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Logjam breaks in Churchill Downs simulcast dispute

Christmas came early for Nevada horseplayers this week with word that a logjam had broken in the long-running simulcast dispute between the state’s racebooks and Churchill Downs Inc.

Following approval of the new contracts Wednesday by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, state racebooks are again able to offer wagering on races from the Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park and Turfway Park beginning immediately and continuing through their current meets.

All three tracks had been off-limits in the state since last year, when Churchill Downs, the horse racing and casino company that hosts the Kentucky Derby at its namesake track, escalated an ongoing dispute with Nevada racebooks over the price of the Louisville track’s simulcast signal. Both the Fair Grounds and Turfway Park are owned by CDI, while Oaklawn Park contracts with the company for distribution of its signal.

It’s not yet clear what led to the breakthrough, though several observers pointed to the National Handicapping Championship scheduled for Jan. 28-30 at Bally’s in Las Vegas as a possible factor.

Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry relations of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which hosts the handicapping event, declined to comment on the tournament’s role, if any, in the signal agreements, but issued this statement:

“This accord is great news and an early holiday gift for Nevada horseplayers and those who qualify for the National Horseplayers Championship next January at Bally’s Las Vegas. I applaud Churchill Downs and the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association for making this happen.”

Patty Jones, executive director of the Nevada Pari-Mutuel Association, the organization representing the racebooks in the negotiations, also said she could not comment on the breakthrough.

The contracts received Wednesday do not resolve the underlying dispute over the Churchill Downs signal, but Jones described the development as “positive movement” toward a long-term simulcasting agreement with the company.

Safety reigns at Del Mar

In addition to welcoming back fans and breaking wagering records, Del Mar set a high mark for safety at its summer and fall meets.

“The standard the track is proudest of is its continuing mark as America’s safest major racetrack,” Del Mar said in a news release Sunday after concluding its Bing Crosby season. “Only one horse was injured catastrophically in the 426 races and 3,552 starters that performed during the two sessions, a mark that is unmatched in the country.”

Obviously even one equine death is too many, but it’s clear that the safety measures taken by California’s major racetracks in the past two years have had a tremendous impact.

An ode to Pink Lloyd

Some racehorses are simply magic and Pink Lloyd was one of those.

The 9-year-old Ontario-bred gelded son of Old Forester was retired last weekend after racing for the 38th time — all at Canada’s Woodbine Race Course — and winning, as he had done on 28 previous occasions.

Though he ran at a level slightly below the sport’s elite rungs, he was a gem of consistency when placed where he belonged. Of his 29 victories over six years, 25 were in stakes races — 13 of them graded — and he amassed earnings of $1.88 million and change for owner Entourage Stable and trainer Robert Tiller. Not bad for a horse purchased for less than $30,000 at a Canadian-bred yearling sale.

I’ve seen more athletic horses than Pink Lloyd over the years, but never one gamer. Drop by LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society, about an hour north of Woodbine, if you’re ever in the area and pay your respects to a horse that surely earned them.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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