On the heels of Keeneland's $1 million purse cuts, Turfway Park announced Wednesday that the Northern Kentucky track plans to cut four race days, all but one stakes race and the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions, worth $400,000 in purses.
Turfway president Bob Elliston blamed the cuts on lack of expanded gambling.
"If the state legislature allows us to level the playing field with surrounding states that enhance their purses with gaming revenue, the Kentucky Cup would be high on the list of races we would restore," he said in a statement.
The Kentucky Cup Day of Champions has been the marquee event of the track's fall meet. Since 1994, Kentucky Cup Day winners have gone on to win seven Breeders' Cup championship races, four Eclipse Awards and two Canadian Sovereign Awards.
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Top Turfway horse owner Ken Ramsey, whose Furthest Land won last year's Kentucky Cup Classic and the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, said the move will have an impact on owners of all sizes.
"It really horrifies me that they would cut the purses and cut out the big stakes races that way," Ramsey said. "What is there to look forward to? What happens, is the little guy or even the big guy ... can't make a living. The horses I was running up there for $7,500 or $10,000 at Churchill Downs, what am I going to do with them?"
Elliston said the steps are aimed at keeping purses competitive with neighboring states so the track can attract horses.
"We were forced to make deep cuts to at least stay even with last fall's daily purse averages and support our local horsemen as best we can," Elliston said. "We have to do whatever we can to maximize our field size, which means fewer race dates."
Turfway Park has asked the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to allow the track to cut four Wednesdays of racing from its fall meet, which runs Sept. 9 to Oct. 3. The request will be considered at the July 20 meeting.
The only remaining stakes on the schedule will be the Grade III Turfway Park Fall Championship, a contracted Breeders' Cup Challenge race.
Turfway, which is co-owned by Keeneland and Harrah's, operated an abbreviated meet last winter, running only three days a week — as Ellis Park in Henderson will do again this summer.
Turfway, Churchill Downs and Ellis Park together cut about a fourth of the state's live race dates from their planned 2010 schedules.
But the cuts apparently haven't been enough.
Elliston pointed out that even though Churchill ran only four days a week during the spring meet, except for Kentucky Derby Week, their average field size fell below eight horses.
"Meanwhile, Indiana Downs just increased its purses by 30 percent and last month, on an ordinary Wednesday card, set a track wagering record," Elliston said.