After putting out a call for new applications for race dates, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's race dates committee announced Tuesday it has received three applications for a new harness track in the southwestern part of the state. Applications came from WKY Development LLC (a partnership between Churchill Downs Inc. and Keeneland), Kentucky Downs, and Players Bluegrass Downs. All three propose building a track in Christian County.
Committee members were asked to visit the three proposed sites for the construction. The group also began planning a public hearing to get comments from Christian County residents about their interest in having a racetrack in the community. The committee is required to consider impact of a new facility on its neighbors, impact on the racing industry, financial backing of the applicant, ability of an applicant to stick to a construction timeframe, as well as safety and other considerations for the facility design. The committee awaits a few additional details from each applicant in a few of these areas.
The deadline to award new dates for the following year is Nov. 1, according to statute. Frank Kling, chair of the commission and chair of the race dates committee, said the committee hopes to have its investigative work completed in time for the commission to award dates for 2019.
“If there's no opposition [from the community], we'd move forward quicker. If there's a lot of opposition, we'll step back and figure it out,” Kling said.
Kling said the committee will likely recommend one application for approval to the full commission, but commission members will receive application information from all three.
“Nobody's playing favorites, we're just trying to do what's best for horse racing in Kentucky,” he said. “It's a big step and we want to do it right.”
Thoroughbred dates are expected to remain relatively unchanged for 2019. Kentucky Downs President Corey Johnsen suggested the track may be interested in adding more dates, if horsemen and other tracks believe that would serve the circuit well.
“We would like to run more days. We believe that's in the best interest of the circuit,” said Johnsen. “We would never want to impact [Keeneland and Churchill Downs] in a negative way. I think we've proven that we're pro-overall circuit. The circuit does better, then Kentucky Downs does better … without the agreement of the other tracks and the horsemen, we would rather not go there and create a lot of negative feelings.”
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