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Horsemen Boycott Harness Tracks

December 30, 1997

HINSDALE, Ill. (AP) _ A horsemen’s boycott to protest low purses at Maywood Park and Balmoral Park has caused both tracks to cancel harness racing dates this week, officials said Tuesday.

A majority of horse owners, drivers and trainers have decided not to race beginning Jan. 1, said Tony Morgan, president of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, which is based in this western Chicago suburb.

``Horsemen are fed up with racing for meager purses,″ he said in a statement.

Because of the boycott, Balmoral, located in south suburban Crete, has canceled its program for New Year’s Day and Maywood, in the western suburb of Maywood, has called off its Friday program. A similar protest by the association lasted a few days in June.

Balmoral Park President John Johnston blames the problem on state law.

``The purse structure is dictated according to law, and we are abiding by law,″ he said by telephone. ``We are attempting to get state legislation passed to increase purses.″

But Dave McCaffrey, a trainer and an IHHA director, said the Illinois Legislature has historically favored the racetracks over the horsemen.

He cites a disparity in off-track-betting laws that allows 12 cents of every $1 bet at the parlors to go to the tracks while only 4 cents goes for purses.

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