03/19/2004 1:00AM

New Indiana OTB could spark border wars


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The first offtrack betting site ever to challenge Churchill Downs-owned Trackside in the Louisville simulcast market is set to open Monday morning in Clarksville, Ind., just several miles across the Ohio River from downtown Louisville.

The new site is operated by Indiana Downs, the suburban Indianapolis track that will begin hosting its second season of live racing next month. Judging by demographics and locale alone, officials in both Kentucky and Indiana are estimating that the new OTB could siphon off from 10 to 25 percent of the current customer base at Trackside, which has been the lone Louisville-area venue since simulcasting began proliferating in the early 1990's. Greg Bush, longtime general manager of Trackside, declined to name a specific figure that Churchill believes the site may lose to Clarksville.

With the arrival of the Clarksville OTB, the major issue facing Kentucky horsemen is whether to allow the site to accept wagers on Kentucky races. At present, the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is withholding the Kentucky signal from Clarksville and an

OTB site in Evansville, Ind., located several miles from Ellis Park, on the premise that Kentucky horsemen and track owners would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if Kentucky racing was available at those sites.

Indiana Downs and its horsemen's representatives recently offered incentives to Kentucky horsemen that would partly offset those expected losses, but Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky division of the HBPA, said last week that the offer probably is not sufficient. In turn, Indiana horsemen have said they may demand that all Indiana simulcast outlets, such as major sites in Merrillville and downtown Indianapolis, stop accepting the Kentucky simulcast signal.

Further complicating the issue is whether Churchill will choose to withhold the Kentucky Derby signal from all Indiana outlets.

The Derby signal normally means great leverage for Churchill in the context of simulcast negotiations with bordering states. A workable resolution regarding the issues of simulcasting and the Derby signal was struck with Ohio several years ago.

Zito's 3-year-olds arrive

While Nick Zito had Birdstone flown to Kentucky on Thursday, two days before the colt was to van from Keeneland to Turfway Park to run in the Lane's End Stakes as the heavy favorite, he also sent along his other top 3-year-olds, Eurosilver and The Cliff's Edge, from his Palm Meadows base in south Florida.

All the Zito colts will train for the next few weeks at Keeneland, which opened its stable area last Monday. Eurosilver is being pointed to the marquee race of the 15-day spring meet, the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes on April 10, the same day that The Cliff's Edge is expected to run in the Arkansas Derby.

Meanwhile, officials at the Lexington, Ky., track are excited about opening weekend, and no wonder: A match-up between Halfbridled and Madcap Escapade appears imminent on April 3, the second day of the meet. The connections of both star fillies have said they are pointing to the $500,000 Ashland Stakes, a Grade 1 race that serves as a major prep for the Kentucky Oaks.

Champali nearing return

Champali, third in the 2003 Lane's End after sweeping all three Turfway preps last winter, is gearing up for a return to action after getting the winter off, said Rob Lloyd, who manages the Lloyd Madison Farms syndicate, which owns the 4-year-old colt.

Lloyd said Champali is near his first breeze for trainer Greg Foley and could be ready to run in late April, "either at the end of Keeneland or the first week of Churchill."

Champali, a five-time stakes winner, was taken out of training after being beaten in November in his seasonal finale at Churchill in a race that marked his turf debut.