HRN Original Blog:
The Pressbox Blog
Posted Monday, November 12, 2018

For more than a year now, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has known of a significant and sincere interest in building a new racetrack — along with a parlor for Historical Racing Machines — in Oak Grove, Ky. Now, it appears that the industry’s ruling body may be ready to make a final decision.

According to sources close to the situation, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, headed by Chairman Franklin Kling, will call its next meeting within 10 days or less to discuss and take a final vote on the three applications that have been filed to construct, own and operate a new Standardbred facility in the Southwest Kentucky city near the Fort Campbell military installation.

The Commission met last on Tuesday, Oct. 30, and heard testimony from the three applicants that had submitted applications. That meeting lasted more than five hours, and at the end of discussions,  a number of the commissioners were ready to take a vote.

But after several motions and considerations were offered, the Commission finally decided to postpone a final vote until sometime in November. At that time, Kling asked that each of the three applicants to provide additional data and information on questions that had been posed during the marathon hearing.

That additional information — to answer only Commissioner inquiries — was sent and received last week.

Now, the Commission is apparently prepared to convene again within the next seven to 10 days to further discuss which application — if any — will be granted.

The three applications under consideration are from:

 A new venture created by Keeneland and Churchill Downs. The new venture submitted its application well over a year ago, and it sat idly on the desk — apparently collecting nothing but dust — until the new entity submitted dates to conduct live Standardbred racing beginning in 2019. According to existing state statutes that govern horse racing in Kentucky, the Racing Commission was obliged then to rule on the dates request before Nov. 1. Thus, that was the reason for the Oct. 30 meeting of the Commission. The new venture has proposed to spend up to $150 million on a new facility in Oak Grove. Currently, Keeneland conducts two live Thoroughbred race meets — one in April and another in October. Churchill Downs, currently, conducts a meet from May through June; another one in September; and a third in November.

 Caesar’s Racing & Entertainment, which formerly owned Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky and currently holds a license to conduct Standardbred racing in Paducah, Ky., at Bluegrass Downs. About a year ago, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission ordered Caesar’s to make certain improvements and changes in order for it to maintain its’ license to operate. At the Oct. 30 meeting, Caesar’s announced plans to spend more than $150 million to construct a new racing complex and entertainment destination in Oak Grove. When asked about Bluegrass Downs, though, Caesar’s representatives announced that the company had no plans to either expand or improve that current property, and that they had no interest in either expanding that current operation at Bluegrass Downs to offer Historical Racing Machines.

 Kentucky Downs, which owns a Thoroughbred racetrack and Historical Racing venue in Franklin, Ky, less than an hour's drive North of Nashville. Kentucky Downs was the first track in Kentucky to venture into the Historical Racing Machine market, and was the track to defend the operation as pari-mutuel in a lawsuit that was brought by the Family Foundation. Just a couple of weeks ago, Judge Thomas Wingate ruled — again — that the machines were legal and permitted under current Kentucky Statutes. At the Oct. 30 meeting of the Commission, Kentucky Downs submitted a much more modest, $50 million proposal which would also include a location for Historical Racing Machines.

Now, apparently, the Commission is finally poised to make a final ruling and decision. Word of the upcoming meeting spread around the sales grounds at Keeneland, where the November Breeding Stock Sale is underway.

And, according to multiple sources close to the situation, official news announcing the exact date and time of the next Commission meeting should be revealed sometime in the next couple of days.

Hold onto your seats. Like Kentucky weather, this could change quickly, too.

Posted Sunday, November 11, 2018
The Pressbox reports Ron Winchell could purchase a significant interest in Kentucky Downs.
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2018
Gene McLean explains how an otherwise dreary Saturday warmed up.
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2018

I’ll be the first to tell you that if I see more than one 8 o’clock in a day’s time, it’s not going to be a good day. Not for me, or, perhaps, somebody else. And, all my 8 o’clocks normally have a “p.m.” connected to them.

Sorry. That’s just the way this old body rolls.

