05/23/2008 11:00PM

Horsemen sue Churchill

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Kentucky horsemen have sued Churchill Downs Inc., countering a recent suit by the company in their ongoing contractual battle over simulcast and account-wagering revenues.

The suit, filed Friday in federal court by the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, claims Churchill is in violation of its existing contract and is costing the horsemen millions of dollars in purses. In addition, the horsemen's association has asked the court to halt the 20-percent purse cut that Churchill Downs implemented May 14.

The horsemen's suit is in response to a Churchill lawsuit that claims horsemen have violated federal antitrust laws through the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group, an organization that is negotiating a new contract with Churchill Downs Inc. on behalf of horsemen in Kentucky and other states.

Among their claims in the Friday suit, the horsemen's association said that bets placed through Churchill's primary account-wagering network, Twinspires.com, must result in the same percentage of money deposited in the purse account as if the bets were made ontrack. The horsemen claim they are receiving less of each dollar bet via Twinspires.com than from ontrack wagers.

Wagering on Churchill races through Twinspires.com and another major account-wagering network, XpressBet, has been suspended since the spring meet began April 26. Exceptions were made for the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic because of a contractual agreement.