Kentucky Downs or Churchill Downs: Who Gets Edge in Race Dates Battle?

by | 09.30.2014 | 8:40am
Kentucky Downs
Kentucky Downs

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's Race Dates Committee meets at 1 p.m. today and one of the issues the panel faces is whether to approve a request from Kentucky Downs to expand its highly successful September turf festival from five to seven dates in 2015. This year's Kentucky Downs meet, with daily average purses over $1 million, saw handle soar by 24 percent with field size exceeding 10 horses per race.

Kentucky Downs purses are built on revenue from Instant Racing machines installed at the Franklin, Ky., racetrack, which draws customers from the Nashville, Tenn., market.

It's expected the Kentucky Downs request will face opposition from Churchill Downs, which is coming off a 12-day September meeting that saw reported declines in handle and purses and dwindling field size of fewer than eight horses per race.

Churchill Downs assumed the September dates in 2013 from Turfway Park in a multi-party agreement that many viewed as a positive development for Kentucky horsemen. The additional dates also helped the bottom line of Churchill Downs and its parent company, CDI, by reducing the Louisville track's year-long average daily on-track handle below a $1.2 million threshold that lowered tax rates from 3.5 percent to 1.5 percent. It also gave Churchill Downs host status on some big simulcast days that were financially beneficial to the company.

Under Kentucky law, that sub-$1.2-million average daily on-track handle also permitted Churchill Downs to increase takeout, a move designed to sustain or increase purse levels but which angered horseplayers.

All of which begs the question: Does Churchill Downs want its 12-day September meeting to be successful from a financial standpoint, or is it being used as a money-making tool for the company's bottom line?

Conversely, Kentucky Downs boasts what it claims is the lowest takeout structure in racing, a horseplayer-friendly move that, combined with large fields, makes the product one of the most attractive betting propositions of the year.

Kentucky Downs has also taken steps on integrity and safety, installing surveillance cameras in its stable area and improving its turf course and safety rail.

Which track would you favor in this battle over dates?

  • Alan Boyd

    I favor Kentucky Downs.

  • Richard C

    The slick boutique meeting should have precedence — there are enough empty slots on a calendar where overlapping race dates should not factor into any approved blueprint. If CDI officials actually believe in key elements of marketplace capitalism….railbiirds and horsemen have spoken quite loudly on the issue.

  • Teresa Bossow

    Kentucky downs all the way

  • Bellwether

    NO BRAINER…Kentucky Downs all the way!!!…

  • brodman

    KD, where the horseplayer is clearly a more valued element.

  • Andrew A.
    • greg

      I e-mailed this:

      As an avid player and owner I would think giving KY Downs the add’l. 2 days would make good sense from every perspective. In fact I was successful this year in getting 12 other daily players I know to focus exclusively on KY Downs this year on the days they ran. Three of those folks are owners with 2 strongly considering shipping horses in to run next year. One had arrangements for Brice Blanc to ride 1st call and ship 8 horses in, however being only 5 days the cost was prohibitively expensive, will 2 extra days make a difference, yes as some may get to run twice at the meet.

      I ask that you give a successful enterprise a chance to grow. Please give KY Downs the extra dates

      Sincerely,

      • Andrew A.

        Outstanding

        • greg

          all true

      • BS

        Except the meet runs 3 weeks already, your argument holds no water

        • greg

          5 racing days, makes no sense to pay shipping and a higher day rate when they can continue at 3 weeks but add a few (maybe just 2) add’l. dates.

  • Jill Pflugheber

    Kentucky Downs, without question.

  • PTP

    If someone says Churchill Downs, the Paulick Report crack staff will likely launch a detailed and thorough IP investigation.

    PTP

  • Marlaine Meeker

    Kentucky Downs gets my vote and money!

  • davidinD

    Kentucky Downs. Plus, one thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that KYD provides valuable diversity in American racing with their European style course.

  • Politics101

    If the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has any sense, they will support any and all efforts by Kentucky Downs to expand their meet. Like Keeneland, it is a jewel of a racetrack that promotes the hospitality of Kentucky.

    On the other hand, Churchill Downs’ only desire is to take your money and funnel it up to the C-level executives and shareholders.

    Which side are you on?

  • Mark Waggoner

    KY Downs….no-brainer

    • I’m DQ’ed if that’s the criteria.

  • dbrown

    Will KDs provide stabling? So far only shipins can run there.

  • kyle

    I’m torn. I was given a new pair of lederhosen for Octoberfest and have few places to wear them.

    • You are one to avoid on Halloween. But knock on the door, anyway.

