited success prior to the '13 campaign, perks up around people. "He's a very good-natured, lovable animal," said Wright. "He's as nice in the barn as he is on the track." Wright and his partners typically sell horses after they are 3 years old, but plan to make an exception with King Mufasa. If he is healthy, King Mufasa will race in 2014 as a 4-year-old, mostly in Indiana.

King Mufasa, along with Dreamaster and Classic Photo, who took part in the acclaimed Hambletonian, rank as some of the best horses Wright has raced in the sport. Wright, along with his co-owners, buy two-three horses per year on average in what is an extensive process of going through detailed information in catalogs and attending sales where they can see the animals in person. It takes a team effort. "It's a challenge buying the right yearling in the first place," said Wright. The focus for the group is on trotters rather than pacers. Relatives and friends regularly are at the race site. "It's really a family thing," Wright said. "It's unique really in that the whole family can get involved. We really get into it."

Wright, a Morton resident for more than 40 years, followed his parents and grandfather. "I was born and raised in the business and I just stayed with the program," he said. Wright would clean stalls and feed the horses, then eat his breakfast before heading off to school. He raced horses in the summer while attending Millikin University in Decatur. After a 33-year working career at Caterpillar Inc., during which time his participation was limited, Wright jumped back in harness racing. He started buying horses in 1988. Most have been equal partnerships. "I feel very honored to be in the sport," said Wright. "It's a beautiful and gracious sport." Maddy Wright mentioned how the family has been blessed to travel a lot to places such as Canada and the East Coast.

Bill Wright was named Illinoisan of the Day in 2010 by state Gov. Pat Quinn, one of the daily recipients during the State Fair's annual run. He has served in various roles with organizations to help harness racing grow and does not forget all the folks who contribute. "I'm a big believer in promoting the sport and thanking people for getting us where we are," said Wright.  Wright plans to be in harness racing for the foreseeable future. "As long as my family loves it, I'll stick wit it," he said.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Contract Update.

After a flurry of activity and a hearty debate among the IHHA Board of Directors, WE HAVE AN AGREEMENT ON A CONTRACT! 

The length of the contract begins Friday, March 14 and continues through June 30, 2015. 

In this 16 month contract, the purse cut will be 10% now and stay at that level through January 4 of 2015.  Then, there will be a 24 day dark period (from Jan. 4 through Jan. 28).  On January 29, 2015 the purses will be cut an additional 15%.  The purse overpayment will increase to the amount equivalent to 35% of recapture (or $2.5 million).  Those purse structures almost certainly will get us to June 30, 2015.  Additionally, Wednesday racing will be eliminated in 2015. 

Nobody knows more than I how painful purse cuts are but this deal at least gives us 10 months of a relatively small cut and another six months that are at least spelled out for everyone to see in advance.  The fact of the matter is, in our opinion, this is the best we can do with the dreadful hand we are dealt.  Recapture eats up almost 40% of what we generate and that percentage only grows when our handle declines. 

This process has been very frustrating and extremely agonizing.  It took crazy twists and turns and at times looked as though no contract would ever be signed.  In the end, we have 16 months of racing ahead of us and three legislative sessions to possibly be "saved." Everyone knows the story and everyone should understand that the clock on the life of Illinois harness racing is ticking. 

In addition, I want to earnestly thank the racetracks, not for their unremitting stubbornness, but for the way they conducted themselves publicly with respect to literature and pronouncements they put forth.  Both sides tried very hard to keep the "warfare decibel level" to a minimum and that kept the process shorter than it otherwise would have taken.  Also, let's not forget that the tracks, to their credit, are extending us an interest free line of credit of $2.5 million. 

Finally, a huge thank you to all of the people who texted, called, emailed, etc. and all of the staff and directors of the IHHA.  We used all of those communications as a measuring stick of support and we've been overwhelmed by that unwavering backing.

Have a great 16 months of racing!

Dave McCaffrey


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Contract Update. 

This evening, the IHHA Board of Directors conducted a conference call to consider the proposal that was posted on the Balmoral Website.   The Board voted UNANIMOUSLY TO REJECT the offer that is posted. 

That offer cuts purses 15% from the 2013 levels and is silent on the number of races that will be conducted on a weekly basis but requires a minimum of seven horse fields. Since their offer also states that racing will begin on a Friday, are we to expect that there will be no racing on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the mediation process? Also, why should there be any purse cut when we have $5.5 million in our purse account?  In addition, the so-called "protections" of retroactive payments are not protections at all as a mediation agreement has to be agreed to by both parties.  Does anyone expect the tracks to sign off on an agreement that raises purse levels?   Remember, at the insistence of the IRB, we are entering into MEDIATION, not BINDING ARBITRATION (a mandated settlement).  

And we haven't even touched on Betzotic, a platform from which we receive less from our own races than TVG and Twinspires - remarkable considering Betzotic is "our" platform.  In short, contracts are complex and can't be summed up, or for goodness sakes, accepted in a few bullet points.  Why do you think negotiations break down when we get to details? To blindly agree to a proposal like the one MAY/BLMP unfortunately posted on their website is at best a return to many bad deals in the past and at worst a recipe for disaster. 

