River Downs

River Downs

Courtesy River Downs

River Downs, Horsemen Agree on 93 Racing Days

Ohio horsemen have contacts in place with River Downs and Thistledown.

Having compromised on the number of racing dates, Pinnacle Entertainment and the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have agreed on a contract for the 2011 meet at River Downs.

The Ohio State Racing Commission had awarded the Cincinnati-area track 78 dates, down from the 104 awarded for 2010, before the contract was signed. Management had discussed offering a meet of about 80 days, with racing four days a week.

The compromise produced a 93-day meet from April 29-Sept. 5 with racing Wednesdays through Sundays. Plans call for eight races to be held each day.

Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler said purses at the start of the meet will be similar to those of last year. In 2010 River Downs paid about $3.9 million in purses for a daily average of $37,629, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.

Basler said in order to maintain overnight purses, the $100,000 Cradle Stakes for 2-year-olds on the turf and the $50,000 Bassinet Stakes for 2-year-old fillies won’t be run this year. The races are fixtures on Labor Day weekend at River Downs.

“They may be renewed in the future,” Basler said. “It’s being done in the interest of preserving overnight purses.”

There is a bonus provision for purses this year. If seven or more betting interests leave the paddock, purses for all but stakes will increase by $300. Last year declining purses and competition for horses resulted in average field size of 7.02 horses at River Downs.

River Downs will remain open for training through Sept. 24, the day Beulah Park near Columbus opens its barn area for a fall meet that begins Oct. 10. There had been gaps in previous years that left horsemen with nowhere to go between meets.

Pinnacle Entertainment, which purchased the track earlier this year, is looking at offering “twilight” racing with a 3 p.m. EDT first post on Fridays, Basler said. Details will be discussed at the April meeting of the OSRC, which must sign off on the contract.

Basler said the OSRC also must approve the contact between Harrah’s Entertainment and the Ohio HBPA for Thistledown. Horsemen agreed to run 122 days this year at the Cleveland-area track, which also may experiment with later post times on some days.

Pinnacle Entertainment owns Belterra Casino in neighboring Indiana. There has been talk by management of cross-promoting the casino and River Downs.