Deal May Give Calder Preakness Signal

By Jim Freer
An official of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association said on May 14 that his organization will issue a proposal that would enable Calder Race Course to carry the simulcast signal of the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) -- with a condition.
The MTHA will permit Pimlico Race Course to send its signal to Calder on May 16-17, if Calder agrees to put Calder and the Calder horsemen’s takeouts on the Pimlico programs into escrow until Calder settles its contracts dispute with Florida horsemen, said MTHA general counsel Alan Foreman.
As of the evening of May 14, Calder and its parent Churchill Downs Inc. had not received a written proposal from the MTHA. Therefore, Calder and CDI were not able to comment, a CDI spokesman said.
“We would approve this proposal if we had a say in it,” said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen‘s Benevolent and Protective Association. “This will enable fans in Florida to watch and wager on the Preakness, and have the excitement of seeing a potential Triple Crown winner (Big Brown).”
Since Calder opened its meeting on April 22, the MTHA has not permitted Pimlico to send its signal to Calder.
Thus, Calder and all other Florida horse tracks, Greyhound tracks, and jai-alai frontons to which Calder sends its imported signals, are facing the prospect of not carrying the May 16 Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II), the Preakness and their undercards.
After Tampa Bay Downs ended its season May 4, Calder has been the only Florida track that can take Thoroughbred signals.
The FHBPA has not signed contracts with Calder for its 2008 meeting. The dispute includes a split of future revenues from slot machines, which CDI is considering for Calder. The FHBPA has designated the Thoroughbred Horesmen’s Group to negotiate 2008 contracts on advance deposit wagering on Calder races.
Amid the multi-state dispute over ADWs, horsemen in Kentucky, Ohio, Delaware and Pennsylvania also are prohibiting tracks from sending signals to Calder. Since Calder opened its current meet, the FHBPA has not permitted it to send its signal to tracks outside Florida. With the exception of New York OTB, the Florida horsemen are not permitting ADWs to take bets on Calder races.
“We support the Florida horsemen in their dispute, and we expect that it will be resolved,” Foreman said. “We are making a good faith offer, which includes all eligible Florida tracks. We would not want the fans at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs to not have the Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan.”
Gulfstream is in Hallandale Beach, Fla., about eight miles from Calder. The agreement would permit Pimlico to send its signal to Calder for just two days.
Last year, combined betting on the Preakness card at Calder and other Florida tracks was $4.6 million, according to Calder. That included $840,000 at Calder. Assuming a 21% blended takeout rate, Pimlico, Florida tracks, and the Maryland horsemen divvied up about $970,000 from Florida bets.

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