Now, for tonight I have said enough.  We are faced with extremely complex issues and the last place we should be negotiating is on this website.  The bottom line is that we want to negotiate a contract.  We have continually followed IRB Chairman Berry's rules of good faith negotiating and professionalism.  We encourage the tracks to resume negotiations in the same manner. 

Dave McCaffrey


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Contract Update. 

On Tuesday, a proposal was sent to the IHHA for a possible temporary contract to race during the mediation period.  We were immediately interested.  Unfortunately, their proposal called for a 26% reduction in racing opportunities AND a 15% purse cut from 2013 levels, so no deal was made.  With $5.5 million in our purse account we are opposed to a significant purse cut if it is accompanied by a huge reduction in racing opportunities.   We are not naive enough to think that the current horse population can support the same number of races as last year, which is why no purse cut should occur - fewer races mean less total purse money being spent. 

Finally, the decision by Maywood to lockout horsemen by denying entries Monday was mind boggling.  I am predicting that MAY/BLMP will make a 180 degree change of that policy on Wednesday.  We encourage entries and I'd be willing to bet they'll be accepted. 

Dave McCaffrey


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Today, the IHHA tried to get a temporary contract to begin racing immediately. Unfortunately, again we could not agree to terms. We will continue as often as possible to work towards a sensible solution.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Contract Update. 

Discussions between all parties (IHHA, May/Blmp, and IRB) took place today with no agreement.  The length of the contract continues to be a major sticking point. 

On a separate note, I want to comment on mediation; I hope to clear up some possible misconceptions.  First and foremost, mediation has been mandated by the IRB.  This was a result of negotiations that endlessly unfold like the movie "Groundhog Day."  Almost daily, potential deals progress and then inevitably blow up.  After witnessing these events for the umpteenth time over the weekend, the IRB mandated mediation. 

The IHHA happily welcomes the IRB mandate of mediation.  Perhaps, with professional help, a deal can actually make it to the finish line and a deal can be made. 

The IHHA proposal to race through the mediation process has been met with a thud.  With $5.5 million in our purse account, there is absolutely no reason in the world that we shouldn't be racing for 2013 purses, IF NOT MORE, during the process.

In the meantime, we'll keep trying to make a deal that ensures horse people of racing for their money, preferably in 2014. 

Dave McCaffrey


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Contract Update.

No answer was given by the racetracks in response to our proposal to start racing at the 2013 purse levels while mediation takes place.  We hope they accept the offer so we can start racing for our $5.5 million. 

We continue to try very hard to come to terms for the contract.  The racetracks' insistence on a contract that goes past 12/31/14 is hindering the process because of so many unknowns. 

Dave McCaffrey


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Contract Update

We have failed to reach an agreement with the racetracks so the IHHA has agreed with the IRB's suggestion to enter into professional mediation with the racetracks.  That process is time consuming so today we are proposing a temporary contract while the process of mediation begins.  The terms of the temporary contract are simple: the 2013 contract gets extended until mediation ends.  We have $5.5 million in our account so the five to eight weeks that the mediation process would take only dents the account.   Then, we adjust purses and contracts accordingly. 

If the tracks are truly interested in conducting live racing, they will accept this offer as it poses absolutely no risk and begins the season. 

Dave McCaffrey


Friday, February 28 2014

Contract update. 

A negotiating meeting was held Friday between the IHHA and Maywood/Balmoral.  No agreement was reached.   We are trying to look at different ways to solve the disagreement regarding the $5.5 million in our purse account.  I'm hopeful that talks will continue and an agreement can be reached soon. 

Dave McCaffrey


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Contract update.

Negotiations continued today with representatives of the IRB acting as mediators.  Different models and concepts were being floated.  At some point, I thought progress was possibly being made but the day ended with no deal.   Tomorrow is another day and we'll keep trying. 

On a different subject, more gaming bills are being discussed in Springfield.  One such bill is I-gaming.  The specifics of it have not been determined yet.  The newspaper article regarding I-gaming from the Springfield Journal is below.

Dave McCaffrey


Cullerton wants to look at Internet gambling

By Doug Finke
State Capitol Bureau
Posted Feb. 26, 2014 @ 6:05 pm
Updated Feb 26, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday that legalizing Internet gambling in Illinois could provide the state with needed revenue, although passing the bill will be difficult.

The Chicago Democrat, who has pushed for online gambling for two years, said it could become part of gambling expansion talks that are already underway at the Capitol.

"I've been supportive of this ever since we found out from the Justice Department we could do this," Cullerton said following a short Senate committee hearing on the issue. "The point is people are already gambling, and we're not making any of the money. There are other states that are just getting started that are bringing in some money. So that may play a role in it when we try to pass a budget."

Cullerton acknowledged, though, that maneuvering Internet gambling through the thicket of competing gambling interests will be difficult.

"I support it, but there's a lot of complications as to how it affects the existing gaming industry," Cullerton said. "That seems to be where the hang-up might be right now. Whenever you have a gaming bill, the other people who are in the gambling industry, whether it be horse racing or existing casinos, they want to be at the table."

