Collinsville Mayor now supports slots at Fairmount

September 14th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

In an about face, Collinsville City Council supports slot machines at Fairmount Park

By   /  September 14, 2014  /

Just more than three years ago, Collinsville City Councilwoman Nancy Moss implored her fellow Council members to vote against a resolution allowing slot machines at Fairmount Park and other racetracks in Illinois.

“I’m begging you tonight to not pass this,” Moss said on June 27, 2011.

The entrance to Fairmount Park / Photo by Roger Starkey

By a 3-2, the Council voted down the resolution. Monday, by a 3-0 vote, the Council approved a resolution for the same purpose. Moss and Councilwoman Karen Woolard did not vote, choosing, instead, to abstain.

Councilman Mike Tognarelli, who introduced the resolution in 2011, and again Monday, was joined by Councilman Jeff Kypta and Mayor John Miller in support of the resolution.

Moss did not respond to multiple requests for comment, so it is not clear why she chose not to vote on the resolution. In the past, Moss has been outspoken in her opposition to gambling in Collinsville when voting against the previous Fairmount Park resolution and against allowing gaming machines, which were approved by the Council in Nov. 2012.

“If you take all of the moral issues out if, which I can’t do, but if you take all of that out of it, they have realized, whole states have realized, that it is not increasing their revenue, that it is not a positive thing,” Moss said in Nov. 2012, when speaking against allowing gaming machines in Collinsville.

Woolard, in an email statement following the meeting, explained why she did not vote on the resolution. Her heart goes out to the people who feel their jobs are at stake, Woolard said.

“I don’t want to see anyone jobless.  I also feel it is outrageous that our government would choose to ostracize Fairmount Park,” Woolard said. “It is just more proof of the problems in Springfield.”

Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, who introduced the gambling expansion bill, later introduced an amendment that excluded Fairmount Park due to concerns about the impact on the Casino Queen in East St. Louis. On May 9, Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, introduced an amendment that placed Fairmount Park back in the bill.

Woolard said she is concerned about the growth of the gambling industry in Illinois.

“Research shows that gambling does not benefit a community as much as people might think. Plus, it brings with it some negative aspects for the community,” Woolard said. “I did not support the introduction of video gambling into Collinsville in the first place, for these and other reasons. Thus, I could not support the addition of the machines at Fairmount Park.”

Woolard was elected to the City Council in 2013.

Kypta did not respond to multiple requests for comment on his vote. In 2011, he voted against the resolution, saying he was not in favor of gambling in Collinsville, nor did he want to see workers at Fairmount lose their jobs.

“I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings,” Kypta said in 2011. “I don’t see what this (resolution) would do to help. Maybe we can do something to promote the horse track better.”

In 2012, Kypta voted to allowing gaming machines in Collinsville. In meetings prior to the vote, Kypta said he was in favor of Collinsville residents providing guidance on the matter through a non-binding resolution.

When asked in Nov. 2012 if they were in favor of prohibiting gambling in Collinsville, voters, by a 1,300 vote margin, said “no.” The Council vote to allow gaming machines followed the non-binding resolution vote.

Speaking in 2011 just before the City Council vote, Miller said he did not see how supporting the addition of slot machines in Fairmount Park would help. He has since changed his mind and has supported an effort to have Fairmount Park included in the current statewide gambling expansion bill.

Public provides input to the Council

Seven speakers addressed the Council on the topic of the resolution prior to the vote Monday, many were from the group Fairness for Fairmount, which is working to ensure the Collinsville racetrack is included in the current gambling expansion bill being considered by the Illinois State Legislature.

See related story, (“Fairness for Fairmount continues fight to bring gaming to Fairmount Race Track“)

Collinsville Township Trustee Dennis Hill told the Council that the Township had unanimously passed a resolution at its annual meeting to support Fairness for Fairmount “due to the economic impact losing the track would have.” Fairmount Park employs 400 people and is estimated to employ another 600 indirectly.

Director of the Collinsville Chamber of Commerce Wendi Valenti told the Council that passing the resolution would be very influential to the downstate legislators who will vote on the gambling expansion bill.

Mead Dowling, of Collinsville, and a 36-year employee of Fairmount Race Track, said the track will not survive much longer without slot machines.

“If they don’t get the slots, they may open next year, but it’s not going to be a very long year,” Dowling said. The track was once open 256 days each year, but is now open 52.

Collinsville resident Phil Astrauskas was the only member of the audience to speak in opposition of the resolution.

“I can tell you everything I have read by every economist, every social person, says that gambling is not good for your community, I don’t care what it does,” Astrauskas said. “What are we going to do through gambling to improve the per capita income of the people who live in this community? Think about that.”

