10/16/2005 11:00PM

Churchill seeks Ellis cut


Churchill Downs Inc. advocated a 12-day reduction in 2006 live racing dates for Churchill-owned Ellis Park at a Monday meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, but officials of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association balked at the plan.

Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs and Ellis, told commissioners that the reduction would allow Ellis Park to increase its average daily purse distribution to $125,000. Marty Maline, the executive director of the horsemen's association, countered that horsemen were opposed to the plan because of Churchill's proposal to race only four days a week, down from five days a week at Ellis Park this year.

The racing authority tabled the Ellis dates proposal, citing a law that allows the commission to approve racing dates as late as Nov. 1. Authority members also pointed out, however, that the authority, by statute, would be unable to approve fewer than 41 dates at Ellis without agreement from the horsemen. The track ran 41 days this year.

Sexton said after the meeting that officials from the track and horsemen's group would meet again in the next two weeks to seek a compromise.

The authority approved 2006 dates for all other racetracks in Kentucky, including Churchill's plan to add a week of racing to its spring meet at Churchill Downs. The 2006 Churchill spring meet will run 57 days, from April 29 to July 16. The track's spring 2005 meet ran 52 days.

The commission also approved a Churchill Downs request to alter its pick six rules so that any Churchill race taken off the turf after the close of pick-six betting will have all tickets considered a winner for that race. The rule is identical to one in place in New York.