The Senate Executive Committee Wednesday heard from the Poker Players Alliance, an organization that urged Illinois to adopt Internet gambling.

"PPA stands in strong support of (Cullerton's) effort," said PPA executive director John Pappas. "Any effort to regulate Internet poker should not be viewed as an expansion of gambling in Illinois."

Pappas said Illinois gamblers already have access to online poker, casino games and sports betting.

"Regulation simply would mean corralling the current unregulated marketplace," he said.

So far, Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have authorized Internet poker. Some analysts believe Illinois could gain $500 million annually in gross gaming revenue, Pappas said.

Anita Bedell of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems warned that Internet gambling will only lead to more problem gamblers.

"Making gambling more accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will make it easier for people to gamble and lose their money," Bedell said. "There are more than enough opportunities to gamble in Illinois."

She said studies show Internet gamblers are more likely to be problem gamblers.

Illinois lawmakers could again take up a gambling expansion bill this spring. Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, is holding hearings in locations around the state to get input. He is looking at a plan to add five new casinos and allow slot machines at horse racing tracks.

Existing casinos have said they're concerned further expansion will hurt business because the new locations will simply take gamblers from existing casinos rather than entice new customers to gamble.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Contract Update. 

More discussions took place today between the IHHA, the IRB, and the racetracks.  Mediation efforts continue by the Racing Board. 

Yesterday's update touched off lots of responses today.  Most people seemed to understand how precarious of a position we're in.  Racetracks still want to spread our $5.5 million of purse account money over the next two years.  The IHHA feels very strongly, for many reasons, that since the money in the purse account is our money, we should have the opportunity to race for that money in 2014.   To "stretch" that money over two years merely delays the inevitable while taking away any quality that is held by the 2013 purse structure. 

Dave McCaffrey


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Contract update.

Every day the IHHA office and I receive scores of emails, texts, and phone calls.  The vast majority of them are supportive, some offer suggestions, and some just leave me shaking my head.  One such email came in this afternoon and I want to share it with all of you. 

Because I want to protect the identity of the sender, I won't give the name.  The email read (in part):

"Why don't we just sign a two year contract that keeps the purses like they were the last few years?"


I want to use tonight's update to give some unfortunate facts about the long-term situation of Illinois harness racing.  Maybe it's a failure on my part to educate the membership, maybe it's a failure on the membership's part to accept what I'm about to say, or maybe it's somewhere in between.   Regardless, here's an attempt to convey the sad facts. 

Illinois harness racing is in huge trouble!  So much, in fact, that our situation is comparable to being given the diagnosis of a terminal illness.  Consider Johnny Johnston's testimony at last week's IRB meeting when he said of Illinois harness racing, "We're dealing with end of life issues here."

The only antidote to our illness is some kind of legislative help from Springfield (slots, impact fee, etc.)  And the only good news is that we have $5.5 million in our purse account.  If we don't get the cure, we're left to decide two things: how long do we want to live? (somewhere between 7 and 22 months) and what do we want our quality of life to be between now and the end (big purse cuts and a longer life or no purse cuts and a shorter life). 

Obviously, these are big issues which is why we haven't yet signed a contract.  The racetracks want us to "live" longer and continue to provide them product to sell through cutting purses aggressively and continually by insisting on a two year contract; the IHHA believes we should go out with dignity, by keeping purses at a respectable level for as long as possible albeit shorter than two years. 

So, there you have it; if you didn't know how bad our situation is before, I hope you all get it now.  And, finally, I hope that answers my friend's email question. 

Tomorrow or Thursday I expect contract negotiations to resume after a one day respite (because of a funeral.)  Please keep checking back for updates. 

Dave McCaffrey


Contract Update


Monday, February 24, 2014

After three hours of negotiating, the meeting ended with no agreement. 

The issues on the table are very complex and because of that are not easily solved.

At this point, it's practically inconceivable to see how racing will occur this week.  We continue to encourage further negotiations; hopefully a contract will be signed at some point.

I hate to sound redundant, but I want to re-iterate that the racetracks and the IHHA need each other; without a contract, there will be no racing.  Without a dance partner, there is no dance.

We will continue very hard to get to an agreed deal.  

Dave McCaffrey


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Contract Update

Tomorrow the first negotiating session in two weeks will take place.  Nobody wants to sign a contract more than us, but please remember this: When the goal is securing an agreement at any cost, the outcome will inevitably be a bad agreement.  We'll stick to our goals and see what happens and keep all of you posted throughout the week. 

Again, I want to encourage trainers with horses qualified to enter for draws at Maywood and Balmoral.  If a contract gets signed, you'll want your horses in the box. 

Dave McCaffrey


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Contract Update

A negotiating meeting has been scheduled for Monday morning downtown.   This will be the first such formal meeting in over two weeks.   Is that a good sign?  Absolutely.   Is it a sure thing that a deal will be made? Absolutely not. 

When this contract "situation" started, the IHHA has tried to be consistent in two main requests.   First, if a purse cut is deemed necessary, we want it to be as small as possible.  Second, some recapture deferral is important to extend the length of our $5 million purse account.  Those are the two basic tenets of our negotiating position.  We continue to stick by them while trying to get a deal.

