If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, there's a pretty good chance it's a duck. That's the position leaders of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the executive director of the Illinois Racing Board are taking when it comes to new “stall rent” language in the proposed stall allocation agreement between Arlington Park and Thoroughbred horsemen for the 2013 racing season at the suburban Chicago racetrack.
At issue is paragraph 29 in the racing office's stall application, stating: “The undersigned owner, trainer or authorized agent acknowledges that each additional starter in a race will produce an increase in mutuel handle, which will increase purse revenue for horsemen, and is expected to average at least one (1) start per month for each stall allotted during the 2013 race meet. A stall rent may be imposed on trainers that do not average one (1) start per stall per month or on a horse which runs at another racetrack in a race and condition that Arlington offers and runs.”
The ITHA immediately objected to the stall application language, calling it unprecedented for a track to charge stall rent during a live meeting. The ITHA also said Arlington Park violated terms of its current contract with the horsemen's association by not submitting the agreement to the ITHA before being distributed.
Arlington Park has a different interpretation of the language.
“We are aware that a text message regarding stall rent at Arlington is being circulated,” the track's general manager, Tony Petrillo, said in a statement to the Paulick Report. “This is incorrect. There will not be stall rent. The stall application does contain language for the track to impose a rent on those trainers who do not run in races and use the facility for training only.
“This policy protects the trainers who may want additional stalls, protects those trainers who do run, protects the purses for owners and protects handle. Please feel free to direct any questions to racing secretary Chris Polzin.”
Similar remarks were sent to ITHA members via text message: “NO STALL RENT for trainers with entries,” the message from Arlington Park to horsemen read. “AP to PROTECT live runners, purses for OWNERS & handle. Polzin available for Qs on the backside…”
Marc Laino, executive director of the Illinois Racing Board, said Arlington “may be in violation” of Illinois racing law, specifically Section 1424.50, paragraph D(2), which reads: “No stall allocation shall be conditioned upon the payment, transfer or delivery to the racing secretary, or to any other person designated by him, of any money, property or other thing of value or upon the applicant's promise to make such payment, transfer or delivery.”
“The rule prohibits stall rental, clearly,” said Laino. “If there is any modification, it has to come before the board for approval, and that hasn't taken place.”
In fact, Laino said, Petrillo was asked by a commissioner, Patricia Beauvois, during an IRB hearing for 2013 dates last September if Arlington had any intention of charging stall rent for the coming year.
“His reply was ‘No,' he had no intention,” Laino said. “I'm surprised and a little perplexed (by the new stall application) considering the testimony at the dates hearing and the rule.”
Contract negotiations between Arlington and horsemen went right up to the 11th hour in 2012 and wasn't resolved under after the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said it was withdrawing its approval to simulcast the Kentucky Derby to Illinois. As a result of the last-minute agreement in 2012, Laino said the IRB now requires a contract between the track and horsemen be completed 30 days before the beginning of the meet. If that doesn't happen, the IRB chairman mediates the dispute, he said.
Arlington Park's 2013 meeting is scheduled to begin May 3.
“I'm hopeful I can get this resolved administratively, short of a full formal hearing before the board on this matter,” Laino said.
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