07/03/2008 11:00PM

Horsemen will try to have Ellis reopen


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Representatives of Kentucky horsemen said they will make a formal proposal Sunday to Ellis Park owner Ron Geary in an attempt to conduct racing at the Henderson, Ky., track, which did not open as scheduled for a 44-day meet on Friday.

Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said Friday at Churchill Downs that while horsemen "will not back down" from their stance of demanding one-third of revenues from account wagering, they are willing to make other monetary concessions.

Geary, the Louisville businessman who bought Ellis from Churchill in September 2006, formally announced the closing of Ellis on Thursday. The previous day, a U.S. District Court judge in Owensboro, Ky., denied permission for Ellis to offer account wagering on its races.

Churchill, which closes Sunday, has been stalemated with Kentucky horsemen on the account-wagering issue since its meet opened April 26. Wagering on Churchill races through major networks such as XpressBet and Twinspires has not been permitted during that time. Horsemen are also seeking one-third of account-wagering revenues from Churchill.

Geary and the horsemen both have said they are willing to continue talking, but if nothing happens and Ellis remains shuttered, unresolved issues beg for solutions, including where - if anywhere - or when live racing might take place on the Kentucky circuit until Turfway Park begins its fall meet Sept. 3, as well as the designating of a "host" track if there is substantial down time. Kentucky racing gives a larger share of out-of-state simulcast revenues to the track that is conducting live racing.

Turfway and Churchill are both open for training through the summer and conceivably could host some of the Ellis dates, but the presidents of both tracks said Friday that no serious discussion has been held.

"We've told the horsemen we would sit down to talk, but that's as far as it's gone," said Turfway president Bob Elliston.

"We're just letting this unfold," said Churchill president Steve Sexton. "In the meantime we'll leave all options open."

Geary, who was unavailable Friday, has not said what he intends for the Ellis property if it remains closed. Ellis normally had been open for simulcasting when not conducting live racing but has been closed for that purpose, although the track remains open for training to the 300 or so horses still in the stable area. According to the Ellis website, the track is still open for unfinished business with vendors and to host unemployment seminars.

Ellis, built in 1922 as Dade Park, has operated a race meet every year since 1925.