But this morning, I beat the alarm clock and the roosters. It was 5:45 — as in a.m. — and I was on the move. And, for a man my age, it wasn’t even bathroom related.

Amazing, some would say. For me, though, there is only one good reason to get up that early. And that is because you get the call from your horse trainer and friend with news that your 2-year-old colt is going to breeze at Churchill Downs in the early morning hours.

So…

Up at 5:45 a.m. without even an alarm blaring.

Out the door by 6 a.m. with teeth and locks brushed.

Car revved and on the move at 6:05 a.m.

Pull in the backside at Churchill Downs at 6:35 a.m.

Binoculars and coat in place.

Boots on the ground — check.

Optimism? Not in check.

(Seek N Justice gallops on the rail this summer / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

That’s what owning a racehorse will do for you. It’s gets you up early. It gets you excited. It gets your body and heart moving. It gets you looking ahead. It gets you looking forward.

As soon as I strolled over to the barn of trainer Buff Bradley, my great friend and trainer, his assistant, Chelsea, came over and asked if I wanted to see my colt. It was like asking a toddler if he wanted a Jolly Rancher.

We immediately went over to the stall, and the young man stuck his head over the webbing and greeted me with a gentle nose rub to the chest. It was as if he was saying, “Where have you been lately? Missed you buddy.”

When the colt laid his head over on my shoulder, and we exchanged a “moment,” I knew exactly why I own a horse. Truthfully, I knew exactly why I had gotten up at the forsaken hour of 5:45 a.m.  And, I knew right then and there why people fall in love with this great sport.

You see, this colt — who now goes by the name of Seek N Justice — is the first foal out of a mare that I owned and raced with a group of great friends. When that mare, Diamond Seeker, busted a knee so badly that she couldn’t race any more, I took her home and decided I wanted to keep her and give her a shot at another career — as a broodmare.

So, three years ago, I bred Diamond Seeker to Caleb’s Posse after chatting with my great friend, Pam Michul, who was advising clients on breeding at Three Chimney’s Farm at the time. Two years ago, Diamond Seeker had this colt. A beautiful baby who looked just like his momma.

And, nearly every month since then, I have gone to visit him.

Saw him as a baby. And loved him.

Saw him last year as a yearling, and loved him.

Sent him to be broken to a saddle and rider this summer, and loved him.

Most of all, I just loved him.

This morning, I went to see him at Churchill Downs. It was like going to see your kid at college. Fun.

Earlier this Summer, Seek N Justice had gotten a couple of months on the track. But when his shins barked a bit, both Buff and I decided it was time for a little R&R at the farm.

A couple of weeks ago, Seek N Justice got to go back to school. And today, he got his first “breeze” since his return — getting to take off a little bit and run for about a furlong. So, without being asked twice, I jumped at the chance to go check the colt out this morning.

It was like going to see your kid at college. Fun.

(Seek N Justice this cool a.m. / Photo by Gene McLean)

The colt galloped a loop around the oval and, then heading into the backstretch, he got to stretch his legs right in front of me. And, he pinned his ears, revved his engine and fired. With all his might, he hung right there with his workmate. Buff stuck his head in the clocker’s stand and said, “I got them in :12 and change.” And, I didn’t know whose heart was pumping more, the colt’s or mine.

Did I say it was like going to see your kid at college? It was fun.

It is a long, long, long way until Seek N Justice is ready to make his first appearance at the racetrack in the afternoon, when the world can watch him finally do what he was born to do — run. I know — by now and by experience — that so many things can happen between now and then. So many things that can disappoint your mind and hurt your heart. So many troubles. So many sidebars and sidetracks. So much to do and overcome.

But I also know what you feel like when that day finally does come. Butterflies. Visions of grandeur. Dreams dancing. Sleepless night. Anxious morning.

It is like going to see your kid at college.

It is fun.

And, I can’t wait until next week.

(See you next week Seek / Photo by Gene McLean)

Posted Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate on Wednesday announced a decision that sent sound waves throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky as loud as the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” on Kentucky Derby Day, and the word spread about as fast as Triple Crown winner Justify could run around a racing oval.

