Horsemen ask dismissal of Churchill's lawsuit

Kentucky horsemen and their national representatives have filed motions to dismiss Churchill Downs Inc.'s lawsuit over their blockage of advance-deposit wagering.

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, one of the defendants, also has filed a counterclaim for $5 million in damages and unpaid purse money. The Kentucky HBPA has requested oral arguments.

The group represents trainers and owners who race at Kentucky's thoroughbred tracks. Other defendants, including the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the multi-state Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group, filed similar motions to dismiss.

In May, Churchill Downs cut purses at its Louisville track by 20 percent, saying the blocked signals would hurt betting handle.

The motions were filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Louisville, where Churchill's price-fixing claims were filed in April. The suit originally included Florida horsemen, who have since been dismissed after reaching a deal earlier this month on revenue splits.

At issue are revenues from ADW platforms, including Internet betting. ADW is a small but growing segment of the $15 billion North American parimutuel betting market.

Churchill launched in May 2007.

The horsemen's groups have contended that in doing so the company has taken over an unfair share of the revenue.

“That is why horsemen must protect themselves,” said the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Group in its joint motion to dismiss. In a news release Wednesday, the THG said that it has a duty under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 to negotiate the percentage of off-track wagering received for purses.

“When those negotiations do not reach a mutually agreeable conclusion, the (act) is very clear: the horsemen have an absolute ‘veto' right to withhold their consent, and that means there can be no interstate wagering on the affected races,” according to the motion.

Horsemen lost an earlier motion for an injunction to stop Churchill's purse cut.

Churchill has contended that the horsemen, by forming the THG to negotiate for groups in various states, have violated anti-competition laws. By collectively blocking Churchill's simulcasting signals, they are conspiring to conduct an illegal boycott, the racetrack company said.

Churchill owns tracks in Kentucky, Florida, Illinois and Louisiana.