Horsemen to Tackle CDI Issues, Industry at Large

Horsemen's associations based at Churchill Downs Inc.-owned racetracks will meet June 6 to address common concerns related to CDI and the pari-mutuel industry at large, officials said.

Horsemen representatives from California, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, and Louisiana are scheduled to attend. The meeting was organized by the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

"I look at it as a sharing of information on various issues," said Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky HBPA. "It's an opportunity to get back to the scenario where all horsemen's groups are on the same page regarding issues of importance."

Maline said the meeting wasn't called to only discuss issues related to CDI, though all the participants have the racetrack company in common. Thoroughbred Owners of California president Drew Couto, who plans to attend, indicated the TOC is concerned about the relationship between CDI and horsemen.

The TOC has been outspoken in its disdain for the situation surrounding CDI-owned Hollywood Park, which is rumored for sale. The company has a policy of not commenting on rumors, but the TOC has said horsemen must be kept in the loop so they can plan for the future.

"The frustration among horsemen is very high with Churchill Downs," Couto said. "We're meeting (June 6) to talk about the experiences we've had, how in common they are, and to exchange information."

Another horsemen's representative said there is some unhappiness with the Churchill Downs Simulcast Network, which packages all the company's signals and sells them to industry importers. The individual said horsemen were told they are partners with CDI, but they feel like "an afterthought."

Maline said jockey insurance, medication, and declining purses would be discussed by the horsemen's representatives. The National HBPA, at least, repeatedly has said it believes horsemen aren't receiving a sufficient share of revenue from handle.

One recent example is Turfway Park, which didn't send its signal to New York City Off-Track Betting parlors during its winter/spring meet after the corporation offered only 1% for the signal. The industry standard is 3%.

Maline said horsemen decided not sending the signal was the proper action. "At what point would they come back and offer a half a percent, and then a stale ham sandwich?" Maline said. "At some point, you have to feel your signal is worth something. We can't afford to make deals we feel aren't equitable. We will probably address that, at least from Kentucky's perspective. Horsemen have to decide what our signal is worth."

Maline also said the Kentucky HBPA is anxious to hear from other horsemen's associations about the plan for a uniform national medication policy. The Kentucky HBPA opposed the change in the state's race-day drug policy, but it was approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.

The June 6 meeting is important in the sense that it involves horsemen's groups affiliated with different umbrella organizations. The TOC, the largest state owners' association in the country, is independent. But horsemen in Florida, Kentucky, and Louisiana belong to the National HBPA, while the Illinois group is affiliated with the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.