07/24/2007 11:00PM

Claiming Crown offered to Youbet, TVG


TrackNet Media, the simulcast marketing partnership between Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp., has offered to sell the rights to the seven-race Claiming Crown on Aug. 4 to Television Games Network and Youbet.com, officials of TrackNet and the account-wagering companies said on Wednesday.

If accepted, the offer would give customers of all of the major account-wagering companies the ability to wager on the Claiming Crown, which is being held this year for the first time at Ellis Park in western Kentucky. Since TrackNet was formed earlier this year, the number of signals available on many account-wagering operations - including Youbet.com - has been drastically reduced because of the inability of TrackNet and TVG to reach an agreement to sell the signals each controls to each other.

Scott Daruty, the chief executive officer of TrackNet, said the company decided to sell the signal to TVG and Youbet after a panel discussion regarding the account-wagering market last week at the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association's annual convention. Daruty appeared on the panel with representatives of TVG, Youbet, and the horsemen's association.

"The horsemen were very passionate in their request that we do this," Daruty said. "We wanted to show our good faith to them."

Last year, the Claiming Crown was not shown on TVG for the first time in its eight-year history. Handle on the event's races dropped 50 percent.

Remi Bellocq, the executive director of the national horsemen's association, said on Wednesday that TVG approached the horsemen's group on Monday about donating any profits from the signal to the Claiming Crown, which is a nonprofit owned by the horsemen's group and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. Youbet.com has also said that it will donate any profits from the signal to the Claiming Crown, Bellocq said.

John Hindman, a TVG official, declined to comment on the offer by TrackNet. Hud Englehart, a spokesman for Youbet.com, said the company planned to pay TrackNet for the signal and to donate its profits to Claiming Crown, though he said he did not believe a contract had been signed yet.

Daruty said that TrackNet was offering the signal at the same rate charged to account-wagering operations owned by Churchill and Magna, but that he was unsure if the contracts had been sent out.