10/31/2005 12:00AM

Compromise on Ellis dates

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The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority on Monday approved an agreement between Churchill Downs and its horsemen calling for a 36-day meet at Churchill's Ellis Park in 2006.

Churchill had earlier proposed that Ellis's live race meet be pared to 29 days in 2006, down from 41 in 2005, because of dwindling field sizes and handle. Horsemen had rejected that plan, sending the two to the negotiating table as the authority's deadline of Oct. 31 to approve dates for 2006 approached.

Marty Maline, the executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said that the KHBPA had agreed to the 36-day proposal because Churchill had agreed to race five days a week - instead of four under the 29-day proposal - and because Churchill had added a week to the end of its summer meet at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Purses at Churchill's summer meet average $460,000 a day, compared with $120,000 a day at Ellis.

"Our board really didn't like the four-day week, and with that extra money at Churchill, they felt they had something they could live with," Maline said.

The Ellis Park meet will start on July 17 and run until Labor Day, Sept. 4.

Also at the meeting, the authority rejected a plan to award dates to a group that had planned to open a Standardbred and Quarter Horse track in eastern Kentucky next year. The group has not yet been licensed, and the authority's legal counsel, Linda Underwood, said that the authority could not issue dates to an unlicensed entity.

The group was supported by John Cashman, an authority member who is a Standardbred owner and breeder, but a motion to award the dates on the condition that the group receive a license by the end of the year was rejected by the other six members present at the Monday meeting. The group still plans to push for a license by the end of the year, with a plan to race in 2007.