The Red Mile, which held its first race on Sept. 28, 1875, received approval on Wednesday to operate Historical Racing games, also known as Instant Racing in other areas, at the track. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which regulates Historical Racing, approved requests from both The Red Mile and Keeneland to conduct Historical Racing operations. Alan Leavitt, the only Standardbred representative on the commission, made the motion for the commission to approve The Red Mile's request, which passed unanimously.
"The hopes and aspirations are for us to attract new customers and reintroduce ourselves to the community," said Joe Costa, CEO of The Red Mile, as he presented the track's plans at the Racing Commission meeting, which was held at the Kentucky Horse Park.
The Red Mile's plans call for an investment of $25 million, with a 48,000-square foot building that would be located along the track's homestretch, approximately where the green lawn can be found adjacent to the paddock during the racing season. While the new building would be the location of all Historic Racing machines on the first floor, the side of the building facing the track would be glass-fronted so people could watch live racing. One member of the racing commissioner likened the building to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Costa said in addition to having 500 Historical Racing machines, the new building would also include a sports bar and other amenities on the second floor, with glass doors opening to an extended apron area for watching live racing.
Other redevelopment could eventually take place at the track, but present plans call for the stable area to remain intact. Two barns were torn down earlier this year so infrastructure improvements could be made to the property and create a promenade of sorts onto the grounds from Red Mile Road.
Costa also noted that the revenues from Historical Racing will be used to increase purses and that per the state regulations governing Historical Racing, the track is in earnest discussions with the Kentucky Harness Horsemen's Association to determine a revenue sharing agreement. The track and horsemen must have a revenue-sharing agreement before Historical Racing can begin.
"We are optimistic about reaching an agreement with the horsemen and breeders" for revenue sharing for purses, said Costa.
Bob Stewart, president of the Kentucky Harness Horsemen's Association, said he is hopeful there can be additional racing dates, as well as higher purses. "To get this and not expand racing days some would be a missed opportunity," said Stewart.
One member of the racing commission asked if The Red Mile could operate Historical Racing machines that only have Thoroughbred races as their "database" of races. Thus far no Historical Racing machines have harness races, and no harness track has ever before conducted Historical Racing. Robert Beck, chairman of the Kentucky Racing Commission and a Lexington attorney who in the past represented previous owners of The Red Mile, noted that the Kentucky regulations for Historical Racing specify that Historical Racing is an "exotic" wager and there is no language which would limit which games a track offers.
Lisa Underwood, an attorney who is now with the Lexington law firm of Wyatt Tarrant Combs, led the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's development of regulations for Historical Racing during her former tenure as executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Now representing The Red Mile, her work for the commission and the creation of Historical Racing law was lauded by commission chairman Beck.
Historical Racing began under the name of Instant Racing at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, where Thoroughbred racing is conducted. The first track in Kentucky to offer it was Kentucky Downs, where Historical Racing machines earned approximately $4 million for purse and breeders award money in 2013. The Red Mile has talked with Kentucky Downs' Corey Johnson about possible consulting and/or management services.
After the commission meeting, Costa fielded questions from a Louisville reporter about any concerns regarding the legality of Historical Racing, which is being challenged. Earlier this year the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the Kentucky Racing Commission has the authority to regulate Historical Racing, which legal counsels for The Red Mile and Keeneland believe makes it unlikely the games will be ruled illegal at a later date.
Keeneland, the Thoroughbred track in Lexington, also presented a request to operate Historical Racing games and also received approval. It plans to build a 40,000 square foot building with 600 Historical Racing machines. The new building will be located near the Keeneland event center, which is at Gate 1.—By Kathy Parker/harnessracing.com