08/31/2010 3:45PM

Hawthorne cuts stakes purses, live days for fall meet

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CHICAGO – The Illinois Racing Board has granted Hawthorne Race Course permission to impose deep cuts in its stakes schedule this fall while reducing its race week to just four days.

The Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup, a fixture on Chicago’s annual graded stakes schedule, and the only graded dirt race for older horses locally available, has had its purse reduced from $500,000 to $250,000. Eliminated from the fall meet stakes schedule was the $100,000 Indian Maid; the purse for the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby will be reduced from $250,000 to $150,000, while the Robert Carey Handicap will be trimmed from $150,000 to $100,000.

Sundays were taken out of Hawthorne’s weekly racing schedule, with racing now scheduled to be conducted Wednesday to Saturday during a meet that begins Oct. 1 and runs through early January.

The changes were approved by an 8-0 vote at the Racing Board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday in downtown Chicago.

Moreover, purses for overnight races will be about 10 percent lower than a year ago when the meet begins, Hawthorne assistant general manager Jim Miller said. Miller said average daily purses, excluding stakes, will start out at about $125,000 per day. The change in purse levels did not require IRB approval.

Hawthorne and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association agreed upon the aggressive changes because of a large purse overpayment that currently exists. The purse account currently is underpaid by about $1.6 million, and after recapture funds are deducted by the track this year, that overpayment will swell to about $3.6 million. The cuts are meant to balance the purse account by the end of 2010. Miller said that purse increases were possible during the meet depending on betting handle.

◗ The IRB also voted 7-1 to raise the cap from 5 percent to 9 percent on rates that can be charged to Illinois account-wagering providers by out-of-state racetracks. The new cap goes into effect on Thursday.

Plans to cap out-of-state account-wagering signal rates were put in place last January, with the actual 5-percent ceiling taking effect on July 12. Several tracks, most notably Saratoga and Del Mar, were taken off the account-wagering menu available to Illinois residents when the 5-percent cap took effect, and since that time, IRB staff reported, Illinois account-wagering handle has declined 47-percent on an average daily basis.

While raising the rate cap, the IRB also enacted restrictions on what it describes as anti-competitive practices that might be employed by account-wagering providers. The new IRB rule forbids the bundling of different signals at a single high rate as well as the imposition of what the Board considers excessively high fees.