02/09/2011 7:55PM

Delaware Park assigned 106 race dates for 2011

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The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission on Wednesday assigned Delaware Park 106 racing dates for the 2011 calendar year, serving to break a logjam in negotiations between the track and its horsemen, according to the commission’s executive director.

Delaware and its horsemen had an existing agreement to run 116 live race dates in 2011, but the two groups began negotiating over a new arrangement this winter when the track asked the horsemen for permission to run fewer live racing days in response to horse shortages affecting racetracks nationwide.

When the two sides could not come to terms, they asked the racing commission to hear their arguments and approve a specific amount of dates, according to the commission’s executive director, John Wayne.

Wayne said the commission listened to two hours of testimony before voting unanimously to award the 106 dates.

“The commission heard compelling stories from both the track and the horsemen,” Wayne said.

Delaware has flexibility on when it will run the days. Last year the track was approved to run 116 live race dates, although 113 were ultimately run after three cards were canceled because of excessive heat. The meet ran from May until November.

Racetracks across the country have been experiencing difficulty in maintaining full fields at a time when betting handle is declining. As a result, many tracks have been cutting race dates from their schedules.

Delaware Park is expected to face renewed competition for horses this summer from Maryland, where purses are expected to rise considerably because of subsidies from slot machines at new casinos in the state.

Delaware will also likely once again compete this year with Monmouth Park in New Jersey for the same class of horses. Last year Monmouth offered $800,000 a day in average purses, tops in the nation, but the casino subsidy providing for the record amount of purses expired last year.