04/26/2005 11:00PM

Fairmount Park track report


While cagey legislators have a knack for finding money in the strangest of places, square paper scraps of litter found on the floors of Thoroughbred simulcast parlors rank among the more unusual revenue streams. But in late February, the Illinois House unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Collinsville Democrat Jay Hoffman whereby funds generated from unclaimed winning simulcast tickets at Fairmount Park will remain in Fairmount Park's possession to help defray operational fees and fatten stakes purses.

Currently, these found funds go to whichever track has been appointed the simulcast host track for that set of dates, said Lanny Brooks, executive director of Fairmount's Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. Since Fairmount has never been granted host-track status, the lost funds - estimated at $300,000 to $400,000 per year - invariably flow northward to one of the three Chicago tracks. This potential windfall is especially critical in light of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's steadfast opposition to slot machines at Fairmount Park. Blagojevich has indicated support for Hoffman's measure, which is expected to begin its smooth journey toward passage in the Illinois State Senate next week.

* Fairmount sold out its reserved Black Stallion and First Turn Cafe seating areas for the upcoming Kentucky Derby simulcast in 90 minutes Monday, which Brooks believes to be record time.

"When you think there's no marquee horse this year, it's unbelievable," says Brooks, evidently not the biggest admirer of likely Derby favorite Bellamy Road. "They even sold out all the stools in the snack bar."

* Brooks will be holding a fund-raiser for Rep. Hoffman in the First Turn Cafe on Friday night. The event is open to the public, who, in return for a $50 entry fee/contribution to Hoffman's campaign coffers, will be able to feast and imbibe to their hearts' content by virtue of an all-you-can eat pasta buffet and open bar.

"Last year, it was a huge success," Brooks said of the annual Hoffman fete. "We sold sponsorships and let people get their pictures taken in the winner's circle with Jay. He's been very good to the horsemen over the years."