05/01/2007 11:00PM

Horsemen ask Churchill to release Derby signal


A group of horsemen's associations on Wednesday joined together in asking that Churchill Downs make the signal for Saturday's Kentucky Derby available to all account-wagering platforms.

The request was made by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. They asked Churchill Downs to make the signal available to Youbet.com and Television Games Network, two large account-wagering operations that have not reached an agreement with Churchill on the right to carry the Derby as well as the signals from other Churchill-owned tracks.

Last week, Youbet said it would refuse to negotiate with Churchill as long as its signal-selling partnership, TrackNet Media, required Youbet to sever its relationship with TVG in order to receive the rights to the signals TrackNet controls. TrackNet controls most of the signals for the tracks owned by Churchill and Magna Entertainment, two publicly owned racetrack operators.

Churchill had previously provided its signal to TVG, but the company is letting its current contracts expire as it launches its own account-wagering platform, Twinspires.com. That platform was launched on Wednesday.

The statement also called for all of the Triple Crown races to be "off the negotiating table" for all account-wagering operators, which would require TVG to make the signal of the Belmont Stakes in June available to its competitors, including TrackNet.

"Citing the Triple Crown's history, its importance to current race fans and to the industry in general in raising awareness and creating new fans for the sport, these horsemen's groups are asking that while negotiations continue, the Triple Crown races should be made available to all distribution outlets," the statement read.

Horsemen's groups hold broad veto rights over racetrack signal agreements. The statement did not say that the horsemen would consider withholding some rights in response to the impasse.