In the early afternoon, Judge Wingate issued a 22-page ruling defining that the “Exacta Systems” historical racing machines — which are in place and operating at Kentucky Downs race track in rural Franklin, Ky. — are pari-mutuel, and, thus, are legal under current Kentucky law governing the betting on horse racing in the Commonwealth.

Judge Wingate had originally ruled in favor of the historical racing operation and machines in an earlier decision a couple of years ago. But that decision was appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals by the Kentucky Family Foundation, which argued that the original court case had not been heard and vetted fully.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals did not rule on the case, per se, but remanded the case back to Judge Wingate’s court for more testimony, briefing and legal review. That case was heard again, and a final decision from Judge Wingate had been expected in the case for months.

In fact, some had expected the ruling to be announced as far back as the Spring of this year. But on Wednesday, the ruling was finally released. And, once again, the ruling was in favor of historical racing.

One person, who has been closely tied to the litigation, told me, “The horse industry won, and the Family Foundation lost.”

The Family Foundation now has 30 days to decide and file another appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals challenging Judge Wingate’s latest decision. That appeal is a “matter of right,” and can be filed at any time within the time period allowed.

There has been no indication yet as whether or not the Family Foundation will continue the legal battle.

(Entrance to Derby City Gaming in Louisville / Photo By Gene McLean)

But no matter what, Wednesday was a good day for the Kentucky Horse Racing Industry. In addition to the historical racing operation at Kentucky Downs — which was the first such business activity in the state — historical racing is now being conducted at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., and in Lexington at the Red Mile, in a joint venture with Keeneland. The latest addition to the Historical Racing family of operations was in Louisville, where Churchill Downs now owns and operates Derby City Gaming.

Without doubt, historical racing has pumped millions of new dollars into the Kentucky horse racing industry — increasing purses at both Thoroughbred and Standardbred races and adding critical value to those racing institutions that are now currently conducting the operations, as well.

Soon, the Kentucky Racing Commission will begin deliberating several new racetrack license applications. All of the new applications have included historical racing operations within the new projects.

Posted Friday, October 19, 2018

On Wednesday night, the Louisville Thoroughbred Society opened its temporary doors and had its’ official “Ground Breaking Ceremony” at 209 East Main Street in downtown Louisville.

The “Society” — which will be an upscale, private membership club for persons interested in, invested in, and fans of the Thoroughbred industry — entertained over 200 fans and public officials to introduce them to what soon will be downtown Louisville’s latest addition.

Unlike the more traditional groundbreaking events, there were no ribbons to cut; no shovels to dig; no dirt to toss; and no reason to snore.

(Churchill Downs’ famed bugler was on hand to deliver the first “Call to the Post” for the Louisville Thoroughbred Society / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

Instead, there was plenty of fine food to eat; libations to drink; there were photos and renderings of dreams that will soon become reality; there was entertainment and Churchill Downs’ famed bugler to announce the “Call to the Post;” and there was reason to party.


 

(Artist rendering and live depiction of the main bar area of the newly proposed Louisville Thoroughbred Society  / Phots by Holly M. Smith)

And, that’s just what the invitees did while touring a historic building that will be turned into a destination location with some of the most vibrant, state-of-the-art audio and video reproductions of Thoroughbred racing and sporting events.

The people got to see a grand, ol’ barroom that will soon be transformed into a premier private dinning and meeting space that will be host to some of the industry’s most important meetings and decision makers. And, an area that will be perfect for receptions, presentations, celebrations — of all sorts.

The people got to tour the expansive indoor space that will soon house one of downtown’s largest bar rooms, equipped with comfortable and stylish furnishings.

 

(Nashville recording artist John Austin McDaniels entertained the crowd / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

The people got an image of where Louisville’s first and foremost premium “Cigar Bar” — equipped withe the region’s largest walking humidor — will be located.

