Association questions Fair Grounds’ purse calculations _lowres

Photo by Lynn Roberts/Hodges Photography -- Palace Malice, ridden by Mike Smith, pulls away from Normandy Invasion to capture the 90th running of the Grade II New Orleans Handicap on March 29 at the Fair Grounds.

The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association is challenging the Fair Grounds’ calculations that led to the trimming of $2.7 million in purses and the elimination of 15 stakes races for the upcoming season.

The track’s owners, Churchill Downs Inc., had attributed the cuts to a class action lawsuit by a group of Louisiana quarter horse owners, trainer and jockeys contesting video poker revenues. The cuts amounted to a 30 percent reduction in stakes purses, including the Grade II Louisiana Derby which would go from $1 million to $600,000 and a 17 percent reduction on overnight purses.

However, in a letter sent to Fair Grounds President Tim Bryant on Wednesday, the LHBPA says that the escrowed funds from the lawsuit amount to only $700,000 and that the other reductions were made from estimating a decrease in video poker and pari-mutuel wagering activity. That, the letter continues, is despite the fact that the track is touting fixing its turf course and making improvements to customer service, moves designed to increase revenues.

“Obviously we’ve got issues,” LHBPA Chairman Benard Chatters said.

Bryant did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Fair Grounds’ thoroughbred racing season begins on Nov. 21.