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Weeks before the Derby, Churchill announced it would take a bigger cut of the money bettors place on its races. The decision came after Kentucky lawmakers rejected the racing industry’s latest effort to add slot machines to generate more cash to boost prize money for horse owners.

Churchill spokesman John Asher said without the bigger cut, the track would have had to reduce the prize money for winners of spring races and some races would likely have been cut altogether.

Horse players at the betting windows grumbled that Churchill, of all places, should have enough other means of revenue without having to pinch pennies from people who come to the track.


Days before the Derby, Churchill rushed into damage-control mode after Hall of Fame jockey Ron Turcotte, who rode Secretariat to Triple Crown glory, declared he would skip seeing the Derby because track management had snubbed him. Turcotte, who is paralyzed, said he couldn’t get a parking spot during his last Derby Day visit, and then couldn’t even get into the track to watch last year’s race.

The track said any perceived snub of Turotte was the result of a “communication breakdown.”

Turcotte’s comments were posted on the website of a horse farm run by Rick Porter, who owned Eight Belles, the filly that was euthanized on the track after breaking both of her front legs following a second-place finish in the 2008 Derby.

Porter had posted about his own difficulties in obtaining tickets to watch one of his horses race at Churchill Downs on Friday, and in getting Derby tickets last year for four World War II veterans who were part of the D-Day invasion.

“What is wrong with this management group?” Porter wrote. “No wonder racing is on the decline.”


Steve Coburn, co-owner of this year’s Derby and Preakness winner, California Chrome, lashed out at Churchill after the Preakness, which is held at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

Churchill Downs needs to call Maryland to get a lesson in hospitality,” Coburn said. “These people right here, they’ve treated us like royalty.”

Co-owner Perry Martin didn’t make the trip to Pimlico, and Coburn was asked why.

“The hospitality we received at Churchill Downs wasn’t very good,” Coburn said, so Martin decided not to make the trip to the next stop on the Triple Crown trail.