The people got to peer out over the first poured steps of what will be a new parking garage, that will be topped with the city’s largest outdoor rooftop bar and green space.

The people got to hear how they can join, participate, relax and enjoy — from top trainers and founders of the new project.


 


(Founding members Gene McLean and Mike Schnell talk about the idea for the newly proposed “Society,” and trainers Buff Bradley and Stephen Lyster chat about how the project will help promote the entire Thoroughbred industry  / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

It was the first time that the old building got a chance to show new life. And, it was fun.

Here’s a look inside the first event, through the eye and lens of our famed photographer Holly M. Smith. If you want to know more how you can be a member or participate as in investor in this new project, please drop us a note and get more information.

The fun is just about to begin.

In earnest.


 

  

(Photos and renderings of the Louisville Thoroughbred Society Ground Breaking Ceremony, held at the Hughes Lofts on Wednesday night / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

Posted Sunday, October 14, 2018
At Keeneland, it's tailgating as it was meant to be, writes Gene McLean.
Posted Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Monday afternoon was an interesting one concerning news — and, ironically enough, no news, as well — regarding Kentucky Downs.

At 3:32 p.m. ET, The Pressbox reached out to track officials — again — asking for comment about a possible sale of the racetrack and all of its amenities which are located in Franklin, Ky.

For several weeks now, The Pressbox has been working on a story that Kentucky Downs – the sprawling, European-styled Thoroughbred racetrack, which also owns and operates an extremely successful Historical Racing betting parlor on its location near the Tennessee border — was in the process of considering serious offers for a possible sale.

During Kentucky Downs’ most recent live race meet in September, multiple sources confirmed to us that representatives from at least two different groups had been touring the location and reviewing the facility in contemplation of a possible offer and sale.

Acting on that information, The Pressbox reached out repeatedly to Ray Reid, one of the partners in the Kentucky Downs partnership, and, according to our information the managing partner, via text, email and multiple phone calls.

While we have received no response to our requests, just 29 minutes after our latest inquiry this afternoon to Kentucky Downs President Corey Johnsen, the track issues a press release with details about its’ application to own and operate a new track in Oak Grove, Ky., and news that it is willing to spend an additional $25 million on updating its current facility.

Interesting timing, to say the least.

For the record, the The Pressbox was the first news outlet to report that both Kentucky Downs and Caesars’ International, which owns a standardbred operation in Paducah, Ky., known as Bluegrass Downs, were submitting applications for a racetrack license in Oak Grove — becoming the second and third such applications — before the deadline of Oct. 1.

Previously, and about a year ago, a new consortium and business entity created by Keeneland and Churchill Downs submitted a detailed, expansive and aggressive proposal to build a racetrack in that Southwest Kentucky community.

Just a few weeks ago, we also announced the news that the new collaboration had submitted a “dates request” to run live Standardbred dates at the old Louisville Downs facility in 2019, with the idea of moving those same dates their Oak Grove facility if the Kentucky Racing Commission issued that license to the Keeneland-Churchill Downs venture and once the new facility was fully constructed and operational in 2020.

While we are still awaiting any comment from Kentucky Downs — to either confirm or deny — our information about a possible sale being currently negotiated, we have decided to cover both developing stories:

First, here is what we have learned about a possible sale of Kentucky Downs:

According to multiple sources, we have learned that an independent banking institution, based out of Dallas was contracted before the September race meeting, and that firm did begin the early process of identifying possible buyers for Kentucky Downs.

Our sources told us that the consulting firm performed some significant due diligence, and has a financial report that it has been sharing with some serious parties.

To date, we have been informed by several key sources that representatives from at least two separate and different racetrack operators — one being Delaware North — have already been on location to review the track.

In addition, we have been told that those officials have walked the grounds; reviewed the track; examined the Historical Racing casino area; and observed the full operations.

Although an official offer has not yet been accepted — and we were told that the current racetrack management team would not officially consider a possible sale and transfer of assets until after the five-day race meet was concluded on Sept. 13 – we have confirmed from multiple sources that at least one of the tracks is planning to make an official offer for consideration.

