Illinois Harness Tracks Impacted by Entry Box Boycott

The Jan. 2 closing-day Thoroughbred program at Hawthorne Race Course may be the last live racing action of any kind in the Chicago area for a while. A dispute over purses has resulted in cancellation of harness racing at Balmoral Park and Maywood Park on the first two days of the New Year.

The harness tracks Thursday said horsemen had not provide sufficient entries to fill the Jan. 1 and Jan. 3 cards.

The Illinois Harness Horsemen's Association for the past several years has battled track officials over purse money. In 2003, an entry-box boycott led to a nearly three-month shutdown of harness racing. Racing resumed when the tracks agreed to postpone "recapture" of revenue lost due to a swing from wagering on live racing to full-card simulcasting.

Both sides in the current dispute said they appear to be at an impasse, with no further negotiations scheduled. Balmoral, located in far south Suburban Crete, and Maywood, in the near- west suburb of the same name, will remain open for simulcasting despite the cancellation of live racing.

The end of Hawthorne's meet begins a nearly two-month "dark" period for Chicago-area Thoroughbred racing. The National Jockey Club meeting at Hawthorne opens Feb. 24, 2006.

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