by James Platz
The Indiana Horse Racing Commission April 21 called for an economic impact study on the impact of having--or not having--Kentucky signals available at the state's racetracks and off-track betting parlors.
Meanwhile, testing for the antibodies produced by erythropoietin will begin in the near future Indiana Downs and Hoosier Park. The racing commission voted unanimously to adopt rules to test for EPO antibodies.
Indiana Downs and the Indiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association have been unsuccessful in their attempts to import Thoroughbred signals from Kentucky to an OTB parlor operated by Indiana Downs in Clarksville, just across the Ohio River from Louisville, home of Churchill Downs. In addition, the Kentuck y signal isn't available at an OTB parlor in Evansville, located not far from Ellis Park in western Kentucky.
The impact study will cover four elements: the projected impact on Indiana if the Kentucky signal is imported into the Clarksville facility; the impact on Kentucky if the signal is simulcast to the southern Indiana location; the amount Indiana Downs would need to pay for the signal to compensate for the impact it could have on Kentucky horsemen; and the projected impact banning the Kentucky signal would have on both states. The Indiana Department of Gaming Research will conduct the study and report its findings to the commission by June 21.
For Indiana Downs, the ruling prolongs activities that been fruitless thus far. Track officials believe the economic impact study won't advance the talks, and that the only way to do so is to cut off the Kentucky signal in Indiana.
"I personally see this as a two- or three-month delay; another three months with no ray of hope," Indiana Downs general manager Jon Schuster said. "The only way we feel anything is going to happen is to pull the signal. This has been going on for 14 months when we first began negotiations for (an OTB parlor in) Evansville."
Indiana Downs and the Indiana HBPA have tried negotiating with Kentucky horsemen and the state's racetracks. Neither has made headway. In fact, the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association voted 9-0 April 16 to reject the latest proposal by Indiana horsemen.
"There is no negotiation here, none," Schuster said. "All they've told us is no. They have provided no direction in which way to go; no counter offers or counter proposals. This study isn't going to change that."
Don Kubovchik, executive director of the Indiana HBPA, said a better deal would be hard to find elsewhere. "To put it mildly, it's unprecedented," he said of Indiana's offer to Kentucky. "Nobody has had a sweeter deal. It's very frustrating. It makes you wonder where they're coming from."
EPO stimulates the production of red blood cells and increases oxygen-carrying capacity. It is used in the treatment of human anemia but is prohibited in the horse racing industry. Indiana joins Delaware, New York, and Ontario, Canada, as racing jurisdictions that test for EPO antibodies.
"We believe our testing for the EPO antibody will be an effective deterrent in curbing its abuse," commission executive director Joe Gorajec said in a release.
Gorajec said any Thoroughbred or Standardbred racehorse with EPO antibodies will be placed on the steward's list--thus barring it from competition--until the horse is clean. Gorajec said it may take two or three months for the antibodies to clear from a horse's system. In some instances it could be more.
Horsemen's groups--the Indiana HBPA, Indiana Standardbred Association, and Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association supported adoption of the EPO rule.