In addition, we are told that other major racetrack operations located throughout the country have also attempted to make contact with the banking representative to find out the details of the possible sale, and potentially enter into the negotiating process.

Some of those tracks that are potentially interested in learning the details for a possible sale, are being told that they would have to be “approved for consideration,” before they could enter the negotiations.

“It is pretty common knowledge in the racetrack world that (Kentucky) Downs is considering and soliciting offers at this time,” said one source. “It’s a pretty small world out there, and the there is plenty of talk.”

According to our information, the “asking price” for the track, all of its properties, and associated operations is in the neighborhood of $150 million. We are told, though, that the bank orchestrating the interview process may attempt to raise $175 million for the sale, which would include an additional $25 million to be spent on improving the current property and facility.

There are two current issues complicating the possible sale at this time.

One is the pending litigation regarding Historical Racing that is currently being decided in Franklin Circuit Court. A final decision by Judge Thomas Wingate has been expected in that case for quite some time. But a final rendering has not been issued, to date.

The second issue is the possible issuance a new racetrack license in Oak Grove. According to some of our sources, one of the possible buyers wanted Kentucky Downs to apply for the license in order to preserve a possible “right” to also build, own and operate in that location, as well.

Again, Kentucky Downs officials have not responded to multiple requests for comment — to either confirm or deny the information.

Now, for Monday's press release from Kentucky Downs:

At 4:01 p.m. today, just 29 minutes after we reached out to Johnsen, the track released a statement acknowledging that it had applied for a racetrack license in Oak Grove, Ky. for a Standardbred facility. According to the press release, Kentucky Downs is “committing $45 million to the Oak Grove project and plans to spend an additional $25 million in a major expansion of its existing track in Franklin, Ky.”

That $45 million proposal is well below the projected sum that the Keeneland-Churchill Downs team announced in its application for a racetrack in that area. In its official proposal to the Kentucky Racing Commission, the Keeneland-Churchill proposal called for an expenditure north of $125 million — nearly three times the investment.

The press release went on to read:

“We appreciate the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission opening up applications for new licenses,” said Corey Johnsen, Kentucky Downs’ president who has been involved in the opening or reopening of five tracks in the United States and Latin America. “For a number of years, we have been working with the Kentucky Harness Horsemen’s Associationand the City of Oak Grove to fill a void in the standardbred circuit and to create an entertainment and tourist destination in southwest Kentucky that complements existing businesses and enterprises.”

The release also had the following statements:

“The proposed track would race 15 days from Oct. 11 to Nov. 10, 2019, with purses fueled year-round by up to 500 Exacta Systems historical horse racing (HHR) terminals, the innovative technology that marries the pari-mutuel wagering system that is the backbone of American horse racing and the action of electronic video gaming while based on the results of previously-run races. The harness track will be five-eighths of a mile with 450 stalls.

“The global design and architectural firm Populous— known for the renovation and expansion of world-class facilities such as Ascot Racecourse and Yankee Stadium — has been retained for both Oak Grove Meadows and the Kentucky Downs’ expansion. Dennis Moore, one of the country’s most-respected track superintendents, will oversee the construction of the new harness racing surface.

“We have put together a dream team of experts and are excited to share our plans with the Kentucky horse industry,” Johnsen said. “We have developed expertise in operating historical horse racing and marketing to the Nashville region. We are confident that our plans at both sites will complement each other and provide maximum revenues for the Kentucky horse industry. This new phase will bring Kentucky Downs’ investment to $141 million since 2007.”

The Kentucky Racing Commission is scheduled to meet throughout the month of October to consider all three proposals for Oak Grove which have been submitted. The third proposal is from Caesar’s Entertainment, but, to date, that entity has not released any details about its plans.

The Commission is scheduled to announce dates for live racing in 2019 the early part of November, in a regularly-scheduled meeting of the entire Commission. A final decision on which application has been accepted could be announced at that time.

We will keep you informed.

