Ohio Tracks Will Go Head-to-Head With Simulcasts

Having failed to devise a schedule that eliminates overlaps, Ohio's three Thoroughbred racetracks have been awarded 2001 dates similar to those of previous years. But in a major change in the Columbus market, Beulah Park and Scioto Downs will go head-to-head in the simulcasting arena.

The Ohio State Racing Commission, during a meeting that spanned Nov. 15-16, approved live racing schedules for 2001 and, as expected, permitted to two Columbus-area tracks to be open year-round for simulcasting. Up to this point, Beulah Park and Scioto Downs were dark for simulcasting while the other track was open for live racing.

There are exceptions for next year under complicated Ohio racing law. For example, when Scioto Downs, a Standardbred track, is open for live racing from early May through the end of September, Beulah Park can't import tracks whose first post time is later than 4 p.m. On the other hand, Beulah Park will use "non-live host days" to have exclusive rights to Saturday afternoon simulcasting.

"There are some big Saturdays for the Thoroughbred product," Beulah Park general manager Mike Weiss said. "We want them for ourselves."
Weiss said he and Scioto Downs general manager Ed Ryan have a "handshake agreement" not to take each other's live signal. The tracks are located about 15 minutes apart.

Scioto Downs' plan to go year-round to maximize revenue was introduced in August, and it created quite a stir at a racing commission meeting at River Downs. But Weiss said negotiations between the two tracks have gone well, and that it's time to see how it all shakes out. (Beulah Park owner Charlie Ruma said in August his track's handle would drop from $400,000 a day to about $275,000 a day.)

"I wouldn't want to call it a war," Weiss said, "but it's definitely going to be a serious battle."

As for live racing, Beulah Park will race 140 days (Jan. 12-May 5, and Sept. 15-Dec. 23). Thistledown near Cleveland will race 187 days (April 6-Dec. 31, with a short break in late August). River Downs will race 121 days (April 13-Sept. 4). The tracks will continue with their "7 & 7" format whereby two programs from each track are treated as one for simulcasting purposes.

In a change from this year, River Downs will be dark Mondays except for July 4 and Labor Day, and will go back to a 12:55 p.m. post time for all racing days. This year, it experimented with a 5 p.m. first post time Friday through Monday, but handle suffered.