Turfway Park 'committed' to keeping race dates from Churchill

September 06, 2019 03:53pm
Following an announcement Thursday that Churchill Downs Inc. will apply to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for a new racetrack in northern Kentucky, in the process acquiring Turfway Park's winter spots on the state's racing calendar, Turfway's ownership on Friday said it is "working hard to keep those dates at our venue."

In a statement, Hard Rock said its request for future race dates was submitted on July 30 along with details of its upcoming renovations in the range of $100 million.

"Hard Rock's Turfway Park project, that was recently presented to members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, is a rewarding project, not only for Florence, but for all thoroughbred racing in Kentucky," the statement reads. "We've heard of another company trying to take over the existing race dates. However, we are focused on bringing our world-class entertainment to northern Kentucky."

Hard Rock in April purchased Turfway from JACK Entertainment as part of a $780 million deal that included a Cincinnati casino. A separate statement from JACK's chief executive officer, Mark Dunkeson, on Friday said, "We are shocked and thoroughly disappointed by Churchill Downs' recent attack on Turfway Park, which has been a significant part of the northern Kentucky community for over 60 years.

"JACK Entertainment and Hard Rock International will jointly defend the long-standing race dates that have regularly been awarded to Turfway Park and contest the inappropriate actions of Churchill Downs and their attempt to disrupt the northern Kentucky racing community."

Both Churchill Downs' and Turfway Park's plans call for instant racing machines that boost purse money and revenue -- but the rate at which Turfway has moved to install them has reportedly irked the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

According to Paulick Report, Mark Simendinger, vice chairman of the KHRC, told Turfway's general manager, Chip Bach, in December: “You have to make a decision. You're either in, as part of Kentucky racing, or you're out. And that's ok. Being out's ok. Just let someone else come in and do it."

Turfway Park was originally awarded the license for instant racing in December of 2015.

"This project will be the single most meticulously planned project since the pyramids," Simendinger told Bach, according to Paulick Report, at that meeting last year.

Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack, said in a statement Thursday that his team would be "stepping up to protect and grow Kentucky’s Thoroughbred racing circuit" through New Latonia Racing & Gaming, the name for a proposed project that could cost up to $200 million.

The Churchill Downs-owned facility would have a synthetic oval, inner dirt track and be open year-round for training.

“Our goal is to deliver an ultra-competitive racing product with more entries and high-quality horses that appeal to bettors and horseplayers nationwide," Flanery said.

Turfway Park typically opens for live racing December through March. Churchill Downs has said it is willing to conduct winter racing under its Twin Spires while the northern Kentucky facility is under construction.

The KHRC next meets on Oct. 15.


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