06/18/2009 11:00PM

Hoosier playing favorites, says racing secretary


Raymond "Butch" Cook, the racing secretary at Indiana Downs and Hoosier Park in Indiana, has accused the owners of Hoosier of guaranteeing stall allocations to nine trainers in exchange for getting horsemen's support for legislation that would provide relief to the racetrack.

In a letter mailed to the members of the Indiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, Cook stated that officials at Hoosier told him that his "job would be in serious jeopardy" if he did not grant a specific allotment of stalls to the nine trainers. Cook said in the letter and in an interview on Thursday that he did not plan to honor the request by Hoosier management. He is scheduled to announce his stall allocations for Hoosier on Friday. The Hoosier meet begins July 30.

"I will allot the stalls at my sole discretion," Cook said. "I understand that deals are cut all the time, but Hoosier has gone too far in this, and I'm not going to go along with it."

The Indiana horsemen's association issued a letter in response to Cook's statement that said the organization supports Cook and that it would "support an inquiry of this matter by the Indiana Racing Commission" if Cook is fired or resigns. Two of the nine trainers who Cook said were guaranteed stalls are members of the horsemen's board.

"The Indiana HBPA does not and cannot condone any unfair or unethical conduct affecting the assignment of stalls or other practices affecting the integrity of Thoroughbred racing," the letter states.

Joe Gorajec, the executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, said in an interview on Thursday that the commission does not have the power to determine how Hoosier allots its stalls, but that the commission can refuse to approve the appointment of a new racing secretary if Cook is fired or resigns. Gorajec also outlined that view in a letter he sent a letter to Rod Ratcliff, the chief executive officer of Centaur, Inc., the company that owns Hoosier.

Ratcliff and officials at Hoosier did not return phone calls on Thursday.

Hoosier and Indiana Downs both recently paid $250-million license fees for the right to operate slot machines at their tracks, but revenues from the operations have fallen short of expectations. The tracks are attempting to get legislation passed during the current special session of the state legislation that would lower the amount of money they pay to the state from the slots.