As Handle Drops, Ohio Thoroughbred Fund Takes Hit

A decrease in handle in Ohio so far this year has led the Ohio State Racing Commission to reduce funding for the Ohio Thoroughbred Race Fund.

The fund's advisory board, which made the recommendation, anticipates 2004 revenue of $2.9 million, or $550,000 less than was budgeted for the year. The racing commission approved the request at its May 21 meeting.

Through May 15, total handle in the state was $181.49 million, down 7.0% from the same period in 2003. Thoroughbred handle totaled $97.60 million, down 5.5% with three fewer racing dates, while Standardbred handle totaled $83.88 million, down 8.7% with 15 more racing dates.

The racing commission will now examine the Ohio Standardbred Development Fund budget and could take action at its next meeting June 11.

In changes to the Thoroughbred program, purses for overnight races for Ohio-registered or -accredited horses will be reduced by $200,000. Beulah Park, River Downs, and Thistledown will schedule fewer state-bred races to enact the cuts.

Supplements will decline by $70,000 under a scheme by which Ohio-breds must win for a claiming price of $10,000 or more before supplements are awarded. That plan will result in a small reduction in breeders' awards. In addition, promotional spending was reduced by $13,000.

During a racing commission meeting last December, it was announced the OTRF would be reduced by 15%--$500,000--for 2004. At that time, the advisory board said two 2-year-old stakes that make up the Best of Ohio program would be scrapped and replaced with existing stakes that would move to that day.

The OTRF also won't contribute any funding to Ohio State University for research this year. In December of last year, the Thoroughbred industry's share of grant money to the university for 2004 was cut from $200,000 to $100,000. During that same meeting, the Standardbred industry's share was increased from $65,000 to $100,000, but that apparently could change June 11.

Racing commission chairman Scott Borgemenke called the cuts regrettable but necessary.