The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will invest an additional $1.6 million investment in purses that strengthen breeding programs and in a prestigious stakes race planned for 2016.
One half of the $1.6 million will be used to increase purses in the 2015 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes finals and consolation races. The Sire Stakes program rewards breeders of Pennsylvania-bred and Pennsylvania-owned stallions and broodmares. Each of the eight finals races will receive an additional $90,000 in purse money, generating a total of $350,000 for each race. The eight consolation races will receive an additional $10,000 apiece for purse money, bringing the total for each of these eight contested trotting and pacing races to $60,000.
“With this commitment, Pennsylvania makes our sire stakes finals and consolations the top races of their kind in the country,” said Harness Racing Commission Chairman Jonathan Newman. “They’re part of North America’s top harness horse breeding program – all based here in Pennsylvania.”
The other $800,000 is earmarked for the newly-established 2016 Pennsylvania Classic for three-year-old pacers. The pair of Pennsylvania Classic races will be open to Pennsylvania-sired three-year-old pacing colts and fillies nationwide. Purses are an estimated $700,000 for the colt race and $350,000 for the filly race. Pennsylvania’s three harness racing tracks – The Meadows in Washington, Washington County; Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester, Delaware County; and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County – must submit advertising and promotional proposals for the opportunity to host the inaugural event. The commission will review the submissions and select the site for the 2016 event.
“These races will be among the top pacing events in the country and a source of pride for the commonwealth,” Newman added. “These two races represent some of the highest purses in North America.”
The added purse monies for these races are from the Pennsylvania Standardbred Breeders Development Fund, established by Act 71 of 2004, which directs a portion of slot revenue to incentivize raising, training and owning Standardbreds in Pennsylvania. This investment within the state’s equine industry provides funding that is distributed to the owners of Pennsylvania stallions and broodmares who produce top-level horses that race worldwide.
“Harness racing is a unique agritourism experience,” said Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. “From the sport’s tracks and fans to its breeding and training operations, it’s an industry that provides an important $92 million boost to our economy.”
The racing industry supports multiple facets of Pennsylvania’s economy including agriculture, Redding added, as owners purchase goods from agribusinesses like hay and feed suppliers, equipment dealers and construction contractors. The industry attracts specialists like farriers and veterinarians and supports other local businesses. Pennsylvania’s tracks, casinos and off-track wagering facilities offer multiple employment opportunities because of racing, from the horse barns to the betting halls. Harness racing also takes place at 15 agricultural fairs across Pennsylvania