OH Horsemen Hope Deal Avoids Derby Blackout

Ohio horsemen hope to avoid a Kentucky Derby simulcast blackout in the state.

The Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is in negotiations with a Cleveland-area harness track to avoid a situation that could lead to a statewide simulcast blackout of the May 7 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) program from Churchill Downs.

Northfield Park, in an unusual move, has opted to drop live harness racing Saturday nights in May and June in order to offer full-card simulcasts beginning around noon. Under Ohio’s complex law governing out-of-state simulcasts, Northfield couldn’t offer the simulcast of the Derby, May 21 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) programs unless it switched to simulcast-only days.

Meanwhile, Thistledown will be open for live Thoroughbred racing and full-card simulcasts Saturday afternoons during that period. The overlap could mean less revenue for Thoroughbred purses if bettors opt for Northfield over Thistledown, horsemen said.

Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler said April 12 horsemen are negotiating with Northfield on a revenue share to protect purses, given both tracks will be open at the same time on those days.

If there is no deal and horsemen refuse to allow Northfield to simulcast the Derby under their Interstate Horseracing Act rights, it could lead to a statewide blackout, Basler said. Under Ohio’s racing statute, if one track in the state is denied a signal, it has the power to enact a blackout at all other wagering outlets.

Disputes over the Kentucky Derby simulcast in Ohio have popped up over the years. After full-card simulcasts were legalized in the state in 1996, River Downs, because of its proximity to Kentucky, was denied the Derby signal. Management at River Downs then had to agree to allow the other tracks in Ohio get the Derby simulcast.