- Big changes are coming to racetracks in Pennsylvania to accommodate the coming of slots, and fans at the harness track Pocono Downs, now known as Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, got a taste with the unveiling of the renovated clubhouse when the track opened for racing this past weekend. It’s Mohegan’s Sun’s first venture outside of their flagship Connecticut casino, and they paid $280 million to purchase the track last year. Mohegan Sun will spend another $200 million to build a stand-alone slots parlor there. Yet they are involved in a dispute with the local school district over the property’s worth for tax assessment purposes – they claim it’s worth only $8 million, yuck yuck. One school board member told the local Times Leader that communication from Mohegan Sun has stopped and he questioned the company’s earlier claims of being a “good neighbor.”
Matt Hegarty wrote in the Form of the ambitious plans of Penn National and Philly Park, both of whom plan to build lavish new buildings to house the machines; the latter will add a hotel and convention center. Penn National will close on April 8, at which time they will commence razing of the present grandstand to build the new facility in that spot. But don’t worry, the track is planning to reopen on the 26th, with a facility on the grounds in which to bet and watch the races, which will not be viewable live. Sounds kinda like Gulfstream. At least they’re accommodating the horsemen during the project, unlike at Yonkers, where the war of words between management and the horsemen that are suing them is heating up.
- A major scandal is rocking the harness world, as a top Meadowlands driver, Eric Ledford, is among four people, including a veternarian and his wife, who have been arrested in an alleged doping scheme. Ledford was arrested Friday night in the driver’s room at the Meadowlands. Didn’t see any mention of this on the two harness racing blogs I know of, so I guess I’ll have to mention it here. (Both blogs are written by employees of the US Trotting Association.)
Ledford is the son of trainer Seldon Ledford, who has not been charged. The stable’s horses have improved markedly of late, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Rival trainer John Brennan told the Asbury Park Press:
"With the races he had been winning and the way he had been winning them, a lot of people were buzzing....He does a real nice job and he's not winning with bad horses, but his horses have been winning with ease. It makes you wonder what's going on."State troopers found what was said to be “significant quantities" of a drug called Aranesp. The Star-Ledger reported that the drug enhances the horses’ red-blood counts, increasing their stamina. The Aranesp seized by troopers is an extremely potent EPO [endurance enhancer] that has long-lasting effects.
"With this type of drug you can give it four or five days ahead of time and still have it be potent ... up to three weeks," Deputy Attorney General D'Elia said. "The EPO has detrimental effects, though, and can cause liver damage and coagulation of the blood. It's pretty cruel to the horses to use it as a performance-enhancing drug."- The Downey Profile reports that a Santa Anita clocker called Brother Derek’s recent workout “sensational.” Trainer Dan Hendricks added:
“Alex never moved on him. Everything’s going to plan. He’s healthy, he’s happy and we’re ready to roll. He’s a little machine.” [Downey Profile]