07/05/2017 9:06AM

Fee dispute limits tracks available for wagering at Kentucky simulcast facilities

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Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg is recovering from double pneumonia.

Some horseplayers who visited Ellis Park or another in-state simulcast facility during the opening four-day weekend of the western Kentucky track’s meet undoubtedly were dismayed to discover that some of their favorite tracks were unavailable for watching and wagering.

A fee dispute between Ellis and Monarch Contract Management, the provider of simulcast signals for tracks owned by The Stronach Group and others, led Ellis owner Ron Geary to suspend wagering on Gulfstream, Santa Anita, Laurel, Monmouth, and other tracks under the Monarch umbrella. Del Mar, which starts July 19, also is a Monarch signal.

Since Ellis is the designated host track for Kentucky through Sept. 4, wagering on those tracks also is banned at all state simulcast facilities, including Churchill Downs in Louisville, The Red Mile in Lexington, and Turfway Park in northern Kentucky.

Geary, the Louisville businessman who bought Ellis in 2006 from Churchill Downs Inc., said he had a telephone discussion with Monarch representatives just before the 31-day meet opened Saturday, and “it didn’t go well.”

Geary said proposed fees included a 52 percent hike for Gulfstream and an increase of more than 40 percent for Santa Anita. “It was really a shocker to us,” he said. “We tallied all the numbers – a very devastating hit not only to Ellis Park but also to the Kentucky horsemen. It’s just untenable.”

Geary said he was uncertain as to whether the dispute will be resolved.

“It’s got to be financially feasible for all parties,” he said. “At this point, we have to have some improvements from what they put on the table.”

Wagering is still available on the Monarch tracks in Kentucky through online advance-deposit wagering sites.

Van Berg on the improve

Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg continues to improve from a recent bout with double pneumonia and could return next week from his Arkansas home to his stable at Churchill, according to his son, Tom Van Berg.

Jack Van Berg, 81, returned to his Midwest roots in 2014 after more than 20 years in California. Tom Van Berg, a former trainer whose last starter came in January 2008, said his dad recently convinced him to take out an assistant trainer’s license to help during his absence.

“He’s milking it for all it’s worth, having me run up and down the road to Ellis for him,” the younger Van Berg said with a laugh.

In a more serious vein: “He’s doing better. It takes him a little longer to get back up when he gets knocked down.”

Bridgmohan on the fence

Shaun Bridgmohan told Ellis publicity he is considering remaining in Kentucky instead of riding regularly at Saratoga after the veteran jockey began the meet by winning with 3 of his first 7 mounts. Bridgmohan has been a Saratoga fixture every summer since 1998, except for 2005, when he was by far the leading jockey at Arlington Park.

“If [Ellis] continues to be good to me, I might just change my mind,” said Bridgmohan, who lives with his wife and two sons just east of Louisville in Oldham County.

If Bridgmohan stays, Julien Leparoux and Florent Geroux will be the only Kentucky regulars riding daily at Saratoga.

◗ Trainer Eddie Kenneally said the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes on Aug. 4 at Saratoga is under consideration for Parlor after the colt went from last to first as the odds-on favorite in a turf allowance on closing night at Churchill.