07/29/2001 11:00PM

Hialeah sued for unpaid bills


MIAMI - The 2001 Hialeah meeting ended more than two months ago, but the battle to collect money owed by the track is far from over.

Churchill Downs Inc. filed suit last Friday in Miami-Dade County Court seeking to recover approximately $185,000 that Churchill said is owed by Hialeah Park for simulcast signals sent to Hialeah from Churchill Downs and Hollywood Park.

"Hialeah signed a basic simulcasting contract to import the signal from Churchill Downs's spring meet and Hollywood Park's spring-summer meet," said Karl Schmidt Jr., senior vice president of communications for Churchill Downs Inc. "They owe approximately $123,000 for the Churchill signal and $62,000 for the Hollywood signal. Once the payment became in arrears more than 30 days, and having exhausted all other avenues, we decided our only recourse was to pursue payment through the legal system."

Bruce Green, attorney for the Florida Benevolent and Protective Association, said on Monday that he is preparing to file a similar suit in the next several weeks on behalf of horsemen, who Green said are still owed nearly $300,000 by Hialeah for checks, drawn on the track's purse account, that did not clear after the meet's end on May 22.

Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida horsemen, said the track ows money to numerous other interests, including $409,807 to the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' Association and approximately $400,000 to Racing Services of Fargo, N.D. Bill Nader, senior vice president of the New York Racing Association, said the association is also owed approximately $50,000 for sending the Belmont signal to Hialeah during the spring meet.

The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering audited horsemen's accounts during the first week of June after Hialeah was slow in transferring $5.3 million in horsemen's monies to Calder when that meet opened on May 24. John Van Lindt, general counsel for Hialeah, explained at the time that the delay was the result of Hialeah's difficulty collecting money owed them from individual interstate and intertrack wagering outlets.

A phone call to Van Lindt on Monday was not returned.