Ohio Derby May Not Be Dead for 2009

The grade II Ohio Derby might be run this year after all.

The grade II Ohio Derby might be run this year after all.

Host track Thistledown, the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and the Ohio State Racing Commission are discussing ways to restore the race in 2009, officials said April 21. Track officials earlier this year announced the Ohio Derby, the only graded stakes in the Buckeye State, would be suspended for this year.

Thistledown and the Ohio HBPA opted to scrap the Derby and use its $300,000 in purse money to maintain an overnight purse structure that has been shrinking due to declines in pari-mutuel handle. So far this year, wagering on full-card simulcasts at Thistledown is down 18.2%; statewide, Thoroughbred handle is down 15.3% from the same period last year.

The OSRC at its April 14 meeting discussed “alternatives” that would allow the race to be held this year, at Thistledown or another Ohio track. A reduction in existing stakes purses to fund the Derby is one option.

Officials said it’s too soon to say if state’s marquee race will return in 2009; also undecided are the purse and the date for the race. Grade II stakes go for a minimum of $150,000.

Under the rules of the American Graded Stakes Committee, the Ohio Derby wouldn’t lose its graded if it’s not held this year but is run next year.

Thistledown is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early March. The Cleveland-area track begins its live meet April 30.