11/13/2003 1:00AM

Churchill withholds signals


In a standoff that took a new twist on Thursday, Churchill Downs Simulcast Network withheld all of its signals, including Churchill Downs, Hollywood Park, Calder Race Course, and Hoosier Park, from the more than one dozen tracks that make up the Southern Racing Cooperative.

The Churchill network and the cooperative have been in talks regarding simulcast rates since at least Tuesday, Hollywood's opening day, when the cooperative tracks chose not to import the Hollywood program. The parties were still in discussions on Thursday, even after the signals were withdrawn by Churchill.

The cooperative issued a statement on Thursday that stated, in part, "The Southern Racing Cooperative member tracks have always been willing to operate under the provisions of the current agreement, which extends through 2004, but cannot accept a unilaterally forced change to the rates defined in that agreement."

Julie Koenig, director of communications for Churchill Downs, Inc., parent company of Churchill Downs, Hollywood, Calder, and Hoosier, confirmed that no CDSN signals were being sent to members of the cooperative. The network, headed by president Karl Schmitt, had no further comment on the issue at the present time, said Koenig.

At least 13 tracks make up the cooperative, which works together as a buying and selling arm in simulcast signal trading. Among the members are Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, Lone Star Park, Prairie Meadows, Sam Houston Race Park, Delta Downs, Retama Park, Sunland Park, Sun Ray Park, Beulah Park, Manor Downs, Gulf Greyhound, and Fonner Park.

The group's spokesman, Bobby Geiger, is simulcast director at Oaklawn.

"We're disappointed in today's events, but there still is dialog and we still hope to work through this," he said. "Despite what's gone on today, I'm optimistic we can find a way out."