08/13/2010 7:09PM

Hawthorne purse cuts being discussed


CHICAGO – The fall-winter meet at Hawthorne Race Course may be in trouble before it even begins. Open stakes purses at Hawthorne’s upcoming meet could be slashed by $700,000, with the Hawthorne Gold Cup purse possibly halved from $500,000 to $250,000. The Hawthorne racing week might be reduced from five days to four, with an overnight purse cut also being considered.

Mike Campbell, president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, confirmed on Friday that the cuts have been the subject of discussions between Hawthorne management and the ITHA. The fall-winter meet at Hawthorne will begin with a $3.6 million purse overpayment on the books, and Hawthorne wants to come into its spring 2011 meeting with no overpayment to the purse account.

“We are going to have to look at ways to fix that,” Campbell said. “They can no longer afford to carry us, and we have to work at marginalizing that at year’s end. In an effort to get to that point, where we have no overpayment, the horsemen have agreed to look at options.”

Hawthorne assistant general manager Jim Miller said that no final decision has been made regarding purse cuts or trimming the race week. Changes would require approval from the Illinois Racing Board, which next meets on Aug. 31. Hawthorne’s meet begins Oct. 1, with conditions books to be released the second week of September, Miller said.

“Nothing’s been decided as of yet,” said Miller. “We’re exploring all options right now. We still have a month and a half before the meet.”

Miller said Hawthorne still is holding out hope that millions of dollars in funds collected from four Illinois casinos will become available before the meet begins. The casinos were forced by a state law to make payments from their adjusted gross receipts to the Illinois racing industry, but a series of lawsuits filed by the casinos has kept the money from being distributed. An ongoing civil suit is stuck in court as a judge awaits the outcome of the trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was in office when the casino impact-fee legislation was passed.