Northville Downs is now the home of harness racing in Michigan. The MHHA announced an agreement has been reached with Northville Downs to hold harness racing meets at least through 2019. The agreement is non-exclusive, meaning Northville Downs has the right to sponsor other forms of horse racing outside of the standardbred meet.
Under the terms of the agreement, Northville Downs will race an additional 16 days of racing in 2014 and commit to racing 30-60 days of racing in subsequent years. The expectation is future race meets will be conducted during the summer months.
Ironically, the MHHA has agreed to terms which may have kept them racing at Hazel Park; starting fees and a concession of commission fees to help absorb the costs of running the race meet. Why didn't they agree to the starting fees initially? Starting fees for overnight races is wrong, but faced with the possible extinction of the standardbred industry in Michigan, it came to the point where horsemen had to hold their noses and agree to these terms.
Before this year's additional dates can be agreed upon, the MGCB must vote to reassign dates from the thoroughbred to standardbreds, which would reverse the action regulators took in January which hamded 2014 dates to the runners.
It will be interesting to see if the thoroughbred horsemen will be opposing the move as it takes racing opportunities away from them. In the meanwhile, the MHHA needs to see if they can find additional racing opportunities for 30 to 60 days of racing a year does not make for a strong racing/breeding industry. Fortunately, it looks like Jackson Raceway will return to racing in 2015, starting in April with a 50 day race meet planned. It may be beneficial in the future to look at Mt. Pleasant Meadows, the track thoroughbred and mixed breeds were using in the lean days. No, the purses may not be great, but it would give the industry days, something necessary for the long term viability of the standardbred industry.
Harness Racing Returns to Fraiser Downs - Racing returns to Fraiser Downs for the Fall meet starting this Thursday. First post is 6:00pm PDT.