The Northville Downs harness meet is scheduled to open Friday, Feb. 6th and with the new racing season comes some changes to the racing landscape. Most notable among the changes, at what’s now Michigan’s only harness facility, are the requirement that horsemen pay a one-percent starting fee and an extension of the purse distribution to six finishers. These and other changes are part of the new contract between the MHHA and Northville Downs covering the 2015 racing season and beyond.
As part of the new deal with Northville Downs, horsemen will also see a significant increase in the number of Michigan owned or bred races during the meet plus a robust schedule of late-closer events starting in March which will only be open to Michigan sired and Michigan bred horses. Condition sheets for the upcoming meet are expected to be available within a few days and details of the late-closer series will be available by Feb 6th.
The 2015 Northville harness meet is currently scheduled to run a total of 44 days. Racing will be conducted on Friday and Saturday nights through April 25th. Starting April 29th, racing will move to Wednesdays and Thursdays through July 2nd. Once the 2015 purse distribution order has been issued by the Michigan Gaming Control Board, the MHHA and Northville will discuss the possibility of extending the 2015 meet beyond July 2nd. If sufficient purse funds are available, and there is agreement between the horsemen and Northville Downs to do so, the MGCB will be asked to consider an extension of the 2015 by up to 26 additional race days.
The anticipated daily purse structure at Northville is $48,000 per day. As an example, if individual race purses range from a bottom of $2,500 to an open with a purse of $7,500, starting fees will range from approximately $25 to $75 per start. Starting fees, which may be paid by check or cash, will be collected in the MHHA’s paddock office and must be paid prior to post time for each race. The purse distribution for the 2015 meet will be 49% for 1st, 24% for 2nd, 12% for 3rd, 8% for 4th, 5% for 5th, and 2% for 6th.
Horses wishing to enter to race at Northville must have a charted line within 45 days of the race for which the horse is entered. Qualifiers will be conducted on Wednesdays from Jan. 28th through April. It is possible that qualifying day may change once the racing schedule changes to Wednesdays and Thursdays in May. Weather permitting, training will be available at Northville on both qualifying and race days. Post time will be 7:30 p.m. on race nights.
While the payment of starting fees is not ideal for Michigan’s harness horsemen, many of whom are already facing unprecedented financial pressure, the new contract with Northville Downs was signed to ensure Michigan horsemen an opportunity to continue racing their horses in Michigan for the most amount of money over the longest possible season. It’s the MHHA’s goal to continue working together with Northville Downs in an effort to generate new and/or additional sources of revenue that will potentially offset or eliminate the need pay starting fees in the future.