08/25/2009 11:00PM

Turfway, horsemen at odds


A dispute between Turfway Park management and Kentucky horsemen over purses is brewing as the fall meet nears at the Florence, Ky., track.

Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said Wednesday that Turfway is seeking a purse decrease from horsemen of about $700,000, or 5 percent of annual purse payments of roughly $14 million. Horsemen are balking at that proposal, and in the meantime, there is no working contract in place as the Turfway fall meet (Sept. 9-Oct. 8) approaches.

"Nothing's been settled, and negotiations are ongoing, although obviously the start of the meet is getting close," said Hiles. "We've been asked to give up a large amount of money to offset the bills Turfway has, and we've looked at it real hard and just can't find it. More and more owners are disappearing from this game because they're putting up a lot more money than they're running for. They can only take so much."

Without a contract in place, tracks and outlets in other states typically decline to accept wagering on a simulcast signal, a development that would severely affect business at Turfway.

Turfway's president, Bob Elliston, said Wednesday that the track has "a policy of not commenting on ongoing negotiations, so I'm not going to speak to specifics. But the difficulties in Kentucky racing have been well chronicled, and without the certainty of slots or any other initiatives, we're going to continue evaluating all our options."

Horsemen already have agreed to a reduced schedule of just three days (Friday-Sunday) during the January-February period of Turfway's winter-spring meet. The track still plans to run five days a week at the fall and holiday (Nov. 29-Dec. 31) meets.