Ohio Dates Approved, But No Horsemen's Deal

Ohio racing dates have been approved, but tracks and horsemen have no agreements.

The Ohio State Racing Commission has approved 2010 racing dates for two Thoroughbred tracks, but the facilities still have no agreement with horsemen on the schedules.

Thistledown near Cleveland was awarded 122 days of racing from April 23-Nov. 6. Racing is set for four days a week, with Wednesdays and Thursdays dark; Wednesday racing will be added in September.

River Downs near Cincinnati was granted 107 days (104 for Thoroughbreds and three for Quarter Horses) from April 9-Sept. 6. Racing will be held five days a week, with Wednesdays and Thursdays dark.

The OSRC took the action at a special meeting Sept. 3. Beulah Park near Columbus was awarded 125 dates by the OSRC at a meeting in August.

Beulah Park has an agreement with the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association because its request was above the minimum number of dates required for the track to offer full-card simulcasts in 2011. Thistledown’s 2010 schedule is well below the 187-day minimum; the minimum at River Downs is 119.

A Thistledown official confirmed the track has no deal with the Ohio HBPA, as did River Downs general manager Jack Hanessian, who acknowledged Ohio statute that pulls the plug on simulcasts if there is no deal with horsemen to run less than the minimum number of dates offered when full-card simulcasts were legalized in the state.

“We can’t run 119 dates,” Hanessian said Sept. 4. “That would mean a six-day racing week, and (the horsemen) can’t even fill a four-day week now.”

Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler said the organization hopes “to reach comprehensive agreements with each track similar to those done in 2009.”

Under the schedules approved by the OSRC, there will be 354 Thoroughbred dates, 386 harness dates, and seven Quarter Horse dates in the state in 2010.

Pending resolution of lawsuits and rulings by the Ohio Supreme Court, Ohio racetracks have been authorized to install video lottery terminals, the first of which the state hopes are operating by May 2010. Given that timeframe—and the fact there still is no deal among horsemen and tracks on purse revenue from VLTs—it seems unlikely Ohio purses, among the lowest in the country, will increase next year.