Speaking in 2011, Tognarelli said the resolution is more about saving a business that has been operating since 1925 than gambling.

“It’s more about support for Fairmount Race Track and what they have done for our community,” Tognarelli said.

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Wisconsin Herpes Outbreak

September 8th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Dane County horse facility hit with deadly virus

A Dane County boarding and training facility for horses has been quarantined after an outbreak of the highly contagious equine herpes virus.

Article by: Associated Press

Updated: September 7, 2014 – 3:25 PM

MADISON, Wis. — A Dane County boarding and training facility for horses has been quarantined after an outbreak of the highly contagious equine herpes virus.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports ( ) one horse had to be euthanized just before Labor Day and two more at the same site have tested positive and are ill.

The state veterinarian, Paul McGraw, says equine herpesvirus-1, or EHV-1, causes respiratory disease, abortion and intermittent outbreaks of neurologic disease in horses.

Humans cannot acquire it but they can act as carriers. An outbreak earlier this year killed several horses in Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.

All three in Dane County were vaccinated in spring for rhinopneumonitis, which is the non-neurological form of the virus. But there are no vaccines for the neurologic form.

Hernandez Heads For Greener Pastures

September 3rd, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

The perennial leading rider at Fairmount Park has ridden his last race downstate. he has accepted with Wesley Ward. He will have first call for the Ward stable. He is already named on several at Kentucky Downs. We will miss Rafael with his pleasant personality and his great ability as a rider. Of course he won on his last mount at Fairmount. Good luck Rafael.

Free Seminar for Fairmount Horsemen

August 26th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Attention Horsemen!!!! A nutrition expert from Land of Lakes Purina Feeds will be presenting a seminar on Wednesday September 10th at 11am in the Horsemen’s Lounge. Lunch will be provided. Please sign up with track veterinarian Dr. Teagan Easton.

Splash City Wrist Bands

July 30th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

You must pick up your wrist bands for Splash City this Saturday in the HBPA office from 8:30 until 1. The tickets are only good for Sunday

Splash City Here We Come!

July 24th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

Your H.B.P.A. will be treating the horsemen to a day at Splash City on Sunday August 3rd. Please sign up in the H.B.P.A. office.

Face lift and Faceboook

June 27th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

We have updated our website and are proud to announce that we now have our own Facebook page. On the website. you can now click on “Horses” and under ” for adoption” you can see the horses that reside at the Second Chance Ranch at the Vandalia Correctional Facility. All are available for adoption and as you will see have been well taken care of by the inmates. If you or someone you know are looking for a thoroughbred that’s ready for a new career please let us know.

Take some time to check out the horses and our new Facebook page. Enjoy!

Rafael Hernandez

June 19th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks
Hernandez jockeys for position at Fairmount, not in night clubs.

Growing up in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, Rafael Hernandez loved to listen to music and ride horses.

After seeing Hernandez riding a horse around one day, one of his relatives told him he could be a jockey. Hernandez thought he was going to be a disc jockey.

“Oh no. No music,” Hernandez remembered — with a laugh — what the relative had said. “Yeah, I know the disc jockeys. … I don’t even know about the jockeys. No. Jockeys of the racehorses. I said, ‘What the hell is that?’”

Hernandez, who was 16 at the time, said he started researching jockeys on a computer and told his relative that he would ride the horses. But the first time he got on a horse after that, he immediately fell off. The relative then told Hernandez he wasn’t good enough to be a jockey.

That message didn’t sit well with him, so Hernandez went to his mother and told her he wanted to be a jockey.

“She said, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘That’s a challenge for me,’” Hernandez recalled. “(The relative) told me I wasn’t able to do it. I’m going to show him. And that’s how it started.”

Hernandez, now 29, then went through two years of jockey school in Puerto Rico, where he rode in seven or eight schooling races a day against other students. He also had to breeze or gallop at least 500 horses to get approval.

As well, Hernandez had to weigh no more than 105 pounds to remain in the class. Anything heavier meant dismissal from the program.

Once he successfully completed his obligation and obtained his license, Hernandez was told to fly to Tampa, Fla. to meet his uncle, Herbie Rivera — a former jockey who was an agent at Tampa Bay Downs.

“He told me he was going to help me,” said Hernandez, who never before had been out of his native country. “And the rest is history.”

Hernandez eventually arrived at Fairmount Park in 2004, but he didn’t know anyone in the barn area at the track in Collinsville.

He worked horses in the morning and rode in races during the day or in the evening. He won 57 times from 539 mounts that year and left a lasting impression on Fairmount’s trainers.

He came back to Fairmount in 2005 looking for work and approached trainer Tom Trione, Jr.

“I remembered him from the year before when he was a bug rider (an apprentice who got weight breaks) and I watched him work horses,” Trione said. “He was patient. He set a horse real well. He had good hands.”