Posted Tuesday, October 02, 2018

As expected, and as The Pressbox reported last week, both the ownership teams at Kentucky Downs, which now operates a live Thoroughbred racing facility in Franklin, Ky., and Caesar’s Entertainment, which owns and operates a live Standardbred operation known as Bluegrass Downs in Paducah, Ky., have filed applications to build, own and operate a new racetrack in or near Oak Grove, Ky.

The two new licenses were received on Monday, the final day for submitting live dates for 2019 and the last day for the receipt of the new racing applications. According to officials at the Kentucky Racing Commission, the Caesar’s application was received when the offices opened early Monday morning, and the Kentucky Downs application was received later in the day.

About three weeks ago, the Kentucky Racing Commission announced that it would begin receiving applications for newly proposed tracks in the Commonwealth, and would take those applications under consideration at the same time it does live race dates.

The new applications now gives the Kentucky Racing Commission three applications to consider for the same proposed locale in Southwest Kentucky, near the Fort Campbell installation campus along the Tennessee border.

Privously, and over a year ago, a new consortium created between historic Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, and the prestigious Churchill Downs, Incorporated, the home of the Kentucky Derby, presented the Commission with their joint formal application.

One of those applications was for a new racetrack to be built near or around the City of Corbin in Southeast Kentucky. We have since learned, though, that the two tracks may have asked for a delay for this racing application.

(Property use plan as proposed by Keeneland-Churchill Downs for Oak Grove.)

The second of those applications was for a $125 million racetrack and Historical Racing venue in Oak Grove. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Keeneland-Churchill Downs team formally requested about two weeks worth of Standardbred race dates to be considered and issued by the Kentucky Racing Commission for that new license in 2019. Under that proposal, the new entity requested that the dates be issued along with the new license, and to allow the dates to be run in 2018 at the former Louisville Downs Race Track on Poplar Level Road and near Churchill Downs.

Prior to that track being sold to Churchill Downs in 1991, Louisville Downs was a harness race track owned by William King. And, it was one of the most innovative and progressive Standardbred racing venues in the country. After the sell, though, Churchill Downs converted the former venue into a Thoroughbred training center — which is still maintained today.

(The entrance to Derby City Gaming / Photo by Gene McLean)

The former Louisville Downs property is also the new home of “Derby City Gaming.” This is Churchill Downs’ newest and latest addition and showplace. The new facility is the home for Churchill Downs’ Historical Racing operation, and the multi-million dollar complex currently provides for over 900 machines, two restaurant venues, and upscale drink and bar options.

It is not known when the Kentucky Racing Commission will begin deliberations or discussions about the new license applications. The Commission is currently in the process of setting up Committee and Commission dates in October for the consideration of live dates.

Race dates for 2019 must be received at the Commission offices on or before Oct. 1 and shall be issued by Nov. 1, according to Kentucky State Statues that govern the horse racing industry in the Commonwealth. If live dates are issued for Oak Grove in 2019 — or a temporary venue prior to a racetrack being constructed there — they will have to be assigned at the same time all live dates for all of Kentucky’s tracks are finalized.

(A proposed grandstand / clubhouse area for the Keeneland-Churchill Downs proposal / Rendering Courtesy of Keeneland-Churchill Downs)

Details of the Keeneland-Churchill Downs proposal for the Oak Grove license have been public for over a year now. Those plans call for the new business venture to spend approximately $125 million in infrastructure and other improvements to build a Standardbred racetrack, clubhouse, grandstand, and an upscale venue to be the locale for a Historical Racing operation.

In addition, the proposal also calls for build out of a commercial development, and other amenities as well.

Details of the two new proposals were not made public on Monday. At this time, it is not known whether Caesar’s Entertainment is proposing to build a new track in Oak Grove to replace the current one in Paducah, or if the proposed new location would be a totally new operation in addition to the facility in Paducah.

Again, official details of the new proposals were not made public on Monday. We will be endeavoring to find out more information as it becomes available.

