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Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences is involved in a contest to win a $100,000 grant for their therapeutic riding school. Please, let's help them out and vote as directed below.

All you have to do is enter your email and then verify it, you can vote once per day.

https://www.thankamillionteachers.com/vote-for-a-proposal/vote-for-a-proposal-form-100k/

Maggie Kendall
Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences
Chicago, IL
Raise the Barn Roof
Zone: North Central

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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.

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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.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

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

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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.

http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Dying-Illinois-Race-Tracks-Seek-Gambling-Expansion-271019981.html

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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."

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Industry leaders unite for 2015 Illinois bred stake races.

Click here for more information.

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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.

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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

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Wright, family enthusiastic about racing

By BRYAN VEGINSKI

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.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

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

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