It's Crunch Time as Ohio Negotiates Dates Deal

Racing interests in Ohio continued to negotiate Oct. 27 to seal the deal on a 2005 live racing schedule that would reduce dates for Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing by more than 10%.

The Ohio State Racing Commission awarded dates during an Oct. 20 meeting, but in the absence of a nine-party agreement between three Thoroughbred tracks, four Standardbred tracks, and two horsemen's associations, the commission said it would meet again Nov. 2 if necessary to award the minimum number of dates allowable by law. If that's the case, the schedule would revert to 1991 levels and offer fewer racing dates than the number contained in the commission's proposal.

The racing commission issued a press release to that effect Oct. 27. Bob Reeves, a member of the Ohio HBPA board of directors, said he remains hopeful the nine-party deal will be signed before the Nov. 2 meeting.

"It's still in play," Reeves said.

The racing commission had set Oct. 26 as the deadline to receive the signed nine-party deal. By law, the agreement must be in place to allow any reduction in live dates.

Under the Thoroughbred dates approved by the commission, Thistledown near Cleveland would race 154 dates next year, down 17.6% from this year. Beulah Park near Columbus would race 135 dates, down 5.6%. River Downs near Cincinnati would race 99 dates, down 18.8%.

Beulah Park, however, would offer 106 more races under a plan endorsed by local horsemen, who would rather have more racing opportunities for lower average purses. At Thistledown, the number of races would decline 19%, and at River Downs, 22%.

Should the schedule revert to 1991 levels, Beulah Park would take the biggest hit in number of racing days, commissioner Norm Barron said during the Oct. 20 meeting. Harness dates also would be further reduced under that scenario.