Updated on 09/17/2011 10:14PM

Louisiana HBPA outlines alternative plan


The head of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the major Thoroughbred horsemen's group in the state, on Monday evening outlined an alternative plan to the one informally introduced by Churchill Downs Inc. concerning a replacement meet at Louisiana Downs for the upcoming Fair Grounds racing season.

Sean Alfortish, president of the La. HBPA since March, agreed that racing at Fair Ground itself was untenable this season, but said his organization preferred a longer meet than the one outlined by CDI on Friday. A CDI official suggested that a meet of 18 to 20 days could be held during December at Louisiana Downs, but Alfortish said the HBPA would like the meet to run from late November through the end of February or the beginning of March.

"Our official position, we want to have no less than a 45-day meet," said Alfortish. "It's very important that we start racing on the traditional Thanksgiving opening date."

The Louisiana Racing Commission awarded Fair Grounds an 83-day meet beginning Nov. 24.

Under the La. HBPA plan, racing would be conducted four days a week at Louisiana Downs, with daily purses in the $250,000 range, Alfortish said.

"We'd still like to run the Louisiana Derby and the premiere stakes for 3-year-olds," said Alfortish.

Alfortish said he has been in regular contact with officials at CDI and Louisiana Downs. He described negotiations between the two parties over moving the Fair Grounds meet to Louisiana Downs, located about 340 miles northwest of New Orleans, as positive.

"I'd say they're getting pretty close to a basic agreement," Alfortish said.

Alfortish said CDI was "receptive" to the HBPA proposal. "They're calculating how they can make it work under that scenario," he said.

According to Alfortish, an attorney with a practice in the New Orleans area, Fair Grounds has about $8 million in its purse account, money that has somehow to be paid out to horsemen during an upcoming season. Alfortish said the HBPA calculations about race days and purse structure were based on the existing purse fund and additional purse money that could be earned through simulcast handle.