Deal Would Ensure OH Thoroughbred Dates

Ohio officials expressed hope Thoroughbred racing will be held at two tracks in 2009.

Officials with two Ohio racetracks indicated they hope to offer Thoroughbred meets in 2009 and could be close to a deal with local horsemen on revenue from advance deposit wagering.

Beulah Park and River Downs asked the Ohio State Racing Commission Aug. 21 for short Quarter Horse meets and two-day Thoroughbred meets next year. Track representatives told the commission a dispute over ADW revenue, as well as overall economic conditions, have made it difficult to sustain the current Thoroughbred program.

The commission expressed displeasure and deferred action on dates until its Oct. 16 meeting. It appears, however, the tracks and Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association could have a deal in place well before then.

Individuals involved in the Ohio situation met Sept. 1 at River Downs during the track’s closing-day Cradle Stakes program. On hand was George Gaulding Jr., a member of the River Downs board of directors.

“We will be racing next year, with the cooperation of horsemen, which I expect to happen,” said Gaulding, one of nine members of the board. “I think we need creation of jobs very badly, and I hope all the people in Ohio understand that. It’s very important.”

On Sept. 2, Beulah Park general manager Mike Weiss expressed cautious optimism a deal could be reached. Weiss said he met with horsemen Aug. 22 and believed a deal was close, but he hasn’t heard back from the Ohio HBPA.

Beulah Park’s fall meet goes from Oct. 13-Dec. 20. The track traditionally reopens in early January for its winter/spring meet, dates for which are in question.

“What amazes me is the horsemen’s representative is not in a hurry,” Weiss said. “I do believe we’re close, but if we don’t have a deal, I’m going to the racing commission (Sept. 17) and applying for the Quarter Horse dates.”

Ohio HBPA executive director Dave Basler indicated Sept. 1 negotiations would continue, but he didn’t offer a deadline for resolution. He couldn't be immediately reached Sept. 2 for further comment.

The racing commission said it wants the dates issue resolved by its October meeting, but there have been years in which the matter has lingered into December. This year, Thistledown’s schedule wasn’t finalized until just weeks before the Cleveland-area track opened.

Thistledown requested 90 dates for 2009, and its application also was deferred. The track will end up racing 122 days this year under an agreement with the Ohio HBPA.

Beulah Park offers some Quarter Horse racing each year, but nowhere near the 28 dates it initially requested for 2009. River Downs asked for 14 Quarter Horse dates. The token Thoroughbred dates would allow the tracks to continue full-card simulcasts, though much of the dark-day simulcast revenue generated at the two tracks would be funneled to other tracks in the state.

The Ohio HBPA, like other members of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, is seeking a larger share of ADW revenue. Sources indicated the two sides in Ohio aren’t that far from an agreement that would get horsemen roughly 6%, similar to what Ellis Park and the Kentucky HBPA agreed to earlier this summer.

The overall THG scheme, which is based on a blended pari-mutuel takeout rate of 21%, calls for the racetrack, horsemen’s group, and ADW provider to each get 7% of the revenue. Horsemen argue racetracks that own ADWs—Beulah Park and River Downs operate Oregon-licensed, for example—actually would get a larger share if the business units are combined.