05/03/2012 11:51AM

Arlington Park, horsemen reach accord


Arlington Park and its horsemen reached an agreement on a purse contract for the 2012 meet late on Wednesday night, ending an unofficial boycott of the track’s entry box and averting a blackout in the state of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

The one-year agreement provides for an average of $250,000 in overnight purses for the 90-day meet, according to officials for both Arlington and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. Under the agreement, the track has agreed to distribute the proceeds from a $26 million payout in casino subsidies last year over the course of both the 2012 and 2013 meets, with the overnight purse levels guaranteed at the $250,000 level.

Arlington took entries for both its Friday opening-day card and its Saturday card while negotiations were ongoing. The Friday card drew 52 horses in nine races, while the Saturday card drew 57 horses.

Arlington had cut the purses for the two cards by 20 percent before the negotiations being concluded, and those cuts will remain in place until the new purse levels go into effect, the officials said.

In a show of solidarity with the Illinois horsemen during the talks, the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association withdrew its approval for the transmission of the signal from Churchill Downs into Illinois – four days before the Kentucky Derby. On Thursday morning, Marty Maline, the executive director of the Kentucky horsemen’s group, said that the horsemen were already in the process of notifying the appropriate parties to restore the Churchill signal to the state, and he said he anticipated that the track’s signal would be sent to Illinois sites beginning with Thursday’s card.

Although the contract guarantees purse money over two years, officials involved in the negotiations said they struck a one-year deal because of the uncertainty on Illinois’s political landscape, where the legalization of racetrack casinos and the prospect of legislative aid for the racing industry are perennial issues.

“The legislative issues in the state are so dynamic that we can’t consider anything longer than one year,” said Tony Petrillo, Arlington’s general manager. “The industry here is just so up and down. There’s so many issues, and so many balls in the air.”

Hero of Order in starter allowance

Louisiana Derby winner Hero of Order is entered in a $40,000 starter allowance race at one mile on turf on Saturday’s card at Arlington. Hero of Order, owned and trained by Gennadi Dorochenko, pulled off a staggering upset in the $1 million Louisiana Derby, beating favored Mark Valeski by a half-length at 109-1. The colt, a $3,000 sales purchase, ran back in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 14 and finished last of 13. Hero of Order had sufficient graded stakes earnings to make the Kentucky Derby field but wasn’t an original nominee to the Triple Crown, and could have started in the Derby only if the connections of fewer than 20 other horses wanted a spot in the race.