04/21/2016 3:14PM

One group no longer interested in representing Arlington horsemen


The head of an owners and breeders organization that had conducted negotiations to represent horsemen at Arlington International Racecourse said on Thursday that the group is no longer interested in negotiating with the Chicago-area track.

Dan Sullivan, an owner who is president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation, said in an interview that a resolution passed by the ITBOF board on April 7 empowering the organization to negotiate with Arlington expired on April 18. That was the same day a rival organization, the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, filed a suit alleging that Arlington, the ITBOF, and the Illinois Racing Board had colluded to disenfranchise the ITHA as Arlington’s legally recognized horsemen’s representative.

“That 10-day window lapsed, so this lawsuit is moot,” said Sullivan, who is an attorney. “The expiration makes our resolution null and void, and we have no interest in pursuing talks.”

Sullivan was one of several representatives of organizations named in the suit to appear at a hearing in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, according to the Chicago Tribune. Although U.S. District Court Judge Manish Shah did not issue a ruling related to a restraining order sought by the ITHA that would prevent Arlington from negotiating with the ITBOF, Sullivan told the judge that the ITBOF had backed out of the dispute and said that the “ITHA needs to get with it and get a contract,” the Tribune reported.

The ITHA and Arlington have been at odds frequently over the past decade, and this is the second time in the last four years that the two sides have been at loggerheads as the opening of Arlington’s meet approaches. Arlington’s meet this year is scheduled to start on May 6, the day prior to the Kentucky Derby.

Under federal law, racetracks must have an agreement with local horsemen in order to accept out-of-state bets on their races. The ITHA has represented horsemen in negotiations with the track for the past 20 years, the ITHA said in its lawsuit.

Dave McCaffery, executive director of the ITHA, said on Thursday that he hoped Sullivan’s statements in court on Wednesday would lead to “more meaningful discussions with Arlington now that we don’t have a third party potentially in the way.”

“We want to race, and we’re hopeful we can get a fair and equitable contract,” McCaffery said.

The lawsuit stated that IRB chairman Jeff Brincat facilitated a vote on April 7 that called for the ITBOF to consider all owners and trainers in Illinois as its members, which would have given the ITBOF a legal argument to be considered as the local horsemen’s representative in negotiations with Arlington. Officials for Arlington spoke to ITBOF members just prior to the vote being conducted, the suit stated.

Arlington officials did not respond to phone calls on Thursday. In a statement released after the ITHA filed its suit, Tony Petrillo, Arlington’s general manager, said the track has "negotiated in good faith with the ITHA and will continue to do so. … Arlington remains open to any constructive dialogue that will lead to a resolution and an agreement so we can all look forward to the 2016 Arlington racing season."