Finally, at this time, I'd like to send a big thank you to so many owners, drivers, trainers, grooms, vets, blacksmiths, breeders, handicappers/fans, (I hope I didn't forget anyone) who have been so supportive; it's a great honor to represent all of you.  Also, a huge thank you to the IHHA Board of Directors and staff; your unflinching support these last few weeks has been inspiring and amazing. 

And one more thing: I'm particularly proud of how we as a Board and an Association have conducted ourselves - no personal attacks, no hostility - and I believe that the conclusion of this process will be sooner as a result of that.  

Dave McCaffrey


Friday, February 21, 2014

Contract Update

More discussions took place today between the IHHA, several IRB Commissioners, and racetracks.  We were told to "keep the weekend open" in case a meeting needed to be scheduled. 

Also today, the IRB re-iterated its position that unless a contract is in place, there will be no racing.  This should serve as notice and a reminder to both sides that we need each other's agreement.

Dave McCaffrey


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Contract Update

Racetracks and the IHHA exchanged different proposals today.  Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, all racetrack proposals are for a two year contract.   Unless massive amounts of recapture are deferred, there is simply no way to sign onto a two year deal, especially considering the fact there aren't even racing dates for next year. 

We submitted a proposal today that accepted the racetracks proposed deferred recapture amount.  It is a deal that would ensure racing at about a 10% purse decrease for most of the year.   We encourage the racetracks to accept and sign this one year contract proposal. 

Dave McCaffrey


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Contract Update.

A couple hours were spent yesterday discussing options for a contract agreement between racetracks, the IRB, and the IHHA.  The racetracks are currently trying to secure a two year contract, despite the fact that racing dates have only been handed out for 2014.  The other problem with a two year contract is that the racetracks want to spread our $5 million over two years - 2014 & 2015.   Our purse account simply doesn't generate enough to spread the $5 million balance over two years.  It would be like trying to feed a racehorse for a month with one bag of grain. 

And that is why we continue to encourage the racetracks to sign a one year extension of the 2013 contract - a contract that allows the racetracks to collect all of recapture but also allows horse people to race for their own money.  

Dave McCaffrey


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

IRB Meeting Update

The request by Balmoral to eliminate Wednesday's was defeated by a vote of 9-0.   We sincerely hope that a contract can be negotiated and signed in the next several days.   Updates will continue to be posted as they continue to be necessary. 

Dave McCaffrey


Monday, February 17, 2014


Tomorrow, one of the agenda items to be decided on at the Illinois Racing Board's monthly meeting will be Balmoral Park's request to vacate Wednesday night racing for the rest of 2014. The IHHA is on record opposing this. We hope that once this issue has been decided by the IRB one way or another we can get back to the negotiating table. Today, the IHHA sent out the press release below which explains one of the fundamental problems that we face

Maywood/Balmoral holding over $5 million in purse account
Horsemen eager to get back to work, racing

For the second week in a row, live harness racing in Illinois has been cancelled because of a contract dispute between the owners of Maywood and Balmoral Park Racetracks and the Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association (IHHA). The central conflict surrounds the question of what rights do the horsemen have in directing their own bank account known in racing as the purse account.

"At the core of this dispute is who decides how to spend money that is clearly earmarked for purses, which essentially are paychecks for the people who make horseracing possible." said IHHA President Dave McCaffrey. "Those people are grooms, trainers, drivers, veterinarians, blacksmiths, farmers and breeders.  Our purse account currently has over $5 million and we want to start racing for that money."

The current impasse exists because the racetracks have proposed an immediate, substantial cut to purses so that purse money can be dribbled out over the next couple of years. The IHHA has countered saying that horsemen would rather race for similar money as in 2013 at least until the end of the next legislative session.

"It's very difficult for horsemen to make a living at the current purse levels," said IHHA board member Mike Knicley. "A decrease in purses now will only make it more difficult to stay employed in this industry."

The IHHA believes that the very people who provide the horses to race, have a better understanding of the impact that purse levels have on the day to day operations. They say that the racetracks miss the point on the effect that an immediate purse cut will have on the quality of life for horsemen.

"It's like cutting someone's hourly rate from $12 to $9," said McCaffrey. "People have to be able to make a living right now. Our money is being held hostage and those purses are paychecks for our families.  The bottom line is that the $5 million is our money; we're not asking for increases, just to use our money to add some stability."

McCaffrey emphasized that other factors may play a role later in 2014. "Things can change very quickly in Springfield," he said. "We don't know what the legislature will do in the next year, but we do know that hardworking people in racing need to have control of their own money. The question is, do we allow the racetracks to chop purses now so they can race for a couple of more years by having their "labor force," the ones who put on the show, working for miserable wages, or do we race for 2013 purses now and try and maintain a decent existence?"

While the future for Illinois horse racing is uncertain, a gambling bill is gaining steam again in the Illinois Legislature. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has said in the past that once a pension bill is passed, he will be able to turn his attention to gambling expansion. Pension reform legislation was signed by the Governor in December 2013. Illinois horseman can only hope that the much needed relief that a signed gaming bill will bring does not come too late.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Contract Update.

