PA battles, WV-breds, and more: The week in social media

by | Mar 6, 2020 | Breaking, Business, Regionwide, Top Stories

Anna's Bandit

Rider Xavier Perez waves goodbye as Anna’s Bandit overcomes Past Perfect in the Timonium Distaff. Photo by The Racing Biz.

Tim Ritvo has left his position with The Stronach Group, concerns surrounding Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal to raid Pennsylvania’s Race Horse Development Trust Fund continue to haunt the industry, and 2019 co-Horse of the Year honorees were celebrated for the state of West Virginia.

Here is the 411 on what racing fans in the Mid-Atlantic region have been talking about on social media over the past week:

A battle in the Keystone State

In the beginning of February, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf initiated a proposal to take $204 million out of the Race Horse Development Trust Fund (RHDTF) each year to use instead for a college scholarship program. The proposed raid came as a surprise to many, as Wolf himself had signed a bill to protect those funds in 2017. That bill placed the industry’s share of gaming revenue in a trust fund with the intentions to protect the money from being taken out of the program.

The RHDTF totals around $250 million annually, with the money going toward Thoroughbred and Standardbred purses, along with breeding and pension programs. Should Wolf’s proposal become reality, the racing program in the state of Pennsylvania would witness a loss of $160 million in purse money and more than $30 million in the world of breeding. That would necessitate steep cutbacks in purse and/or racing days.

The horseracing industry of Pennsylvania has mounted a determined counterattack.

Concerns were expressed by many during committee hearings held by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in regard to the fiscal 2021 Department of Agriculture budget. Sen. Joe Pittman made his stand on the issue clear, stating that both the racing and breeding side of the industry have greatly benefitted the commonwealth. “We’re talking about taking $204 million from a business model that has been successful,” Pittman stated to Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, who is in favor of Wolf’s proposal. “You’re not thoroughly reviewing the impacts this could have downstream economically. We should be having a conversation before we pull $204 million in revenue out of a business model.”

The Pennsylvania Equine Coalition presented statistics in order to show the impact that the sport has on the state. Their statistics showed that the racing and breeding programs of the state support between 16,000-23,000 direct and indirect jobs, which add up to $1.6 billion a year in economic impact for the state of Pennsylvania.

Sen. Thomas Killion recognized during the hearing that money lost from the trust fund would prove crippling for countless families involved in racing, breeding, and agriculture in the state of Pennsylvania. He also suggested that money taken from the trust fund is likely to result in a slew of lawsuits because the money is placed in a legal trust fund.

“This is already affecting the industry,” Rep. Greg Rothman told Redding. “I implore you to go to the governor and say that this was a mistake. How do we replace that (funding)? There has to be something in that word ‘trust.’”

While nothing has been set in stone yet, and the lack of support from legislators suggests the industry is in a good spot, the racing industry in the state of Pennsylvania remains in a state of high alert.

Tim Ritvo off to greener pastures

The Stronach Group announced this week that Chief Operating Officer Tim Ritvo is parting ways with the company.  Effective March 2, Ritvo officially left the company to explore different opportunities.

Ritvo, who had been with The Stronach Group for over a decade, has held many different positions with the company throughout the years before eventually becoming the chief operating officer.

Ritvo came under fire for the company’s tardy response to the numerous breakdowns at Santa Anita Park, and some in Maryland hoped he’d have been more open to having Pimlico play a more prominent role in the state’s racing.

But he also had major success, including turning Gulfstream Park into the handle giant that it is today. And he dramatically increased national interest in Maryland’s racing product; handle on Maryland racing grew from a bit over $315 million in 2014 to nearly $510 million in 2018 – a 61 percent increase – while the daily average grew to just shy of $3 million per day, up 35 percent. And he increased the number of live racing days at MJC tracks from 142 to 170 in that same span.

A Horse of the Year dead heat in WV

The West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association announced over this past week that Runnin’toluvya and Anna’s Bandit have been named as co-Horse of the Year honorees among West Virginia-breds.

Runnin’toluvya lit up the track in 2019 with three wins from six starts. The gelded son of Fiber Sonde kicked off his season with a convincing score in the Russell Road Overnight Stakes at Charles Town Races before going on to claim the $1 million Charles Town Classic (G2) one month later. When the gray beast glided over the wire in the Charles Town Classic, he became the first West Virginia-bred to claim top prize in that race.

Owned by Grams Racing Stable LLC, Runnin’toluvya is trained by Timothy Grams and is regularly ridden by Christian Hiraldo. Runnin’toluvya banked $621,660 in 2019 and has collected total career earnings of $950,756 so far.

Anna’s Bandit was nothing short of incredible during her 2019 run, taking down nine of her eleven races. Her victories for the season included wins in the Conniver Stakes, the Original Gold Stakes, the Timonium Distaff Stakes, the Sadie Hawkins Stakes, the West Virginia Cavada Breeders’ Classic Stakes, the Maryland Million Distaff Handicap, and the Politely Stakes. The dark bay daughter of Great Notion collected earnings of $401,830 for the 2019 racing season and earned the title as North America’s winningest horse.

Owned by No Guts No Glory Farm, Anna’s Bandit was trained by John Robb and ridden regularly by jockey Xavier Perez. In all, Anna’s Bandit has made it to the winner’s circle 16 times from 34 career starts and banked total earnings of $743,715.

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About The Author

Chelsea Lowman

A native of Carroll County, MD, Chelsea is an avid racing fan and a recent college graduate with an AA in Marketing. She has a racing blog called "Down to the Wire" and can be found on Twitter @Down2TheWire.

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