Trione told Hernandez if he worked the horses in the morning, he probably would ride Trione’s horses in some races.

“It worked,” Trione said. “The first one I rode him on, it won. And the others were all right there. We just went from there.”

That turned out to be a breakout year for the 20-year-old future star. He won the riding title at Fairmount in 2005, the first of four in a row. He finished second in 2009 when he left to go to Indiana for a month, but returned in 2010 to claim the jockey championship.

Hernandez has been on top ever since.

He now rides primarily for trainer Scott Becker, who trains for Fairmount owner Bill Stiritz. And the trio are entered in the sixth race Thursday at Churchill Downs, in Louisville, Ky., aboard Congenial.

Hernandez has replaced Dave Gall as the most liked or hated rider at Fairmount, depending on the outcome of a race. Last month, Hernandez won seven of eight races on a card and over a three race-day period won 12 of 13 races.

“He’s smart and he’s good to work with,” Becker said. “He has real good hands and he gets (horses) to relax. He’s a very good gate jock. Never gets in trouble.”

While a lot of jockeys like to go out and have a good time then have to lose weight to keep riding, Hernandez is the opposite. He doesn’t drink or smoke and is a strong family man. He stands 5 feet 5, weighs 112 pounds and is married (Cynthia) with two children (Rafael Jr., 4 and Rodrigo, 2).

Hernandez, who had plans to be an airplane mechanic if riding didn’t pan out, has the ability to ride and be successful anywhere in the country. But he chooses to anchor close to home.

As far as retiring as a rider, Hernandez doesn’t think about that. He’s in the prime of his career and would like to ride in the Triple Crown races, the Breeders’ Cup and other big events.

“I’ll go as far as my body lets me go,” he said. “I don’t have any bad habits.”

Hernandez just doesn’t play music. He lets his horses spin the records.



Slots at Fairmount

June 14th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks

If at first you don’t succeed …. That seems to be the motto of the folks who want expanded gambling in Illinois. They’re trying to figure out what to do now that the gambling bill didn’t get called for a vote in the state House before the end of the legislative session.

One huge stumbling block to the bill’s success was the inability of lawmakers to work out a dealthat would add slot machines at Fairmount Racetrack — as was planned for all the other tracks in the state — but not undercut the Casino Queen and the city of East St. Louis, which counts on the taxes it generates.

Such are the challenges for government when it picks winners and losers as it has with gambling.

We understand why the Casino Queen doesn’t want more competition. The growth of government sanctioned video gambling has hurt. In April alone, 10 metro-east communities near the casino and unincorporated St. Clair County had profits — which means losses for customers– of $990,285. That’s part of the reason the Casino Queen’s take was down in April by $1.26 million.

However, it doesn’t make sense to allow video gambling at taverns, clubs and fraternal organizations and not at Fairmount — particularly if other tracks would be allowed to have slot machines.

If a statewide gambling expansion bill in the future has any chance of success, this local stalemate will have to be solved first.


Press Release from Rep. Bob Rita

May 30th, 2014 | written by Lanny Brooks



Rep. Rita Statement on Gambling Expansion

Legislator Does Not Call Bill But Will Continue Push for Solution in Fall Veto Session

 SPRINGFIELD – State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, today issued the following statement about his decision not to call Senate Bill 1739, the gambling expansion bill, before the end of the spring legislative session:

“As the Illinois Legislature ends its spring session, I did not call Senate Bill 1739, the gambling expansion proposal I have worked on for a year now, for a vote. The time was not right to build the support needed for the bill to pass the Illinois House and Senate and be signed into law by the governor.

I am disappointed we could not move this issue forward this spring, but I am determined to prepare a bill for consideration in the fall veto session. We will be considering important revenue and budget issues during that session. I believe gambling expansion should and will be a major factor as we make these critical decisions going into 2015.

We still have a number of issues to work through before then. Chief among them are building support from the governor and mayor of Chicago, resolving disputes over revenue sharing in several communities where expansion would happen and working to ensure we build on the gambling revenue we have in our state and not merely cannibalize it within our existing facilities. The public hearings we had this year produced important discussion on the challenges standing in the way of expansion. I plan to have more public hearings and meetings to further discuss these issues over the summer and fall.

I want to put together a package that reflects the important role that horse racing tracks and casinos play in our economy and for our state budget. We need the horse racing industry and communities who want new casinos supporting this bill. My commitment is to find solutions for their issues, including restoring gaming positions at the race tracks and providing an agreement that allows slots at Fairmount Park in the Metro East. We should have a special opportunity to make our case for gambling expansion at the end of this year, and I want to do everything we can to take advantage of it.”

Ryan Keith

RK PR Solutions