There were no changes or breakthroughs today regarding the 2014 contract.  Tomorrow, the IHHA will conduct its regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Board of Directors.  Then, on Tuesday the IRB will hold its monthly meeting at which they will hand down a ruling concerning Balmoral's request to eliminate Wednesday racing.  The IHHA opposes Balmoral's request.  So, it will be an important week for Illinois harness racing.  The IHHA continues to stress  that there is no boycott whatsoever of the entry box.  However, let's face it, if there is no contract, there will be no racing.

Dave McCaffrey


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Contract Update.

No progress was made today toward getting a 2014 contract. It seems the racetracks are waiting until their request to eliminate Wednesday racing has been decided by the Racing Board.  Our sincere hope is that after Tuesday's IRB meeting both sides can come to an agreement.  In order for racing to resume, a contract has to be in place.  Nothing is ever easy in the horse business not even contracts; but one thing we all know is that perseverance pays. 

Dave McCaffrey 


Friday, February 14, 2014

Contract Update.

Another day without a meeting means another day without a contract.  And until Tuesday's decision by the IRB is handed down regarding the racetrack's request to eliminate Wednesday racing, the contract process has unfortunately stalled. 

There is over $5 million in the purse account; the IHHA has repeatedly said that resuming racing under the same terms as the 2013 contract is an option.  No recapture is deferred under the terms of that contract.  The racetracks have refused to sign that deal and since there is no contract there is no racing. 

Dave McCaffrey


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Contract Update.

The pending decision by the Illinois Racing Board regarding the racetracks request to eliminate racing on Wednesdays is clearly standing in the way of any kind of a contract agreement.  The IHHA is on record as strongly opposing this request. Remember, the IRB has ruled that there will be no racing until a contract is signed by both sides.  What that means is that the racetracks need us in order to start racing and we need the racetracks in order to start racing.   Waiting until Tuesday to negotiate only ensures no racing will start anytime soon. 

Dave McCaffrey


Wednesday, February, 12, 2014

Contract Update.

There were no formal contract negotiations today.  Balmoral's request to eliminate racing is apparently standing in the way of serious contract discussions.  Unfortunately, that request isn't decided upon until next Tuesday. 

The horsemen's purse account has over $5 million in it and we are resisting the racetracks proposed 15-30% purse cuts.   We are hopeful that soon the racetracks will drop their request to vacate Wednesdays so we can get back to productive negotiations. 

Dave McCaffrey


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Contract Update. 

Today, the IHHA submitted it's response to the IRB objecting strongly to Balmoral's request to eliminate Wednesday racing.   That request will be heard and voted on during next Tuesday's IRB meeting.  Every attempt is being made by the IHHA to protect Wednesday racing.   Unfortunately, that issue is delaying negotiations.   At the moment, no negotiation meeting is scheduled, but I'm guessing one will be held in the next couple days as we were told to be ready for a meeting at a moments notice.

In the meantime, the IHHA encourages all horsemen to qualify your horses so they can be ready if and when we start back racing.  

Dave McCaffrey


Monday, February 10, 2014

Click here to see the negative consequence of recapture on Illinois horseman.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Contract Update.

Another miserably cold day and another day without a contract agreement.  The next negotiating meeting is not officially scheduled but the IRB is attempting to line something up the next couple days.  

The IHHA Board, during a conference call, again unanimously supported the right of horse people to have access to their own purse money.  Hopefully, the weather and the negotiations warm up soon. 

Dave McCaffrey


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Contract Update.

The racetracks still have not agreed to an extension of the 2013 contract. We are trying very hard to work out a deal for 2014 and had hoped they'd agree on that type of structure. However, as of Monday morning, we will move forward and try to focus on a different way to get a contract done. 

It has been brought to our attention that horse people are asking about the IHHA's stance of the racetracks vacating Wednesdays.  A conference call of the Board of Directors was held today and the vote was unanimous to oppose that request.  As a reminder, please feel free to call any of the IHHA Directors or the IHHA office if you have any questions.  Every attempt at quick responses will be made. 

I'm confident more phone calls and discussions will take place on Monday and another update will be posted at the end of the day. 

Dave McCaffrey


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Contract update.

It has now been 24 hours since the IHHA agreed to sign a 2014 contract that simply extends the 2013 contract.  Unfortunately, the racetracks have not signed onto that deal.  Multiple discussions with IRB Commissioners took place today and they understand our different offers that are on the table.

Our position is very clear: we have $5.5 million in our purse account and we want to race for our money.

I continue to encourage everyone to enter their horses.  The continued lockout from racing is frustrating and we hope it ends shortly.  

Dave McCaffrey


Friday, February 7, 2014

After meeting downtown for two hours in front of representatives from the Illinois Racing Board, no agreement was reached.  Today, we presented proposals moving toward compromise only to be met with offers moving backwards.  Today a deal should have been signed but it was evident that the racetracks did not want in any way shape or form to reach an agreement. 

