Ohio Horsemen: Purse Formula Costing Us Millions

The Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has called for changes in a formula it said cost Thoroughbred horsemen more than $13 million in 2001 alone. It planned to present a position paper to the National HBPA Jan. 29 during its winter convention.

Using figures from the Ohio State Racing Commission, the Ohio HBPA said that of the $213.4 million wagered on simulcasts at Ohio Standardbred tracks in 2001, 75% was bet on Thoroughbred races. Because of a purse pool formula, horsemen claim they haven't received a proper revenue return.

In Ohio, purse revenue generated from Thoroughbred simulcasts at a Standardbred track on a live racing day is deposited into the purse account at the harness track for harness purses. On dark days, the revenue goes into a fund that is proportionally paid to each of the state's seven tracks based on live handle.

The Ohio HBPA said Standardbred purses received more than $6 million from wagering on Thoroughbred simulcasts on live racing days in 2001, and $7.3 million from wagering on Thoroughbred simulcasts on dark days during the same year. The organization also said another $3 million has gone to harness purses since 1996 from dark-day simulcast revenue.

"The Ohio HBPA feels that purse money earned from wagering on Thoroughbred horse races should be invested in purses for Thoroughbred horse races," the position paper says.

The Ohio HBPA proposes that all simulcast revenue be deposited in a fund administered by the racing commission, and that contributions be separated by breed. The HBPA wants distributions to be made to each track based on live handle for the breed on which the wager was made.

Jim Morgan, a member of the Ohio HBPA board of directors, projected that Thoroughbred purses in Ohio would increase by 40% if the formula were changed. All affected parties in the state -- four Thoroughbred tracks, three harness tracks, and horsemen for both breeds -- must agree to a change to avoid having it go to the legislature.

Though the position paper is to be presented to the National HBPA, the organization as a matter of policy doesn't interfere with affiliate business. However, affiliates on their own have taken action -- refusing to send signals to certain tracks, for example -- if they believe certain activities aren't in the best interest of Thoroughbred racing.