The Society gathered at Harrah’s Chester Casino and Race Track for the presentation of the Society’s Medal to Team Barbaro, for a program on Harness Racing in Pennsylvania and a tour of the race track facilities.
PSPA Assistant Secretary and Awards Committee Chairman Tony Kennedy presented the Society’s Medal to the great thoroughbred Barbaro’s owners, Gretchen and Roy Jackson, Lael Stables, West Grove, Pennsylvania and to Dr. Dean Richardson and staff at the Department of Clinical Studies, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania. Team Barbaro members who could not attend the presentation ceremony due to racing commitments were Edgar Prado, the jockey who rode Barbaro on the day of the champion’s accident, Michael Matz, Barbaro’s trainer and Peter Brette, Barbaro’s assistant trainer. “We salute with pride and privilege the exceptional group we call Team Barbaro who worked so devotedly to strive to save the wonderful Champion, while at the same time honorably calling the attention of a worldwide audience to the care and concern of equine professionals,” said Chairman Kennedy in presenting the Medal.
Harness Racing Presentation
Jerry Connors, Administrator of the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission gave a talk on harness racing in Pennsylvania. He described how Act 71, which legalized slot machines at racetracks, resorts and other facilities in the state dedicates a portion of the proceeds for racing purses, breed incentive programs and horsemen’s benefits. The result is an injection of money and incentive into harness racing in the Keystone State. Harness racing’s share is projected to be $135 million, 80 percent of which will go for purses, 16 percent for breed incentives and four percent as horsemen’s benefits. This is already exerting a salutary influence on harness racing purses. Harrah’s Chester purses have risen from $3.5 million in 2006 to $18.5 million in 2007. They are projected to reach $31.3 million in 2008.
“Money attracts the best of everything,” said Connors, describing how the financial incentives are attracting top horsemen such as Dave Palone, four-time Harness Driver of the Year as voted by the Harness Tracks of America and Tim Tetrick who is projected to win over 1,000 races this year. It also provides an incentive to breeders such as Pennsylvania’s Hanover Shoe Farms which has been the number one breeder in harness racing every year since records have been kept. Connors said The Meadows in Southwestern Pennsylvania and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs are two established tracks that are being remade into state-of-the-art “racinos” (combination casinos and race tracks) not unlike Harah’s Chester.
He described the growth of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, a series of high-purse races that are restricted to the offspring of registered Pennsylvania stallions. This program will double from $5 million in purses in 2007 to $10 million in 2008. It is projected to reach $14 million when all Pennsylvania slot venues are operating. Connors also described gains made by the Pennsylvania Standardbred Breeder’s Development Fund. It provides higher awards to breeders who keep their mares resident in Pennsylvania. In 2008, it’s first year of operation, it will receive $5 million. Eventually, $10 million will be distributed through this fund.
Connors pointed out that one of the largest benefits of the program accrues to all citizens in the form of more farmland preserved. Increasing the economic viability of horse breeding and training increases considerably the incentive for land owners to maintain their farms as open land and avoid commercial development.