It's  unfathomable to us that we have $5.5 million in our purse account and we're being locked out from racing. 

So, today, in an effort to get back to racing, we told the racetracks that we will sign a continuation of the 2013 contract immediately - a contract that allows the racetracks to collect 100% of recapture. The ball is clearly in their court.

The Illinois Racing Board has ruled that racing will not begin until a contract is signed.  We want to start racing again and signing an extension of last year's contract is our best attempt at demonstrating that desire.

Dave McCaffrey


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Contract update:

While no new offers were presented today, plenty of dialogue with all involved did continue.  As a result, a meeting with the racetracks, the IHHA, and the IRB is scheduled for late afternoon tomorrow.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On Wednesday, several discussions took place between racetracks, IRB Commissioners, and the IHHA.  

No agreement was reached today. 

We've found that the IRB and it's Commissioners acting as mediators is a more effective way to work out a deal - it allows neutral regulators to hear all positions and put forth ideas/proposals while keeping both parties separated so as not to intensify bad feelings which could possibly extend this process.  Several Commissioners are involved in negotiations.  They are dedicated to finding a resolution and we thank all of them for their time and assistance. 

Again, reasonable control over our $5 million-plus purse account and the harmful effects of recapture are the main issues.  

We will post daily updates as these negotiations continue.  Hopefully, an agreement can be made soon. 

Dave McCaffrey


Tuesday, Feb 4, 2014

Contract update.

The IHHA and the racetracks worked very hard to negotiate a contract today with the IRB acting as mediator.   No agreement was reached.  Tomorrow, we will continue to work with the IRB and the racetracks to get an agreement.  

As a reminder, recapture and a purse cut are the two main sticking points.  Despite the fact that we have over $5 million in our purse account, most of us are resigned to a purse cut as we are bleeding money at an unfortunate rate; the size of the cut is a sticking point as is the length at which the purses can stay at a particular level. 

The Illinois Racing Board has ruled that no racing will occur until a signed contract of all parties is in place. 

Dave McCaffrey


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Contract update.

With assistance from the Illinois Racing Board, negotiations for a 2014 contract with Maywood/Balmoral are back in motion today. We will report on any new developments as they happen. Stay tuned.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Contract update. 

Negotiations are on-going with the Illinois Racing Board acting as mediator.  

One of the big issues we are dealing with is the fact that the horsemen's purse account currently has a balance of over $5 million.   With such a large balance, many horsemen believe that there shouldn't be any purse cut, let alone the 15-35% cuts that have been proposed or published. 

Tomorrow (Monday), is the double draw at Maywood.  I have no way of knowing if the IHHA and Blmp/May. can agree on a contract in the next few days.  In case we do, I again encourage everyone to enter all horses you wish to enter on Monday.

Again, please enter horses you wish to race! 

As an aside, we are working very hard to come to an amicable solution with the tracks.  I'm hopeful that we can get an agreement soon that lays out a purse structure allowing people dependent on racing some semblance of a livelihood. 

Dave McCaffrey


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Click below to read just a few of the recent stories that have been circulating about our current challenging situation.



We will continue to update as new information becomes available.


 Friday, January 31, 2014

Contract Update - Friday, January 31, 2014

After six hours of negotiations (mediated by the Illinois Racing Board), no agreement was reached between Maywood/Balmoral and the IHHA.   The IHHA is trying to lessen the harmful effects of recapture as they relate to purses.   We, along with the Illinois Racing Board, will keep trying to come to a compromise through the weekend.   Check back for updates.  

Dave McCaffrey


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Attn: Illinois Horseman.

Tomorrow (Friday) is the first draw for the 2014 year.  We do not have a contract yet with Maywood/Balmoral. HOWEVER we encourage everyone who wants to race to enter!  (Seriously!)   We have yet another negotiation scheduled tomorrow and we plan to race Wednesday.   Whether our signal is exported beyond the state of Illinois is in limbo, but we expect our races to be conducted regardless.  So, to sum up, please enter if you have horses eligible to race!   We'll work out the details in the next 48 hours.

Dave McCaffrey


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Finally something good happened for horse racing in Springfield!   Today, the ADW bill passed both the Illinois House and Senate.   The only thing needed for the bill to go into effect is Governor Quinn's signature and he has said repeatedly that he will sign the bill.  So, what does this mean?  First and foremost, it means that the Illinois Racing Board will award the racing dates in Scenario 1 of the dates order.   In short, we'll race three days a week at Balmoral and two days a week at Maywood for most of 2014 (there is about a 10 day break during the State Fair in August).

Now, we have to negotiate a contract with Maywood and Balmoral.   If the racetracks refuse to defer any recapture, we're facing major purse cuts. 

Today was a good day; now let's hope that we can get a decent contract that protects purses. 

More updates in the next few days.

