Updated on 05/01/2012 5:38PM

Arlington: Opening-day entries pushed back as contract dispute continues

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Arlington Park’s opening-meet card on May 4 was not drawn as scheduled Tuesday due to an ongoing contractual dispute between Arlington and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. Meanwhile, the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, in support of the ITHA, began withholding the Churchill Downs simulcast signal from Illinois tracks Tuesday, jeopardizing Arlington’s presentation of the Kentucky Oaks on Friday and the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

The ITHA has not formally urged an entry boycott, but late Tuesday afternoon only 51 horses had been entered in 15 different races, and only three races had sufficient entries to be used on the racecard. Friday entries will be reopened Wednesday morning.

Rancor between the ITHA and Arlington began building last August and has percolated ever since. Last week, a rift between the two parties regarding a contract for the 2012 race meet developed, and so far, Arlington and the ITHA have made little progress in resolving their differences.

Arlington’s proposed 2012 contract included dramatic changes, such as depriving the horsemen’s group of their right to withhold distribution of the Arlington simulcast signal and ceding all decisions regarding such essential issues as setting purses and writing condition books to the track.

The ITHA proposed its own contract that, while less radical than Arlington’s, sought significant changes from recent precedent. Glenn Berman, executive director of the ITHA, said late Tuesday that the group had removed what they considered the proposed contract’s most objectionable language after a meeting of the ITHA board Tuesday. Berman said he phoned Arlington general manager Tony Petrillo to outline the changes before sending a written copy of the new proposal to Arlington.

“He told us it was a non-starter,” said Berman.

Petrillo said Arlington “wanted to work from where we have worked from in the past.” However, Arlington has not yet revised the proposed contract that the ITHA did not find acceptable. Arlington said it asked the ITHA over the weekend to put in place the two parties’ 2011 contract while negotiations continued for another 30 days. Berman, however, said the ITHA preferred to resolve the issue before the meet.

Arlington announced late Tuesday that, as per an ultimatum issued last weekend, purses would be cut 20 percent beginning  opening day because the ITHA hadn’t agreed to a contract for the meet.

* On Monday, the Illinois Racing Board granted Arlington’s belated request to race Wednesday and Friday to Sunday until July. In its 2012 dates request, Arlington had asked to race Thursdays rather than Wednesdays early in the meet, but began advertising Wednesday racing and selling tickets for the day in recent months. The horsemen opposed the request, saying that Thursday racing generated more betting handle, but the Illinois Racing Board granted Arlington’s request by a 4-3 vote.