03/30/2006 12:00AM

Track, horsemen in purse dispute


A dispute between Hollywood Park management and the Thoroughbred Owners of California over purse levels for overnight races and stakes at the upcoming Hollywood Park meeting has yet to be resolved, and a special meeting of the California Horse Racing Board has been called on April 11 to help solve the issue.

The dispute has prevented the official publication of the track's stakes schedule for the spring-summer meeting, which runs from April 26 to July 16.

According to Hollywood Park general manager Eual Wyatt, Hollywood wants to reduce purses "across the board" for overnight races, while basically maintaining last year's stakes schedule. The TOC, which represents the state's Thoroughbred horsemen and must approve purse agreements at California tracks, wants to reduce purses for some stakes while maintaining overnight purses at previous levels, according to president Drew Couto.

Another point of contention is whether some stakes will have guaranteed purses or added-money purses. Races with added-money purses have nomination and entry fees added to the original value of the purse. In races with a guaranteed purse, those fees are not added to the purse of the race, which makes them worth less to the horsemen.

According to Couto, the two sides were $400,000 apart on the value of the stakes schedule at one point earlier this year, and now are $100,000 apart.

"It's a meeting that has the highest amount reserved for stakes," he said. "We felt it was a detriment to the overnight program. We would like to see the stakes cut a little more.

"Between stakes and overnight stakes, they plan on running 60 in a 61-day meeting. We said, 'That's excessive.' "

Hollywood Park has published a tentative stakes schedule on its website, which states that it is contingent on TOC approval. The schedule comprises 54 races, including 13 worth $250,000 or more.

Wyatt said there will be less revenue for purses this meet because Hollywood will race over 12 weekends instead of 13 last year. More money is wagered on weekend cards.

"We cut purses pretty much across the board, more than they wanted us to," Wyatt said of the TOC. "We're trying to come up with a counterproposal."

The dispute has angered CHRB chairman Richard Shapiro, who said that representatives of Hollywood and the TOC told him at the CHRB's monthly meeting in March that they would have the problem worked out.

"I don't think it's something the racing board should be spending its time and energy on," he said.

"They asked us not to intercede and we didn't. It's embarrassing for California racing. In hindsight, I wish I'd said, 'Go out of the room and resolve it.' It's not fair to the horsemen. It needs to be resolved."