Dave McCaffrey




Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The IHHA is committed to spreading the word about the importance of the ADW bill. A letter signed by Dave McCaffrey and other Illinois harness horsemen from across the state was published in the following newspapers:

(The editorial can also be found below. It's titled 15,000 Jobs, Jobs, Jobs)

  • Chicago Tribune - January 20, 2014
  • Springfield State Journal-Register - January 26, 2014
  • Pekin Times - January 26, 2014
  • Journal Gazette & Times Courier - January 26, 2014
  • Northwest Herald - January 26, 2014
  • Champaign News Gazette - January 26, 2014
  • Elgin Courier-News - January 23, 2014
  • Aurora Beacon News - January 24, 2014
  • Quad Cities Argus - January 28, 2014
  • Quad Cities Dispatch - January 28, 2014
  • Quad City Times - January 28, 2014
  • Standardbred Canada - January 20, 2014
  • Paulick Report - January 20, 2014

The following news stories also cite the IHHA letter as a source:

The letter also resulted directly in one feature news story that was published in as many as five major Illinois newspapers including the following:

  • State Journal-Register
  • Northwest Indiana Times
  • The Southern Illinoisan
  • The Quad City Times
  • Decatur Herald & Review

Various radio stations throughout Illinois also did interviews with Dave McCaffrey and Tony Somone throughout the week.

15,000 Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

Legislators must act for horse racing to continue into 2014

Illinois Legislators will reconvene in Springfield on January 29th to hear Governor Quinn's State of the State address. It is also imperative that they take the time to pass legislation allowing Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW). ADW allows horse racing fans to bet on horse races online. This is not a new law. ADW has been legal since 2009 but is due to sunset on Jan. 31, 2014. A percentage of ADW wagers fund the Illinois Racing Board (IRB), which regulates horse racing.

Without ADW funds the IRB cannot sufficiently carry out their responsibilities. Consequently, harness racing would see a 95% reduction in racing dates, going from racing 251 days in 2013 to just 13 days in 2014. Such dramatic cuts will effectively kill Illinois horse racing and the thousands of jobs it creates.

Let me be clear. We are not asking for a handout. We simply want to do what we love and earn an honest paycheck. But this bill, which is supported unanimously in the horse racing industry, must pass first.

Illinois horse racing employs more than 15,000 men and women. Because of horse racing in Illinois, not only do trainers, drivers, jockeys and caretakers have jobs but blacksmiths, veterinarians, breeders and racetrack workers such as IRB personnel, security, electricians, waiters, bartenders, tellers and more. Horse racing and breeding are also vital to agricultural business. These are real jobs for real people throughout Illinois.

It is reasonable to assume then, that the Illinois General Assembly would be eager to promote and nurture an industry that provides revenue and jobs in a state that is hungry for just those things.

Our racing season is scheduled to begin February 5. We urge all lawmakers to encourage leadership to call this critical piece of legislation on Jan.29th and show your support with a yes vote.


Dave McCaffrey, President Illinois Harness Horseman's Association


IHHA Membership:

The next couple of weeks are shaping up to be some of the most important in Illinois harness racing's history.  First, the ADW bill needs to pass in order to preserve our five day a week racing schedule.  The first opportunity to pass that bill is Wednesday.  Remember, the bill has to pass both the House and the Senate then needs to be signed by Governor Quinn.  Rest assured, everything possible is being done to make passage of this bill a reality.  

Keep in mind, the ADW bill does not fix horse racing.  It does not change our purse structure nor does it eliminate recapture; however it does give the Racing Board the funding it needs to conduct racing and for that reason we desperately need it to pass.

The second important issue being dealt with is the 2014 contract with Maywood/Balmoral.  Admittedly, negotiating a contract without knowing our racing schedule is a bit like shooting in the dark.  The IHHA, though, is choosing to be optimistic regarding ADW passage and is therefore working on a contract assuming our schedule will begin shortly and run the entire year.    Recapture, and it's potentially devastating effect on 2014 purses is the hot button issue.  Hopefully, we can come to an amicable agreement with the racetracks.

So, there you have it.   We have an unprecedentedly important section of time in front of us.  The horse business is never easy.  Between the weather and these other issues, the next bunch of days will bring it to a new level of toughness.   Please stay warm and check back for timely updates.   

Dave McCaffrey


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Walker Standardbreds announces new hires

Sherman, Illinois-Walker Standardbreds, owned and operated by Dr. Kenneth Walker and his wife Patricia since 1975 is proud to welcome two new additions to their staff.  Dr. Brian Kennedy has been hired as the new staff veterinarian while Amanda Grim joins the team as the office manager. 

Dr. Kennedy was born and raised in Newton, Illinois with his family who has been active in the horse industry for many years.  He received his Bachelors of Science in Agriculture from Western Illinois University and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois.  He is certainly not "new" to Walker Standardbreds, as he has worked on and off for Walkers for the last 10 years. He will assist Dr. Walker in maintaining the overall health of the farm's horses, which includes 115 broodmares, 75 yearlings and 5 stallions.  He adds that he "looks forward to working with Doc and Pat and to gain their knowledge from their many years of experience."

Amanda resides in Mason City with her husband, David, and their children.  She was born and raised in Southeast Missouri and graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Animal Science.  In addition to her many duties in the office, she will also be responsible for updating and maintaining the farm's website and social media outlets.  She states "I'm excited to be a part of this amazing group. Everyone here has been so nice and welcoming of me; it has truly been wonderful.  I am looking forward to working with all of the horse owners in the very near future as our foaling and breeding season is just around the corner."

