09/12/2006 11:00PM

Signal blackout appears likely


CHICAGO - An ongoing dispute involving the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, Television Games Network, Youbet, and Hawthorne Race Course could lead to a blackout of Hawthorne races on TVG and Youbet when Hawthorne's fall racing season begins Friday.

The horsemen began withholding the Arlington signal from TVG last Wednesday to try and force TVG to renegotiate fees that Youbet must pay TVG to carry Hawthorne races. Youbet carried Arlington until Tuesday, when Churchill Downs Inc., Arlington's parent company, withdrew the Arlington signal from Youbet and AmericaTab, which is affiliated with several online betting sites.

As of Wednesday, Illinois horsemen planned to withhold the Hawthorne signal from TVG, just as they did with the Arlington signal during the meet's final days. Hawthorne signed an exclusivity agreement with TVG last fall, significantly increasing the percentage Youbet must pay TVG on wagers placed through its service on Hawthorne races. Youbet initially paid the extra fee during the spring National Jockey Club meet, stopped carrying Hawthorne's summer harness meet signal, and as things stand will not carry the upcoming meet.

The various parties have held talks with no resolution as of Wednesday, but Justin Cassity, executive director of the ITHA, said he was "remaining optimistic that we're going to work this out" before Friday's opener.

The ITHA contends that purse levels would be hurt if Youbet does not take wagers on Hawthorne's fall meet. During the 2005 Hawthorne season, according to track officials, Youbet handled $3,839,978 on Hawthorne races, an average of $54,084 per day, while TVG handled $2,404,410 for a daily average of $33,850. Additionally, Youbet pays Hawthorne more for its signal than does TVG, Cassity said, meaning wagers through Youbet generate greater purse revenue.

Jim Miller, assistant general manager at Hawthorne, said the track planned to make replays of its races available on its website if live races were not shown on TVG or Youbet.

'Anna' may face males in Canada

Dreaming of Anna, the undefeated 2-year-old filly who was scratched from last Sunday's Arlington-Washington Lassie because of wet conditions, is likely to race this Sunday at Woodbine, where she would face males in the Summer Stakes, a one-mile turf race.

"She's ready to run somewhere," trainer Wayne Catalano said Wednesday. "We're looking at Canada against the boys. She'll be leaving [Thursday] if she goes."

Dreaming of Anna set a turf-course record for 5 1/2 furlongs at Colonial Downs in her most recent start. Rene Douglas has been contracted to ride her if she runs this weekend at Woodbine.

Meanwhile, Chicago's hottest stable plans to stay active at the Hawthorne meet after a dominant two-month run to end the Arlington season, where Catalano won his fifth training title in the last seven years, racking up 49 victories. Catalano's primary owner, Frank Calabrese, won his seventh consecutive Arlington owner title.

Catalano said most of his stable would ship crosstown to Hawthorne, with a handful of higher-end stock - such as Dreaming of Anna and her 3-year-old brother, Lewis Michael - heading to Keeneland. Catalano will have 40 horses stabled at Hawthorne, and said he planned on being a major participant at the meet.

"I don't see where there'd be a big drop-off at the moment," he said.

Officer Rocket will await Churchill

All the top finishers from last Sunday's pair of 2-year-old stakes at Arlington exited their races in good physical condition, their trainers said, but while the top two fillies from the Arlington-Washington Lassie are headed to Keeneland, the two colts who dead-heated in the Arlington-Washington Futurity might make their next start elsewhere.

Officer Rocket, the co-winner with Got the Last Laugh in the Futurity, will be freshened and pointed for a start in the Iroquois Stakes on opening day of the Churchill meet, trainer Bob Holthus said. Got the Last Laugh has returned to trainer Bill Mott's Kentucky string, but plans haven't been firmed up for his next race.

"It could be in Kentucky, or it could be the Champagne" at Belmont, said Mott.

Got the Last Laugh, making only his second start, battled back for a tie after losing the lead to Officer Rocket in deep stretch.

"I thought he was very game," Mott said.

Lisa M, who edged Sutra in the Lassie at odds of 73-1, is likely to make her next start in the Alcibiades Stakes on opening day of the Keeneland meet, said trainer Dave Kassen, who will split his stable between Keeneland and Hawthorne when he ships out of Arlington.

"Two turns should suit her," Kassen said.

Sutra, who looked like a winner until the last jump of the one-mile Lassie, also will head to Keeneland with other horses from trainer Mike Stidham's barn, but Stidham said he had nothing planned for the twice-started Sutra.

"I don't know that we'll run in any of those top races, but we'll nominate to them," he said.

At a glance: Hawthorne

RACING SCHEDULE: 78 days; Friday through Dec. 31; racing Wednesday through Sunday, dark Monday and Tuesday; racing Tuesday, Oct. 9; dark Thursday, Nov. 23

POST TIME: 1:10 p.m. Central; 3 p.m. on Fridays through Nov. 24


PARKING: Expanded free parking; preferred, $3 ; valet, $5

LOCATION: 3501 S. Laramie, Stickney/Cicero, IL

INTERNET: hawthorneracecourse.com

2006 fall stakes schedule

Sat.,Sept. 30Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2)3YO & Up1 1/4 miles$500,000
Sat.,Sept. 30Robert F. Carey Memorial (G3)3YO & Up1 mile (T)150,000
Sat.,Sept. 30Indian Maid Handicap3YO & Up1 1/16 miles (T)100,000
Sat.,Oct. 14Hawthorne Derby (G3)3YO1 1/8 miles (T)250,000
Sat.,Nov. 11Showtime Deb Stakes2YO F*6 furlongs100,000
Sat.,Nov. 11Sun Power Stakes2YO c/g*6 furlongs100,000
Sat.,Nov. 11Powerless Stakes HandicapF&M, 3YO & Up*6 furlongs100,000
Sat.,Nov. 11Lightning Jet Stakes Handicap3YO & Up*6 furlongs100,000
Sat.,Nov. 11Illini Princess HandicapF&M, 3YO & Up*1 1/16 miles100,000
Sat.,Nov. 11High Alexander Handicap3YO & Up*1 1/16 miles100,000
Sat.,Dec. 9Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante2YO F*1 1/16 miles100,000
Sat.,Dec. 16Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity2YO*1 1/16 miles100,000

* Illinois-bred