Lawsuit forces The Fair Grounds to reduce purses for the 2014-2015 season _lowres

Advocate Staff Photo by Amanda Weir Hodges -- Vicar's In Trouble, red cap, right, into the Fair Grounds back stretch to go on and win the $1,000,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, LA Saturday March 29, 2014 Rosie Napravnik was the winning jockey aboard the Mike Maker trained colt, owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey.

Pending legislation from a group of quarter horse owners, trainers and jockeys has forced the Fair Grounds to substantially reduce purses for the upcoming thoroughbred meet, including a 40 percent cut for the Louisiana Derby, the track announced on Wednesday.

In all stakes purses will be reduced by 30 percent and overnight purses by 17 percent, a total of $2.7 million, although some or all of the money could be restored if the lawsuit is adjudicated.

The lawsuit challenges the distribution of video poker proceeds dating back to 2008, a portion of which was to go towards quarter horse purses. The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association also is a defendant in the case.

By regulatory mandate, the current purse structure is a compilation of the projected handle generated during the race meet and annual off-track betting racing activities, plus annual purse supplements from local slots and video poker operations. The possibility of the quarter horse group winning the suit is factored into the equation.

At present, overnight purses are expected to decline from approximately $223,000 to $186,000 or $37,000 per day while stakes purses will be reduced by more $2 million, including the $400,000 hit on the Louisiana Derby, which has been a $1 million Grade II race for several years.

Both Fair Grounds and HBPA officials have said that the purse reductions have nothing to do with the reported effort by Churchill Downs Inc., the track’s parent company, to sell the facility plus its 11 off-track betting facilities.

The 143rd thoroughbred season at the Fair Grounds opens Nov. 21 and runs though March 29.