Three groups pitch new Kentucky harness racetrack
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Representatives of three associations hoping to build a new Standardbred racetrack in southwest Kentucky near the Tennessee border made presentations at a special meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) on Tuesday afternoon. The meeting lasted nearly five hours with no resolution as the KHRC members decided to defer voting on a final license approval for 30 days.
All three groups are hoping to build a facility in Oak Grove, with the sites all including an area for historical racing machines, which cleared a final hurdle last week when a Circuit County judge dismissed a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of the machines and that they are pari-mutuel in accordance to Kentucky law.
Keeneland Racecourse and Churchill Downs have banded together in a quest for the license, and while initial reports indicated a desire to race a short meet at Louisville Downs next year, that will not be the case. Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery stated the plans now call for 12 live racing days to be held at the new racetrack in Oak Grove.
Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen went last and he noted "Oak Grove Meadows" was the only proposed group that had a signed agreement with the Kentucky Harness Horsemen's Association (KHHA).
The track would be a five-eighths mile oval, just as the other two applicants. Oak Grove Meadows would have a 450-stall barn area and a 125-room hotel. Plans call for 15-30 days of racing next October.
Johnsen said as a result of Kentucky Downs—which handled more than $70 million in historical racing revenue in September alone and is by far the most successful site in the Bluegrass—being in close proximity, Oak Grove Meadows would have only 300 historical racing machines.
The applicants now have until Nov. 7 to submit any new information regarding their proposal, with Kling setting a deadline of 30 days for the KHRC to meet to vote on final approval. This would be the first new racetrack license awarded in Kentucky since the now-defunct Thunder Ridge in 1994. The applicants are all seeking to receive the license opened up with the closing of Thunder Ridge.