IL Group Restates Opposition to Rule Changes

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association Jan. 24 said proposed changes in state racing regulations, as well as another rule that allows racetracks to "recapture" purse money, "threaten to crush" horse racing and breeding in the state.

The Illinois Racing Board at its Jan. 26 meeting will consider a request from Arlington International Racecourse, Hawthorne Race Course, and Fairmount Park to move forward with the repeal of regulations related to the carding of live races. It is also scheduled to act upon—as it does every year—a request to certify purse recapture authorized under the Illinois Horse Racing Act.

Recapture was instituted in the mid-1990s as means to offset revenue losses suffered by racetracks, which have the right to take the money from purse accounts. The rule has been a bone contention since it was approved.

The Illinois THA in a release said the request for rule changes involves scuttling a provision that requires all non-claiming races other than maiden races, and all claiming races with a claiming price of $20,000 or more that are offered and fill, be carded and run. The rule covers stakes, allowance races, and non-maiden claiming races of $20,000 or more.

Another rule sought by the tracks would eliminate a mandate on how the order of races is to be used—first the primary races in the condition book, and then the substitute races listed in the condition book.

The Illinois THA said the rules as written "provide essential structure to the racing schedule and therefore create an incentive for horsemen to race at those tracks. If the tracks succeed in their pursuit, they will render the condition book meaningless, discourage horsemen from shipping to Illinois during this racing year, and promote the collapse of live racing."

An official with Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Arlington, couldn't be immediately reached Jan. 24 to comment on the latest developments. However, Arlington explained the reasoning for the request last year during an IRB meeting.

Arlington general manager Tony Petrillo at the time said the rule prevents racing secretaries from using their discretion to card races with larger fields, which in turn generate more pari-mutuel handle. He estimated the change would reduce the drop in handle as of last year from 18% to 13%.

The IRB at the meeting granted an emergency request to change the rules, but now the Illinois Administrative Code must be changed.

The horsemen's group also said the rule pertaining to race order encourages Illinois breeding by requiring that a substitute Illinois-conceived and/or foaled race be scheduled, if possible, in the event an Illinois-conceived and/or foaled race fails to fill.

Arlington also has requested the IRB Jan. 26 approve its stall application language for 2016. The Illinois THA alleged the track is attempting to charge stall rent via a facility fee, and said the proposal would increase room-deposit fees for backstretch workers.

Meanwhile, Illinois lawmakers don't appear close to passing legislation that would authorize slot machines at racetracks. The horsemen's group said legislators "remain locked in a standoff that likely will preclude consideration of slots-at-tracks legislation until fundamental differences over the state budget and related matters are resolved."

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