Stakes Scheduling Meeting Report

Published: December 10, 2021 10:26 am EST

The American Harness Racing Secretaries, Inc. (AHRS) met for the 57th time from Thursday, Dec. 2 through Saturday, Dec. 4 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Attendees, in person or remote, included representatives from most North American racetracks, the Hambletonian Society and several staking services.

The purpose of these important annual meetings is to schedule the hundreds of stakes that are raced across the continent each year. The intent is to provide owners the best opportunity to stake their horses in a fashion that maximizes their earning potential by minimizing conflict between races, many of which are resolved at this gathering each year.

Over the past decade, this process has been complicated by the rising tide of the various state breeding programs and the considerable increase in both purses and number of races that they sponsor. While this is certainly a good problem to have, the failure of several of these regional programs to submit their schedules in time for inclusion into the meeting materials this year has hampered our efforts.

While Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania had their proposed racing dates submitted to the USTA and included in the information distributed to the AHRS meeting attendees, Indiana, Kentucky, New York and Ontario did not.

With information that is vital to the process incomplete, our ability to create the most efficient schedule for the owners whose stakes payments underwrite a great deal of the revenue for the races, primarily the $45 million in Grand Circuit stakes purses which are largely funded by these payments, is compromised.

The reason that the AHRS meetings are held on the first weekend of December is the subsequent timing of the entire scheduling process. The data generated from the meetings must distributed to many components of the industry that rely on that information being available in a timely fashion so they may complete their tasks.

A condensed description of the process; when as many stakes date conflicts as possible are resolved and the meetings conclude, all of the information generated (race dates, stakes payments and conditions, etc.) must be processed by the USTA and made available on the web in January, disseminated to the tracks and state Racing Commissions and formatted by the staking services so it may be provided to their customers a few weeks in advance of the payment deadline of February 15.

"We, the American Harness Racing Secretaries, are making this information known in the hope that those state breeding administrators who were absent and/or did not have their materials available will make a legitimate effort to get their 2022 stakes dates to Jessica Schroeder at the USTA as soon as possible and have their jurisdiction’s schedules submitted each November in time for future meetings," said the AHRS President Nick Salvi in a statement issued on Friday, Dec. 10. "Your cooperation will help us to provide the best product possible to the stakeholders of our industry – the owners, fans, drivers, trainers, breeders and race tracks."

(with files from AHRS)