04/22/2016 10:16AM

Arlington, horsemen pledge to continue negotiations


A federal judge on Thursday denied a request by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association for a temporary restraining order that would prohibit a rival horsemen’s organization from negotiating with Arlington International Racecourse on a purse contract, noting that the rival group had said that it had no intention of maintaining discussions with the track.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Manish Shah did little to change the circumstances surrounding the dispute between Arlington and the ITHA, and both said in statements after the ruling that they would seek to reopen talks on a purse contract. Arlington’s meet is scheduled to start May 6, the day prior to the Kentucky Derby.

The ITHA filed the suit Monday, alleging collusion between Arlington, the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, and the Illinois Racing Board to disenfranchise the ITHA in talks with Arlington. The suit sought to block the ITBOF from reaching an agreement with Arlington on a purse contract for Arlington’s upcoming meet. Dan Sullivan, the president of the ITBOF, told the judge during a hearing Wednesday that the ITBOF did not intend to negotiate the agreement.

“Now that ITBOF has retreated, urgent equitable relief is not necessary,” Shah wrote.

Under federal law, racetracks must have an agreement with local horsemen before they can accept out-of-state wagers on their races.

In a statement, Tony Petrillo, the general manager of Arlington, called the ITHA suit “meritless” and “frivolous,” but he said track officials “are ready to get back to work” on “negotiating a sensible and fair contract.”

David McCaffery, the executive director of the ITHA, said the organization “will continue to pursue a contract with Arlington on terms that benefit all horsemen in Illinois.”