ITHA cites spirit of cooperation in new two-year deal with Hawthorne

Posted: Dec. 30, 2016

The Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Hawthorne Race Course have agreed to a two-year contract designed to maximize overnight purses and bring some stability to the racing product at the Chicagoland track.

The horsemen’s group praised track management for working in a spirit of cooperation during a difficult time for Illinois racing.

The contract, which covers 2017-18, also assures that Galloping Out, the ITHA aftercare program, continues to receive $25,000 a year from Hawthorne. Galloping Out this year was accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

ITHA officials said the agreement maintains current purse levels at the outset of 2017, and the amount can’t be reduced until the last week of October. Purses in November and December can’t be cut by more than 5% and can be reduced only once in each of the last three condition books at Hawthorne.

Hawthorne in 2017 will race from March 3-April 29 and Oct. 1-Dec. 31 under a schedule approved by the Illinois Racing Board.

Hawthorne in 2016 has paid about $109,000 in purses per day. It receives no alternative revenue from gaming in Illinois.

“While we are the first to acknowledge purse levels in Illinois are embarrassingly low, this contract will keep Illinois Thoroughbred horse racing at Hawthorne from descending significantly lower over the next two years,” the ITHA said Dec. 30 in announcing the deal. “We thank Hawthorne for approaching negotiations in good faith. This contract—reached more than two months before the season at Hawthorne begins—is a testament to what we can accomplish when track management and horsemen work together, respectfully, toward a resolution serving the best interests of our sport and industry.

“As we close out a racing year marked by escalating challenges, we view this agreement as a positive development that hopefully will mark the beginning of a turnaround for Illinois horse racing.”

The ITHA said Hawthorne next year is poised to nearly double its “recapture”—legislated compensation for declines in pari-mutuel handle on live racing because of full-card simulcasts—which will increase its take from the horsemen’s purse account from about $2.5 million to about $4.7 million as a result of the track purchasing off-track betting facilities in Oakbrook Terrace and Crestwood.

“Without the protections embodied in this contract, such a boost in recapture—and resulting cut in purses—would potentially decimate purses,” the ITHA said.

The ITHA said Hawthorne in 2017 effectively is loaning to the purse account an amount that could be as much as $1.3 million—the equivalent of nearly half of the recapture assigned to the Thoroughbred purse account.

In another contract provision, the starting gate at Hawthorne will be available to horsemen five days a week every week of live racing and 12 days prior to the start of a meet. The provision was endorsed by the ITHA.

The ITHA’s current two-year contract with Arlington Park, which in 2017 will race from April 30-Sept. 23, extends through the end of 2017.

(Photo courtesy of Hawthorne Race Course)