Walker Standandbreds is located at 7793 Farrand Road, Sherman, IL 62684.  The farm specializes in breeding both on farm and outside owned Standardbred mares and raising high quality yearlings to be sold and trained for the harness racing industry.  Breeding and boarding inquiries should be directed to (217) 496-2378.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The horse racing industry is united in getting the ADW bill (currently SB66) called and passed on January 29th.  This bill is desperately needed for us to resume working again.  While we have no guarantees yet that we will begin racing on Feb.5th, we are working hard to ensure that our 2014 season will begin on time.

With that in mind:

Balmoral Park will hold qualifiers on Tuesday (Jan. 28) and Friday (Jan. 31). Entries for each qualifying date will close at 10 a.m. the day prior to each qualifying date. Starting time for both days will be 10 a.m. as well.

Maywood Park will conduct qualifiers on Thursday (Jan. 30). Entries will close at 10 a.m. on Wednesday (Jan. 29). Qualifiers will begin at 10 a.m.

The first draw for the anticipated Wednesday (Feb. 5) start date at Balmoral Park will be held on Friday (Jan. 31).  A 45-day qualifying standard will be in effect at both ovals.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Greene County Fair was the winning bidder to host the Downstate Classic for the summers of 2014 and 2015. The bid will result in a large increase in purses for these races. To help raise the purse money the Greene County fair is having a raffle. Anyone wanting tickets should contact Craig Grummel at 217-942-3115 or e-mail at grummellaw@gmail.com.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

As we move closer to February I thought an update would be in order.  And since I get asked many good questions every day, I thought I would provide an update in "frequently asked question form."

Question: When will we start racing?
Answer: The official dates schedule for 2014 authorized by the Illinois Racing Board is dependent on passage of the Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) bill. The next scheduled date that the legislature could pass the bill is January 29.
  If the bill passes both houses on that day and the bill is signed by the Governor shortly thereafter, racing will resume as scheduled on February 5  If the bill is not voted on that day, then our return date to race would be delayed. The next scheduled day for the General Assembly to meet and potentially call the bill would be February 4.   

Question: Does the ADW bill have enough support to pass?
Answer: In sample roll call votes (done in December of 2013) the racing industry has determined that there is overwhelming support for the bill.  The question isn't whether it will pass, the question is when or whether it will be called for a vote.  

Question: Who determines whether the bill is called for a vote?
Answer: In the Senate, that is determined by Senate President Cullerton and the sponsor of the bill. In the House, that is determined by House Speaker Madigan and the sponsor of the bill.   

Question: Does Governor Quinn have to sign the bill for it to become law?
Answer: Yes, but he has indicated that once passed, he will sign it.  So his signature is not seen as a roadblock.  

Question: Why is the 2014 schedule dependent on the legislature passing the ADW bill?
Answer: To answer in the simplest way: "because the Illinois Racing Board is broke."   A major part of the IRB's budget comes from ADW wagering.  Last year, six months of revenue was lost by the IRB due to the failure of the Illinois Legislature to pass an ADW extension.  That revenue loss combined with the possibility that again the ADW law would not be extended beyond Jan. 31, 2014 means that the IRB can't regulate anywhere close to the number of days that was raced in 2013.   

Question: Why can't the racetrack owners and horsemen "partner up" and fund the IRB's shortfall?
Answer: This is a very good question that seems like a simple remedy, however the IRB has informed all the parties that there is no legal mechanism through which money can be transferred from horsemen/track owners to the IRB.  All groups have tried very hard to find a way to get the needed money to the IRB, but, it's just not legal.  

Question: If we do start racing in February, what will the qualifying standards be?
Answer: This depends on when we start racing and what policy the race office adopts. If we start on February 5
, there is discussion that a 45 day rule would be enacted.  If it goes much later than that, the current 30 day rule would stay in place to ensure handicappers having confidence in the betting product.   Either way, qualifiers will be held at both tracks during the last week of January.  

Question: What will the purse structure be when we start back?
Answer: The answer to this question will largely be determined by track management's willingness to defer (wait until a time in the future to collect) a percentage of recapture.  Between the years of 2003 and 2009 the tracks deferred between 70-80% each year.  The last two years, the tracks have taken 100% of the recapture amount since the 3% money put the purse account in a position to pay it.  Since most of the impact fee money is now gone, paying all or most of recapture will have a very detrimental effect on purses.  

In addition to these questions, please feel comfortable in contacting the IHHA with a phone call (630-323-0808) or with an e-mail (tsomone@harnessillinois.com) with any other inquiries that you may have.

Dave McCaffrey


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

At today's IRB meeting there were no changes made to next year's racing schedule.  The most important event that happened today was that next month's regularly scheduled meeting was postponed until January 31.   On that day, the 2014 schedule may be cemented depending on whether the ADW bill is passed in Springfield.

There was a lot of optimism expressed by the Board that the ADW bill will be passed by then and that we will start racing in early February. 


Cafe Press