Beulah Park Slashes Purses Amid Dispute

A contract dispute is taking its toll on live racing at Beulah Park in Ohio.

Beulah Park, locked in a dispute that centers on revenue from advance deposit wagering, intends to resume live racing Oct. 22 but with greatly reduced purses and no export of its signal outside of Ohio.

Beulah Park and the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have been negotiating for more than a month on an export agreement. The track’s fall meet began as scheduled Oct. 15, but live racing was canceled Oct. 17-18 and Oct. 21 after Beulah Park turned down horsemen’s terms for export of the signal, track general manager Mike Weiss said.

When contacted Oct. 21, Weiss said he intends to resume live racing but with a 46% purse cut because the track will receive no revenue from interstate simulcasts. The minimum purse will drop to $2,500 under a schedule that cuts purses more at the higher end of the condition book.

The highest purse Oct. 22 is $2,700 for a $16,000 maiden claiming event, on Oct. 24, the top is $3,250. The cuts are reflected at the entry box; entries were strong when the meet opened, but have declined dramatically. Still, Weiss claimed there is a waiting list for stalls.

“I’m going to continue my meet as is,” Weiss said. “We can’t afford to take that much out of the horsemen’s purse account. It’s really nothing more than a financial decision at this point.”

Ohio HBPA officials said horsemen and the track have been close to a deal, only to have it fall apart. Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler said source-market fees from ADW providers is a contract issue.

Weiss confirmed the conflict concerns ADW revenue, and again said Beulah Park offered horsemen a deal that would bring ADW revenue close to what horsemen, working through the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, are seeking. The THG advocates an even split of revenue among the racetrack, horsemen and ADW providers.

Weiss and Beulah Park owner Charlie Ruma said they want to negotiate directly with the Ohio HBPA, not the THG, which is working to change the ADW revenue model to funnel more money to horsemen and tracks.

When asked when the two parties will come to terms, Weiss said: “I don’t know. But Beulah Park horsemen cannot afford to race without sending the signal out.”

In a related matter, the Ohio State Racing Commission Oct. 16 denied requests by Beulah Park and River Downs to offer Quarter Horse racing and only a handful of Thoroughbred dates in 2009. The two tracks were given 30 days to strike an agreement with horsemen on dates for next year.

After Thistledown near Cleveland closes in late October, Beulah Park will offer the only live racing in Ohio through December. The track usually re-opens in January, and is the only track open through early April; horsemen would have nowhere to go in the state if the track were to close.

“Beulah Park is the most urgent of the bunch,” Basler said in reference to getting a dates agreement in place. The OSRC will approve a schedule when horsemen and the tracks agree on dates, he said.

Thistledown was granted 91 Thoroughbred dates for 2009.