Posted Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Pressbox has learned, according to sources very close to the situation, that Kentucky Downs — the rural, all-grass racetrack located in Franklin, Ky. — may submit an application this week to build and operate a racetrack in Oak Grove, Ky.

Corey Johnsen, the President of Kentucky Downs, confirmed the news. In response to a text message asking for comment on the credibility of the story, Johnsen texted: “Yes. By October 1.”

If and when the application is submitted — and we are being told that the new paperwork could come as early as Wednesday or as late as Friday — Kentucky Downs will become the second in-state entity to file such a request with the Kentucky Racing Commission to own a facility in the same location.

About a year ago, a new business entity composed of both Keeneland and Churchill Downs submitted an application to build a new racetrack and other amenities in Oak Grove, a town that borders Fort Campbell in the southern tip of Christian County in Southwest Kentucky.

The Keeneland-Churchill Downs proposal previously submitted stated that the new entity planned to construct the new racetrack that would accommodate Standardbred racing, and would also construct a state-of-the art facility to house Historical Racing, as well.

Currently, Keeneland — which conducts one of the world’s top live Thoroughbred race meets in both the Spring and Fall — owns and operates a Historical Racing venue in Lexington, Ky., along with The Red Mile.

Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby and who conducts more live Thoroughbred race dates in the Commonwealth than any other racing jurisdiction, just opened a new Historical Racing operation at the former Louisville Downs location in Louisville. The new facility, known as Derby City Gaming, is home to over 900 machines.

(Keeneland-Churchill rendering for racetrack proposed at Oak Grove)

The Keeneland-Churchill Downs proposal for Oak Grove also includes other amenities and sidebar attractions. The plans call for a newly constructed indoor/outdoor grandstand, and, eventually, placements for a new hotel, convention area, and other commercial properties.

In total, the proposal estimated that the total cost for the new entertain complex to be in the range of $120 million.

Recently, Keeneland-Churchill submitted an application to run live Standardbred dates at the new Derby City Gaming location in Louisville in 2019, with the caveat that those dates would be immediately transferred to the new racetrack planned for Oak Grove in 2020. The new Derby City Gaming facility is located at the former home of Louisville Downs, which was once one of the lynchpins of Standardbred racing in the entire South. When purchased by Churchill Downs, though, the track was converted to a training facility for Thoroughbreds, and has been kept for that purpose ever since.

The Pressbox has not seen the details of the proposed application that Kentucky Downs is considering to submit, but we have been told that the track has been working on its proposal for over a year, and had considered submitting it earlier. According to our information, this application would also include a limited number of live Standardbred race dates, and construction of a facility to house Historical Racing.

A source close to the situation indicated that the Kentucky Downs’ proposal would be in the neighborhood for “$15 to $25 million.” The Pressbox has also learned that Kentucky Downs could also pledge to spend another $15 to $25 million on improvements at its current track. Kentucky Downs was the first track to own and operate Historical Racing as part of its’ daily pari-mutuel menu. And, it has proven to be a great success story at the track’s facility in Franklin, creating millions for the operations and for the purse accounts.

The Pressbox reached out to several key contacts associated with Kentucky Downs on Tuesday to verify the report, but we have yet to hear back from those high-ranking officials.

In addition, there has been a consistent rumor that Caesar’s Entertainment, which currently holds the license to conduct Standardbred racing at Bluegrass Downs in Paducah, Ky., may be considering a proposal for Oak Grove, as well.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Kentucky Racing Commission announced that it would begin receiving and reviewing all new applications for racetrack licenses. In that announcement, the Commission stated that it wanted all requests for live dates to be submitted by, or prior to Oct. 1. If the Commission does award a new racetrack license for any new jurisdiction, then it will announce that decision and award live dates on or before Nov. 1.

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Meet Gene McLean

The Pressbox is your source for news, handicapping and interviews with the industry's biggest stars. Gene McLean is the Founder of The Pressbox and The Louisville Thoroughbred Society. No one in this industry has more talent in reviewing, forecasting and handicapping.




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