The Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee has turned down a request by the state's Thoroughbred horsemen to take $588,000 from the Agricultural Equine Industry Development fund, which funds the state's county fair circuit for harness racing, to pay for converting Hazel Park and Northville Downs to Thoroughbred racetracks.
If the request had been approved, the funneling of the money to the racetracks would have eliminated the county fair program in Michigan.
Both Hazel Park and Northville originally submitted 2014 dates requests for solely Standardbred racing, but an impasse with the harness horsemen over percentages of simulcast revenue led to the two racetracks reaching an agreement with the Thoroughbred horsemen. The tracks then filed amended applications that included meets for the runners and abbreviated harness meets.
Both amended requests were approved by the Michigan Gaming Control Board, leaving the harness horsemen just 10 live dates at Hazel Park and 10 live dates at Northville, which is scheduled to open its meet on March 7.
As part of the agreement with the racetracks, the Michigan Thoroughbred horsemen agreed to pay each site $300,000 for conversion costs. The request for the $588,000 was a separate request. The Thoroughbred horsemen also agreed to pay a starting fee of $400 for each horse in every race.
On Thursday, Northville's John Carlo told harnessracing.com that he was still continuing talks with the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association in hopes of adding race dates in 2014.--harnessracing.com