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Harness racing at Louisville Downs in 2019?

September 05, 2018

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Harness racing may be returning to Louisville Downs in 2019.

The Kentucky track, which hosted harness racing from 1966 until it closed in 1991, is currently owned by Churchill Downs and is undergoing a $65-million facelift that will open as the historical racing site Derby City Gaming this fall. In partnership with Keeneland Thoroughbred track in Lexington, an application was filed on Tuesday with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to conduct a 10-day harness meet next year.

In submitting the application, officials noted that with the closure of Thunder Ridge in Prestonsburg, on the eastern border of the state, the new dates will fill that gap. Churchill Downs and Keeneland then plan to transfer those dates in 2020 to a new track they plan to build in Oak Grove, on the southwestern border of Kentucky near Clarksville, Tenn.

According to reports, the new racetrack would be a $125 million facility that hosts both live racing and as many as 1,500 historical racing machines. There will also be a 125-room hotel, an outdoor amphitheater, and indoor and outdoor equestrian facilities. Churchill and Keeneland officials said Tuesday the new track would host 15 dates of Standardbred racing each year.

Louisville Downs' signature race was the Kentucky Pacing Derby, with the winners including Niatross in 1979. Churchill Downs purchased the site in 1992, and after ending harness racing converted the grandstand into the Sports Spectrum for simulcast wagering. The last time wagering was held at Sports Spectrum was for the 2012 Kentucky Derby. The site was also used as a Thoroughbred training center.

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