08/21/2014 3:28PM

Hazel Park cuts purses 25 percent


Hazel Park Raceway will cut purses by 25 percent beginning Aug. 29, according to an announcement in the track’s Saturday overnights.

The Detroit-area track is in its first season of Thoroughbred racing in three decades after converting from a harness venue earlier this year.

George Kutlenios, president of the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said the cut was a mutual decision between the horsemen and track management as they wait to see whether purse pool funds will be needed for Northville Downs.

Northville Downs committed to move from harness racing to flat racing this fall, but Kutlenios said the process is well behind schedule. The Detroit-area oval was initially denied a 2014 Thoroughbred racing license by the Michigan Gaming Control Board amid concerns that the track wouldn’t be adequately prepared and funded for live racing, but it was reinstated under the condition that construction met the board’s deadlines.

“We were spending the money we had available for the horsemen at the Hazel Park meet, and at the same time, we were watching to see what would happen with Northville in terms of their conversion of the track,” Kutlenios said. “Northville hasn’t been doing anything to convert their track, so as the meet went on, we were overspending at Hazel Park and spending some of the money we had earmarked for Northville. Now, basically, we’re waiting for the Gaming Board to decide what they’re going to do with Northville.

“Since the Gaming Board has done nothing, we had to start creating some kind of a pool just in case Northville does somehow miraculously convert in the next six weeks,” he added. “It’s a temporary purse cut to make sure we stay on target.”

Hazel Park’s average daily base purse structure for this weekend’s races, before statebred incentives and other bonuses, is $57,350. The average base purse per race is $6,372, while maiden special weight purses start at $9,000 before bonuses.

With a 25 percent reduction, the average daily purse structure on a card without stakes races would be about $43,000.
Kutlenios said the purse structure at Hazel Park would revert back to its original levels if and when Northville Downs officially scraps its plan to host a live Thoroughbred meet in 2014, as approved by the Gaming Control Board.