Nearly 100 Standardbred racehorses residing at an Illinois track were displaced earlier this month when the track permanently closed.
Mickey Ezzo, special projects manager for the Illinois Racing Board, said the final harness race took place at Maywood Park in Melrose Park, on Oct. 2. The closing displaced about 98 Standardbreds residing on the racetrack’s backside, he said.
But the closing doesn’t mean the horses’ careers will come to an end.
“The majority of those horses will continue to race at Balmoral (Maywood’s sister track in Crete, Illinois) or at other tracks,” Ezzo said. “Also, some of those horses will be sold to their trainers or will go to horse sales.”
Susan Wellman, director of the American Standardbred Adoption Program in DeSoto, Wisconsin, added, “There’s a lot of harness racing in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. As long as (the horses) can make the grade, they’ll stay on the circuit.”
Those that don’t will move on to second careers, be sold, or wind up at rescues where former harness racers are either rehomed or retired for life.
“We have 20 horses here now and we expect to receive more after Maywood’s closing,” Wellman said. “And of course, there is the danger that some of these horses (could) be sold to kill buyers.”
Ezzo said the Illinois Racing Board does not have a specific rule preventing the owners or trainers of harness racing horses from selling animals to known kill buyers. However, he said, the state of Illinois has laws regarding horse slaughter. Under that statute, horses processi