11/24/2008 12:00AM

Hollywood trims purses by 5 percent

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INGLEWOOD, Calif.-Hollywood Park cut overnight purses 5 percent, effective Wednesday, citing poor business caused by poor economic conditions.

In a two-paragraph statement, track officials said that if a month-long dispute over account wagering revenue had not been resolved last Friday that the cuts would have been more severe.

The latest cut is essentially the third time this fall that the track has reduced purses. Before the meeting began on Oct. 29, overnight purses were reduced by approximately 7 percent in anticipation of slow handle.

On opening day, the track cut overnight purses an additional 6.25 percent, citing the absence of an agreement over account wagering revenue between four account-wagering companies and the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

Through Saturday, the 19th day of the meeting, average daily ontrack handle was $1,019,928, a decline of 12.9 percent from last year, according to figures released by the racetrack. All-sources average handle, which includes intertrack, interstate and account wagering revenue, was $7,693,230, a decline of 16.1 percent. Handle from account wagering was averaging $646,817, a decline of 34.4 percent.

Purses have fallen substantially since last year's meet. A maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles was worth $44,000 at the 2007 fall meeting. After the most recent reduction, the same race was worth $37,000.

The account-wagering dispute, which focused on the on the distribution of revenue of wagers placed by out-of-state customers, ended last Friday, but affected betting for 18 of the track's 40-day meeting. The new agreement will dedicate additional monies from account wagering for purses.

In a statement released Saturday, track president Jack Liebau said the purse cut “would have been far greater had account wagering not been restored.”

“The initial purse schedule had underestimated the adverse impact that economic conditions would have on handle,” Liebau said. He said the “deteriorating economy” had impacted business in recent days.

In the latest round of purse cuts, most races were cut by $1,000, affecting lower class horses more greatly than allowance or maiden special weight races. A first-condition allowance race over six furlongs on turf for fillies and mares has a purse of $38,000, a drop of $1,000, while a $32,000 claiming race for maidens over six furlongs will have a purse of $14,000, down $1,000.

Some purse levels were not reduced. For example, an $8,000 claimer for fillies and mares will have an $8,000 purse, the same prize money advertised in the condition book.