      • kyle

        Don, don’t worry. My parents taught me to avoid the questionable houses

        • Oh heck. All that stale candy gone to waste!

  • PJ Orlando

    I was at Kentucky Downs for the first time this year to check out the live racing. Unbelievable great time and racing. Churchill…um not so much… If it’s not the Derby its not worth my time.

    • Churchill is a larger version of the Preakness infield plumbing facilities.

    • LongTimeEconomist

      The Derby isn’t worth one’s money and time to attend, either.

      • Tis’ a shame the place is so big. They might just run out of suckers and pigeons someday, and then where will we be?

        • LongTimeEconomist

          Don, so many people today go to sporting events (and pay big bucks) for the “experience” or to be trendy. CD should still get those people one weekend a year; it’s the rest of the year when they are losing customers, both on-site and off.

          • A 96% percent failure rate is hard to justify.

            What is surprising (to them, but not to us; we’re less susceptible, being outside of the protective PR bubble) is that once the rate of failure goes up, their explanations become less convincing.

            The main point is that FASHION will dictate ticket sales. As always.

  • jonrand

    Ray, you have started a debate based on your premise that CD is “expected” to oppose the extra dates. Do you have any sources for this? Even anonymous ones? Don’t you think you might want to wait and see if there is, in fact, opposition, before you try getting your posters all riled up?

    • Andy in the desert

      Points taken.
      But given the history of CDI, one would think they’d want the status quo to continue, and WOULD oppose KD getting extra dates.
      I view this issue as healthy competition in a capitalist society.
      Someone needs to copy this thread and email it to the KHRCRD email address and tell them to be sure to read this comments section.
      Never mind, I just did.

      • jonrand

        Look, all Ray had to do was phone the CD communications dept. and ask point blank: “Will you oppose the KD request for two additional dates.” If they wouldn’t answer the question, then he might feel free to speculate. But not even asking is just plain lazy. At least give CD the chance to respond. Who knows? They might even have some arguments worth considering.

        • Andy in the desert

          “They might even have some arguments worth considering.”

          Err, doubtful.

          How long b4 we hear their decision I wonder? A month of Sundays?!?

          • jonrand

            So you’re defending pure speculation with even more pure speculation?

          • Andy in the desert

            Oh pleeze….you ever heard of bureaucrats/politicians do anything in a timely manner?!? Or did you just fall off the turnip truck? Even you must know how it works.

  • Dadnatron

    Kentucky Downs…

    I love the course and it doesn’t hurt that my filly broke her maiden on an $80,000 purse. I will send any appropriate horse I have to KD from now on. They treated both her and me very well.

  • rpres43

    KD by the length of the KD stretch! I come up from Orlando for a couple of KD programs every year, and absolutely love the place. I last played CD on Derby day, and will not play into their 22% take-out.

    • westcoastplayer

      Considering the fact, CDI also owns twinspires the economic health of CD is not even a concern to them as it can lose money year over year as long as they keep the Derby and its pomp and circumstance.The fact they also have 22% takeout is just a disgrace. The racing at CD is not good compared to the other major tracks across the country and as a horse player increasing KD’s dates is the only move that makes sense. I will never touch a CD card except for derby day as all of my simulcast money goes to the NY tracks or Keenland during its meetings. KD is a breath of fresh air to racing in America and brings something different that brings in more eyes to the sport. In a time when tracks are struggling and forced to close if they dont get slots, a meeting with large purses, different style racing and good horses is amazing. I wouldnt even blink if CD closed except for the losing Derby Weekend because for everyone I know on the west coast wagering there any other day is not even a thought.

  • Is this about speed dating?

    (Barry, stop. I get it. It isn’t funny. Nothing is funny.)

  • jkh

    Is CD a training center for KY D when there to have alive meet at there track. i don’t think so what if KY D took the first two weeks of Sept. and CD took the second two. THey could run what days in the two week that would like.

  • Horseplayer1

    I think that from a KY Horsemen perspective and what’s best for KY racing it has to be Churchill Downs. What really does KY Downs offer other than insane purses? They have no stabling area, rely on other tracks to house horses that leave to run at Ky Downs. I also don’t think the added purses money is helping all the KY Horsemen . Watching shippers come in for a few days and take purse money out of the state can’t sit too well. The fact that KY Downs does not offer dirt racing has to be a concern for horsemen as well. Ky Downs due to course constraints and the course needing to recover from racing has to stretch the meet over multiple weeks as well. I don’t think folks are looking at it from an industry overall perspective. Short term horseplayers may appreciate it but KY Downs in its current state cannt be a month long viable racing solution.

