08/28/2008 11:00PM

Churchill slashes stakes purses

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs announced Friday a stakes purse cut of $975,000 for its fall meet, citing a decline in handle caused by an ongoing dispute between Kentucky horsemen and the track regarding revenue sharing from account wagering.

Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association president Rick Hiles said Churchill Downs had to reduce purses in keeping with its contract with horsemen, which requires that no more than 30 percent of purse money be allocated to stakes.

Horsemen are seeking a higher percentage of handle from account wagering for purses, something Churchill Downs has said would make its wagering platform, Twinspires.com, unprofitable. Hiles said horsemen would also like the betting signal from Churchill Downs to be available to all account-wagering companies, not just Twinspires.com.

Churchill Downs cut overnight purses by 20 percent in the spring, necessitating the fall stakes reductions, Hiles said. But as a result of the stakes drop, he said, “overnight purses for the fall will be a little more than in a spring but a little less than last fall.”

Churchill Downs’s 26-day fall meet is scheduled to open Oct. 26 and close Nov. 29.

The stakes cutbacks include many of the track’s most prestigious fall races, with five graded stakes races being lowered $100,000 each, and another four graded races dropping $50,000. Additionally, the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere Stakes was trimmed from $200,000 to $175,000.

Two stakes were canceled: a pair of $100,000 five-furlong sprints, the Mariah’s Storm and Cherokee Run.

The lone unaffected stakes race was the Grade 2, $500,000 Clark Handicap Nov. 28.

The 2008 fall meet will now offer 12 stakes – all graded – worth $1,925,000.

Negotiations between the track and horsemen are ongoing.

“We remain hopeful this impasse can be resolved,” Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton said in a release issued by the track.