06/12/2001 11:00PM

Rock horsemen: No deal, no signal

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The New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Rockingham Park were unable to reach an agreement on a new purse contract during negotiations on Wednesday, threatening the track's ability to send its signal out of state.

The track has been operating without a purse contract since opening day on Sunday, and horsemen have threatened to withdraw their consent for Rockingham to send its signal out of state if an agreement is not reached. Negotiations are expected to continue on Thursday, a dark day, and if a contract is not signed, Rockingham likely will be unable to send its signal out on its next live race day, Friday.

"We still have two whole days," said Ed Callahan, the track's general manager, on Wednesday. "We're keeping the lines of communication open."

Rockingham and its horsemen would lose thousands of dollars in revenue from simulcast wagers each day if the horsemen withdraw their consent. Last year, approximately 68 percent of the $633,000 in daily handle on Rockingham's live card came from bettors at out-of-state sites.

The track and horsemen are split over what percentage of simulcast handle should go to purses. The horsemen argue that the percentage should be more in line with Suffolk Downs in Boston, where the purse account receives 5.25 percent of simulcasting money. The track is holding fast to the current 4 percent fee.

Despite the lack of a contract, horsemen are not boycotting the entry box. A full card was drawn on Wednesday for both the Friday and Saturday cards, track officials said.