By Jim Freer
Churchill Downs Inc. filed a lawsuit April 24 asking a federal court to dissolve the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group.
In a suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, CDI, CDI-owned Calder Race Course, and Churchill Downs Technology Initiatives Co. also are seeking an injunction to prevent the THG and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association from “agreeing on uniform terms for the sale of signals, boycotting racetracks and ADW operators that do not comply with their demands.”
In addition to the THG and FHBPA, several officers and directors of the two organizations are named as defendants.
FHBPA executive director Kent Stirling said he would not comment until he has seen the suit and reviewed it with the FHBPA’s board and legal counsel.
CDI and its co-plaintiffs maintain the THG and member horsemen’s groups are violating the federal Sherman Antitrust Act in their efforts to have THG negotiate for horsemen on contracts for dividing revenues from advance deposit wagering (ADW) companies.
The THG was formed in December 2007 and is comprised of 18 horsemen’s organizations with contracts at 52 racetracks in North America.
The suit is the latest development in that dispute, involving upcoming race meets and recently opened meets in several states.
As a result, Calder opened its season April 21 without being able to send its signal to any racetracks outside Florida. Betting on Calder races was not permitted at tracks outside Florida or at ADWs.
New York OTB, which in February signed a contract with THG, was the only non-Florida outlet to carry Calder’s signal and take bets.
The FHBPA must have a signed purses contract with Calder for the track to send its signal to tracks outside Florida. Calder began its meet without a purses contract. The FHPBA, through THG, has not reached an ADW agreement with CDI and Calder.
CDI’s lawsuit cited what it calls harm to Calder and to CDI’s Twin Spires Club, which includes ADW wagering. Twinspires.com, CDI's online ADW site, is part of Churchill Downs Technology Initiatives Co.
According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Calder’s opening day handle April 21 was $390,516. Calder’s 2007 opening day handle, on a Wednesday, was $3,463,530. Both figures are all-sources, excluding separate-pool wagering.
Calder did not hold races from April 22 to April 24, and will resume racing April 25.
“Florida horsemen are preventing horse racing enthusiasts from wagering on Calder races, which is unfortunate for the racetrack, horsemen, and most important, our customers,” said CDI executive vice president Steve Sexton.
“Despite what we have accomplished for them, by nearly doubling the host fee rate paid to Florida Horsemen, the (FHBPA) and the THG are simply seeking even more money to the detriment of all other parties,“ Sexton said. “We are filing suit to ensure those interests are protected.”
Earlier on April 24, Stirling told The Blood-Horse the FHBPA disputes CDI’s contention that it has offered an ADW fee that is nearly double that of 2007.