By Bob Kieckhefer
The Illinois Racing Board agreed July 26 to require race tracks to include "field size bonus" money in the base purse amount used to calculate owners' and breeders' awards.
Board staff said a decades-old legal interpretation of Illinois racing laws indicates such bonuses should be used in the calculations but not all tracks have been figuring awards that way.
Officials of Fairmount Park, which has not been calculating the bonuses into purse totals, said they will make the change. "We would have done this from the beginning if the horsemen had requested it," said Fairmount General Manager Brian Zander.
He said the amount involved to date this year at Fairmount is about $20,000.
Fairmount instituted the bonuses this year in a successful effort to increase field sizes. An $800 bonus is added to the purse for any race with eight or more starters.
The board, meeting at Arlington Park, also voted to reduce the allowable tested level of phenylbutazone from 5 micrograms to 2 micrograms in all races, and to establish a threshold of 100 nanograms of caffeine per milliliter in tested samples. The latter limit will exclude from penalties what the staff called "environmental contamination" through incidental contact.
The IRB did not act on a request to develop guidelines for canceling races due to inclement weather. It did, however, commend Arlington and Fairmount for their response to the recent extreme heat and the Chicago-area harness tracks for agreeing to changes in Thoroughbred post times prompted by the weather conditions.