Yavapai Downs has a new owner: a group led by Phoenix-based JACOR Partners.
The Real Estate investment and development company announced at today's meeting of the Arizona Racing Commission that its affiliate J and J Equine Enterprises LLC has closed on the purchase of the racetrack property. The new owners include brothers and JACOR principals Tom, Dave and Mike Auther and Joe Jackson, along with Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen.
Yavapai Downs, with its 90,000 square-foot clubhouse/grandstand and accommodations for 800 horses, sits on 120 acres on the northeast edge of Prescott Valley, located eight miles from downtown Prescott on Highway 89A. The property was purchased for $3.22 million out of federal bankruptcy court, with the new owners planning to invest millions more in improvements.
Yavapai Downs has not conducted live racing since 2010. The new owners plan to offer live racing and be an important part of the Arizona horse racing circuit. The next step is the application process with the Arizona Racing Commission, with more detailed plans to be announced after the live-racing permit is granted.
“This track is a real gem,” Tom Auther said. “Yavapai Downs is a great structure that will be a fun place to offer summertime horse racing in Arizona with all the amenities, attractions and great summer temperatures associated with Prescott. Arizona has a population of more than 7 million and is one of America's fastest-growing states, and Prescott and the surrounding area is rapidly expanding with a population approaching 300,000.”
Johnsen is recognized as one of America's foremost racing executives, with a long and successful history in opening and reopening racetracks. His roots in racing took hold in Arizona, where he worked as a backstretch groom while attending Arizona State University, his first job out of college coming in marketing and public relations at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.
“The Arizona horse racing scene holds great sentimental value for me, and it's very gratifying to be part of re-establishing a year-round racing circuit,” Johnsen said. “We look forward to improving purses for all the hard-working horsemen, encouraging the Arizona-bred program that has produced so many solid runners and providing an entertaining product for the many dedicated horseplayers.
“I am honored to be a part of Yavapai Downs. I am very impressed with the JACOR Partners team, who are Arizona natives with a lifetime of experience in the state in many business deals. Their commitment to making this happen has been extraordinary.”
Veteran racetrack executive Ann McGovern will be the general manager, the new ownership said. McGovern has been in senior management at Oklahoma's Remington Park, Texas' Sam Houston Race Park and New Mexico's Ruidoso Downs. Dennis Moore, the track superintendent at Santa Anita Park and Del Mar and who has consulted on tracks around the world, will oversee the renovation of the racing surface.
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