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The Heat is On! -Les Bois Park update

April 27, 2005     E-mail this page to a friend!

By Phyllis Tryon

The live racing situation at Les Bois Park in Boise is clear as mud these days. One thing is very clear, however. The race park will not open the live season as scheduled on May 7. It remains to be seen what racing will take place and where, as both the Thoroughbred and the Quarter Horse stakes program are hanging in the balance.

Up in the air, besides the daily race program, is the lucrative Idaho Cup Day, the Bitterroot Futurity and Derby, and the MBNA Challenge races scheduled to run at Les Bois Park. And while horsemenís organizations are scrambling to salvage their premier races and there is reason to believe arrangements can be made to keep these races alive this season, nothing is certain at this moment.

Simulcasting has remained dark at the track since the first of the year, another serious blow to funding for purses for the season.

The trouble began when negotiations stalled in January between Lariat Productions, which held the lease for the Ada County-owned facilities, and Capitol Racing, the prospective new leaseholder, a company which operates a successful harness meet out of Sacramento, California.

The Idaho Racing Commission met in a special session Wednesday, April 6, to determine if the current leaseholder of the facilities at Les Bois Park, Lariat Productions, is in breech of contract with the horsemen. Jacki Livengood, State Pari-mutuel Inspector, reported that while it was determined that Lariat is indeed in breach of contract on numerous issues, the immediate concern of the commission was to get purse money retained by Lariat for the horsemen in protective custody. The money is earmarked for purses for the live race meet at the park.

The commission was looking at avenues available to them to accomplish this task. The Racing Commission served Lariat with an order to pay all monies by 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 8, a deadline which came and went with no resulting payment. As of mid-April, the commission was preceding with legal action.

With no final signed agreement yet in place between Lariat Productions and the anticipated new leaseholder, Capitol Racing, Ada County Commissioners (Ada County owns the fairgrounds where Les Bois Park is located), took action to encourage Lariat Productions to finalize the sale of the lease. Lariat had until 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 8, to sign a final agreement with Capitol Racing per orders of the Ada County Commission, or the commission would begin an eviction process. The original lease held by Lariat Productions runs through 2009.

Again, the deadline came and went with no resulting action on Lariatís part. Lariat Productions was then ordered to vacate the Les Bois Park premises and deliver the keys to the facility to the Ada County Commissioners by noon on Wednesday, April 13.

In response, instead of vacating the premises, Lariat Productions filed a lawsuit in Fourth District Court against both the county and Capitol Racing. The Idaho Statesmen in Boise noted in an article on April 14 that Lariat wants the court to determine if indeed the county has the right to cancel the lease agreement, and that Lariat also feels Capitol Racing should assume Lariatís outstanding balance on trade payables, although the original agreement under negotiation was for a portion of that.

With lawsuits and court action on the table, it could be some time before the case is completely settled and racing returns to normal in The City of Trees.