    • Garrett Redmond

      Who diagnosed good purses as insanity? What is wrong with such “insanity”? As an owner I feel I express the view of all – WE LOVE THEM. That is why shipping in is not considered a problem. Moreover, in GB and Ireland, everybody ships. Horses train at training centers (centres) or on private facilities or farms. Horses are healthier for it.
      Just how many are taking money out of state? Is racing an International sport as often said, but it cannot cope with Interstate ??
      Why should absence of dirt racing be a concern? Rate of injuries on dirt is THE concern.
      Can it be you are an official spokesman for Churchill Downs? If so, identify yourself.
      One way or another, your comments seem…. what is the word? ….insanity !

      • horseplayer1

        Well lets see you think Shepperd, Drysdale, Motion, Chris Block, Granitz…just to name a few didnt pocket their purse money that they won and ran out the state? This isn’t Europe and horsemen have bills and need races. So my dirt claiming horses just have no where to run in September so Neil Drysdale can come run his grass horses. Meanwhile I will be stall rent stabling in Kentucky. Since KY Downs doesnt have a stabling area or training surface I have to pay to train somewhere else and then pay to ship there IF i have an allowance grass horse that happens to draw in.

        I am not saying Ky Downs is a bad thing, but it cannot be the only chance I have to pay my bills because it just is not sustainable for horsemen. Indiana Downs probably praying for Ky Downs to win the battle so that they can be the only track running in September for horsemen that dont have the blue blood turf pedigrees or have horses that cant compete at the allowance level. Horses shipping to Indiana Downs hurts Kentucky racing and with KY Downs inability to offer a month long racing program with more dates and training facilities it just does not work for my and many other stables. Im sure the Ramsey’s love it with all their Kitten’s Joy turf pedigree but it doesnt work for most horsemen.

        • Garrett Rdmond

          Your response baffles me. Just one point, you seem to believe European owners don’t have bills or need races!!
          You think CD will give you a better deal !!!
          Enough said.

        • Dadnatron

          CHD has no diversity in races. 5-7f sprints and 1 1/16m ‘long’ races predominate. In fact, there were only 3 – 9f races during last meet. Nothing on the books longer that I can see. KD had 8 races over 10f during their 5day meet. Yes, its only turf… but they make the most out of those few days and have the only diversity in races between Keeneland meets.

  • Francis Bush

    Churchill will likely get their way. They have preference over Ky Downs through the Turfway connection. Hope a lawsuit doesn’t follow.

  • Al the K

    Nobody was stopping Kentucky horsemen from running at KD, yet, with the exception of CD-stabled horses that were laid up since June and CD-stabled horses that have been running at AP and Indiana, there were only a handful of runners shipping from CD, those mostly by small trainers. And who is a Kentucky-based horseman nowadays, anyway? Wayne Catalano?

    What does KY Downs offer other than insane purses? 10+ horse fields vs. CD’s 7.7, a different experience than running around a pure oval, turf racing when thunderstorms elsewhere wipe it off the menu, and fortunately or unfortunately for some, quite formful racing. Now if you prefer those 6-horse fields at CD with a higher takeout, go ahead and play there.

    Somewhat stupid to allow two tracks in Kentucky to go head to head, even just the 2 days this September. But the state pulled in more money overall despite the significant drop in handle at CD. And that drop is CD’s fault.

  • UKBlue

    If there wasn’t enough evidence already, this just adds to it; Churchill Management is just a punch of pathetic cry babies & all of them except Asher need to be fired. We are getting beat, we can’t come up with better ideas, we have no idea what we are doing, none of us really have any horse racing or gambling experience, so lets take out the track beating us. Churchill has already destroyed Hollywood Park, on the verge of destroying Calder, the Fairgrounds is falling apart, they raised simulcast fees on all other tracks, they won’t hold Breeders Cup at CD because they want a higher % takeout, CD customer service is beyond horrible, they are putting on a crappy product & these clowns have the audacity to complain about a smaller track that had these same dates for years that’s just trying to make it. Turfway had to deal with the same thing for years; hey CD shut up!

    • Andy in the desert

      Why don’t you tell us how you really feel ‘Blue!!
      EXCELLENT POST!
      In a twisted way, CDI reminds me of, “Get your tootsie fruitsy Ice cream” (Google it)

  • Elliott ness

    A new racing secretary at Churchill Downs would solve a lot of the short field issues, he has no clue about working out the problems in Kentucky. Nothing creative on the horizon. Business as usual. Six furlongs over and over every card. Kentucky Downs all the way.

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