racing1

CORY BYKNISH | Herald

Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commissioner Bob Lark of West Middlesex watches horses race across the finish line at the Stoneboro fairgrounds Thursday afternoon.

STONEBORO – When it comes to his horse racing post, West Middlesex resident and borough council President Bob Lark goes the distance.

It’s a natural, as he’s a member of the State Horse Racing Commission that oversees horse racing in the state.

“I’m the only commissioner who lives west of the Susquehanna River,’’ Lark said while watching harness racing at the Great Stoneboro Fair on Thursday. “Horse racing has been in my family for years.’’

Unlike major tracks, such as The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington, Pa., no betting is allowed at fair races in the state.

“I don’t know why there's no betting in fairs in Pennsylvania,’’ Lark said. “But Ohio has them at these kind of events.’’

One reason for the state not allowing betting, he said, likely dates back to its conservative early history.

“It’s a throwback to when Pennsylvania was against racing,’’ he said.

Still, some of the purses at fairs such as at Stoneboro aren’t out-of-the-money. The one race on Thursday had a purse of $7,800.

“But that’s a little misleading,’’ Lark said. “The purses at these races are divvied up so that the winner gets 50 percent and the rest is divided among the rest up to fifth place,’’ he said. The rest of the field gets 25 percent of the purse for second, 12 percent for third, 8 percent for fourth and 5 percent for fifth, he said.

racing2

CORY BYKNSIH | Herald

Drivers ready their horses at the Stoneboro fairgrounds Thursday morning.

Race purses, said Lark, comes from three sources: Fees paid by the horsemen, the fair, and the biggest of all – the state.

“The real state money comes from some of the gaming revenue they get,’’ he said.

Before the state got its gaming funds, fair purses were meager, Lark noted.

“You would see purses of maybe a couple hundred dollars, and just a little bit more,’’ he said.

Racing stewards are charged with overseeing horse races at various locations.

Meeting once a month, typically in Harrisburg, the commission is empowered to take actions such as promoting horse racing and updating rules when needed.

Racing stewards are charged with overseeing horse races at various locations.

“And they also make sure rules and regulations are followed,’’ Lark said.

For example, a horse driver – the term used in harness racing – can protest the actions of another driver during a race. If they find the driver is guilty, stewards can impose penalties such as moving the driver back in the finish to prohibiting them from racing for a certain amount of time, Lark said.

“It doesn’t happen very often,’’ he said. “But drivers can appeal the steward’s decision to the commission.

Racing at the Stoneboro Fair still draws in a crowd, and Butler resident Steve Schoeffel was among them. Catching his breath after one race on Thursday morning, he talked about the track.

Tight turns at Stoneboro Fair’s half-mile track make it a little difficult to pass another horse, Schoeffel said.

“You have to drive aggressive,’’ he said of rounding the turns.

But when it comes right down to it, getting first place is usually predictable, Schoeffel said.

“Usually the best horse will win,’’ he said.

Recommended for you