The upcoming meet at Pinnacle Race Course in Michigan will be cut in half under an executive order issued June 2 by Michigan’s racing commissioner, Christine White.
The order eliminates a total of 101 live racing days at Pinnacle, Mt. Pleasant Meadows, Hazel Park, and Northville Downs through Sept. 30, the end of the 2009 fiscal year. Pinnacle will lose 42 of its 82 scheduled days, less than originally planned but enough to drive some horsemen to tracks in other states.
Financial woes in Michigan led Gov. Jennifer Granholm to slash the remainder of the 2009 budget for the Office of Racing Commissioner from $3.8 million to $1.4 million. Funding for programs such as breed development and purses comes from the budget.
“This was the last thing we wanted to do,” White said in a statement, “but our hands are tied. There is insufficient funding to get us through the fiscal year.”
A release from White’s office indicated “actual days are still in negotiation.” The Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association for weeks has been working on an acceptable schedule in light of the cuts.
Bob Gorham, a director of the Michigan HBPA, said entries were drawn June 2 for the June 5 opening-day program.
“The entry box filled up very well, so that part of it is good,” Gorham said. “We’re working on a compromise between the breeders, the HBPA, and the state to get this situation resolved. We’re very hopeful we’ll get most of those dates back.
"Maybe I’m delusional, I don’t know, but that’s where we’re thinking we are at this point."
Gorham said Pinnacle would probably lose five or six Sunday cards early in the meet, but other than that, he is confident Pinnacle will race most of its original schedule after working out an agreement at a June 3 meeting called by Republican Rep. Cindy Denby. The meeting will take place in Lansing, the state capital, to discuss horse racing's problems in Michigan. Denby is calling it a meeting of the Horse Racing Industry Focus Group.
Pinnacle, which just opened last year, has put some expansion plans on hold because of business levels. The track is located in the western suburbs of Detroit.
Mt. Pleasant Meadows, a mixed-breed track, will lose 18 of 37 days of racing. Hazel Park and Northville, both harness tracks, will lose 38 programs and three programs, respectively. Northville reopens for live racing toward the end of the fiscal year.
Horsemen said they requested Paul Burns, who helped write the 1995 Racing Act in Michigan, to study the legality of the cut in dates. According to the Michigan HBPA, Burns believes there is “no legal basis for a suspension or revocation of a portion of the race meet license,” and that it could violate due process.
Esther Marr contributed to this story