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									     Racing’s Leaders Mired in Past, PEI Must Move On



                              Hal Hennessey

As you know, the Harness Racing industry has been circling the toilet bowl
for a long while. Its leadership, at the local, national and international level,
is seemingly incapable of reversing the trend. They fear change. Simply put -
it threatens the titles, perks and powers they enjoy. Just look at the
depressing facts and figures coming out of the various racing conferences in
Vegas, the University of Arizona and elsewhere in recent years. The industry
is mired in 60s/70s thinking. Unfortunately, it has few visionary decision
makers, thus fans/bettors continue to be lured away by more up to date
gaming & wagering choices, many of them online.
The point I’ve been trying to make in recent columns, is that PEI Harness
Racing can survive, but can’t wait for the industry to be hauled kicking and
screaming into the 21st Century. The Island has to strike out on its own and
modernize now. I believe the first step should be to amalgamate all of the
provincial harness racing industry organizations under the aegis of a Chief
Executive Officer. A Commissioner if you will, such as you find in many
professional sports.
One example I gave recently as to what might then ensue, dealt with the
Maritime Provinces Harness Racing Commission. I contended PEI should
set the rules and regulations for its own tracks and the new
Commissioner/CEO’s office enforce them. This week I’ll use HRPEI as
another example. Its finances and their use, like those of the other industry
organizations, have to be looked at carefully . I’m not going to discuss the
2008 audit now, except to say the approximately $2.5 million dollars could
have been used more effectively. Take that money and then add the $3
million in the purse pool, plus the other industry organizations’ budgets and
you’re are looking at $6 million bucks give or take. Obviously that’s enough
money in the industry’s financial envelope to get the job done. I just don’t
believe it’s being allocated properly. For instance, $123,000 was spent on
Advertising/PR etc. in 2008. That’s a very miniscule expenditure for a 6
million dollar business, that contributes $40 million dollars annually to the
PEI economy. While trying to rebuild an industry like Harness Racing, your
advertising and promotional efforts should be of equal importance to the
purse structure, not its poor cousin. Personally I think this item should have
been at least 3 times that amount. However, this does serve to illustrates my
point about industry amalgamation, leadership and re-allocating resources. A
PEI Harness Racing Commissioner/CEO’s job would be to manage the
entire industry, set priorities and make the tough decisions necessary for
change and growth.
Finally, if you think I’m just whistling Dixie about the dangers to Harness
Racing locally, read last Saturday’s Montreal Gazette. The discussion there
is about Lotto- Quebec and Atlantic Lotto’s plans to enter the online
gambling biz together. They’ll offer secure & easily accessible gaming
options to folks sitting on their butts in front of a computer. Guess which
industry they’ll be competing against on PEI?
Saturday at the ‘Charlottetown Driving Park’ Cory MacPherson and Island
Jazzy Star caught a break and won the feature on a placing . That’s 16 wins
now for Mitch Tierney’s Force Of Life 5 YO. Wanted also to mention my
pal Doug MacGregor had a training win on the card with Glengyle Vernon.
Dougie owns along with Faye Kinnear. Tip o’ the whip Bud.
King’s Co. stock fared well on the program. Marc Campbell drove JC Riley
to a 2:04.2 win for Vernon’s J.C. MacDonald. Campbell also brought
Charlottes Hammy home in 2:03 for owners Brett Ross and Dustin
MacPherson. Kevin MacLean’s homebred Rebel Ryan won in 2:003 and
Lowell Stead’s Woodmere Rockette in 2:02.2. Racing resumes next
Saturday at the CDP.
As I indicated last week, PEI’s wager was up in 2009. The ‘Charlottetown
Driving Park’ bet increased 1.31% and ‘Summerside Raceway’ 15.2%. The
Nova Scotia tracks were all positive as well, with two of them – Northside
Downs (324%) and Inverness (81.9%) leading the country. I give Butch
Hawco and his Cape Breton Horsemen Association a lot of credit on this. It
cost them nearly $100K in simulcast money and they had to fight off the
scammers from Ontario, but it paid off. Truro as well showed an increase of
almost 1% (.96). New Brunswick was down – Freddy by 5.65% and EPR by
1.6%. It was to be expected. They had a new organization and a learning
curve to go through. 2010 is the year that Horse Racing New Brunswick will
have to prove itself.
 Speaking of Harness Racing’s decline – the wager at most of the major
tracks in Ontario was down in 2009. Places like Woodbine, Mohawk,
Western Fair, Flamboro, Grand River and Georgian Downs all took the hit.
Some of the smaller part-time operations in the province, did show an
increase. The one major exception in Ontario was Rideau Carlton Raceway.
It’s bet increased 5.68%. Funnily enough, RCR’s horsemen ditched the
OHHA sometime back and formed their own association. Payback’s a beach
ain’t it?
News From ‘Away’
Wally Hennessey won 4 including the Open Trot with Colies at Pompano
Saturday night. Mile was in :55.4, Danny Hennessey trains.
Joey Shea’s Giddy Up Delight won the $64,100 Final of the Snowshoe
Series Friday at Woodbine. He’s owned by Joe’s cousin David Shea of
Silent Swing fame.
Andrew & Allan Moore’s Cyclone Duharas was a winner Sunday night at
Rideau in 1:59.4 for John MacDonald. John also reined the ultra consistent
Pollards Brook to another win for Gary MacDonald and Carl Bagnall. Mile
in 2:00.1
On Sunday as well, Paul MacKenzie drove Paul Holmes Outrageous Storm
to a win in 1:59.2 at Flammy. I’d like to tell you more but quite frankly, with
the fog, I couldn’t see a thing.
Somebeachsomewhere has been selected as Harness Racing’s ‘Racehorse of
the Decade’. The choice was questioned by some, mainly because he
skipped the Little Brown Jug.
Atlantic Post Calls editor Doug Harkness has been transferred home to
Amherst, from hospital in Halifax. He’ll continue his recuperation in the
ICU at Cumberland Regional.
The game of presidential musical chairs continues at the troubled Ontario
Harness Horse Association. First Jim Whelan, then Billy O’Donnell and now
Darryl MacArthur has departed. A newcomer Don Amos, formerly of
Magna Entertainment, has apparently been imported for the job. With the
annual meeting coming up, one wonders if the rank and file membership will
be accorded a chance to speak and actually be heard under the new Pres?
That would be a change.
Many Islanders have met World Champion Gallo Blue Chip’s owner Martin
Scharf through Mike MacDonald & Mark Ford. Mr. Scharf is a class act in
every sense of the word. This week he awarded another $15,000 to college
student Maggie Dudka, from the Gallo Scholarship Fund. Since 2005 Mr.
Scharf had given almost $100,000 dollars, to the sons and daughters of
horsemen. He is someone who really does give back to the industry.
Finally – here’s the latest news on the Doug Harkness benefit from SC.
That’s it – we’ll catch you on the turns!

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