Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen's Association executive vice president Ron Battoni confirmed to harnessracing.com Monday afternoon that the $2 million Super Stakes Sunday program that had been contested at Harrah's Philadelphia since 2007, and moved to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs last August, has been taken off the 2014 schedule.
Battoni said the decision to take the Battle of the Brandywine for 3-year-old colt pacers, the Colonial for 3-year-old colt trotters, and the Valley Forge for 3-year-old filly pacers off the calendar was strictly a business decision and not as a result of any decline in Pennsylvania slots revenue.
"The races were supposed to be rotated back to Chester this year,” explained Battoni. "I met with the people there over the last couple of weeks, and the problem is that they couldn't guarantee me the clubhouse would be open that day. That makes it very difficult to have people come there and not have a place to go. It's been closed for the last couple years. They opened it the year before for Super Stakes Sunday, but they no longer open it at all.
"I need a clubhouse to put people in. I explained to them nicely that we would need a commitment that that part of the facility would be open. They couldn't guarantee it but they did say we could use the event center, which is down toward the head of the stretch with no view of the racetrack. For people to get through a crowd that day to even get to the winner's circle would be a monumental task.”
Battoni said there was no consideration in keeping the races at Pocono this year, mostly as a result of situations in the dining room and ballroom that arose last October on Breeders Crown Night.
"At Pocono, I would have had to stretch some dollars, but with the way the Breeders Crown went over this past year…it's just not worth the aggravation.
"We had some experiences on Breeders Crown night that we really didn't appreciate and management was very disappointed too. For people to come here and complain what table they are sitting at. We gave them the entire clubhouse and I can't sit back and decide who gets what table.”
Battoni said nearly $1.7 million in purse money was used to support Super Stakes Sunday, but he has not earmarked those funds for anything specific yet in 2014.
"That's what it roughly cost for us to move it from Harrah's to Pocono,” said Battoni. "Because Harrah's didn't have it last year, the $1.6 (million) is there, but at the same time, we have to be careful. We always like to put a little money aside for a rainy day.
"When you don't get support within the industry and the owners that come here to race, it's pretty hard for me to take $1.6 million and put it into a stakes program everybody complains about.
"The slots revenue is down but back in June, when they did the budget, we're getting some of the money back they took in 2009. We don't get much support for us going to Harrisburg and going to fight to keep this money. It's a monumental task every year.
We try to do the best job we possibly can.”