Yavapai Downs Purchased By Phoenix-Based JACOR; Corey Johnsen Part Of Ownership Group

by | 01.11.2018 | 3:13pm
Yavapai Downs

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.

  • Jake

    Great news for Northern California horseman!!

    • Scot Morley

      How so?

      • Jake

        Hi Scotty ! Well 3 – 4 months of racing at same facility as opposed to 5 different facility in norcal would be extremely attractive. Those days of are long gone.CARF has been singing a Sacremento upgrade song for decades. They had there chance when Bay Meadows got bulldozed and they did ZILCH! Santa Rosa had a awesome turf course when it was first installed and they have let it go to hell only thing missing on it is the CHRB board members grazing on it. If they do upgrades to Yavipi put in a turf course and have purses equivelant to Norcal you will see a reverse wagon train!

        • Scot Morley

          Jake,

          Yavapai Downs, is a 5/8 I believe.
          I highly doubt the have room for a turf course. I recall most of their races where below 2k. I don’t think
          that can even compete with CARF.

          • David Burris

            It’s a one mile track. Could add a turf course. Just need to get more owners involved in order to create a year round circuit again. Nice to see someone investing in the sport.

          • Jake

            Thank you for clarifying the correct distance. Hopefully with the local passionate management along with the highly successful Kentucky Downs President on board they can turn it something….

          • Scot Morley

            Good to know, I think adding a turf course would be more then millions though. More likely going to use that money for the grandstand painting and stable area. I hope I’m wrong.

          • Jake

            Pretty sure 1-2 million you can put in a good traditional 7/8 turf course. No sense to upgrade stables if they aren’t going to attract Horsemen .

          • really?

            no turf course stop drreaming

          • Jake

            Really really? That’s the only shot they got. Doesn’t make sense to run a rock bottom claiming facility as evident from prior bankrupt owners. They got the Kentucky Downs President on board don’t know if your aware of that facility but it has zero dirt racing.

          • really?

            have u heard of instant racing

          • Jake

            Have you heard of Sports Wagering?

          • really?

            ky downs was a dump before instant racing all turf course or not pal. This is an obvious play for instant racing to everyone but you.

          • Jake

            Maybe you are right time will tell, I guess I’m gullible.

          • Ruffian31

            They built the facility with the intention of bringing in a turf course eventually.

          • Ruffian31

            First they need to make sure they will have a meet and not wait until three days before opening to tell horsemen they aren’t running…which is what happened last time.

          • Jake

            New ownership, article says their gonna invest millions into facility. I might be wrong but when I read that I assume there going to try to attract stables.

          • Dennis Brown

            one mile oval

          • Ruffian31

            Their main track is a 1m track and it was designed to have a 7f inner turf course eventually.

  • Billy McBride

    The only thing that makes sense is an eventual racino.

    • jj

      It’s a boring track went up twice when it opened no fun. If they could figure out how to open the old track would gladly pay 20.00 to get in. I know the old track was unsafe but it was the carma. I miss the good times at the old Prescott Downs. jj

      • Ruffian31

        I don’t miss the racing accidents and drunk cowboys who were annoying as heck.

    • really?

      bingo

    • Ruffian31

      Good luck with that. Voters shot it down twice in the last decade.

      • Billy McBride

        Then the new owners will be very disappointed financially in there optimistic long term plan.

        • Ruffian31

          Doubtful. They know what they got into and state laws aren’t going to change any time soon but that isn’t going to stop them from doing what they plan to do. Time will tell though.

  • Shasta Sam

    Summertime racing in Arizona? No ADW wagering? Boy, that is a prescription for success (not).

    • Anglokraut

      It’s not nearly as hot above the rim; Prescott is rarely above 100 F in the summer. It’s a common sight to see all the cars streaming out of the valley Friday afternoon, all summer long.
      Camping, private cabins, resorts–anything to get out of the 110s of Phoenix in July. Horse racing of quality at an attractive facility might stand a chance–if run well.

      • Ruffian31

        Indeed and a lot of the local restaurants and businesses really get a boost from the activity, which is great.

        • Monrovia Damon

          Looks like a neat area and old town — would love to do a long weekend over there camping and racing with the wife.

          • Ruffian31

            It’s growing and changing all the time. If they don’t get the racing permit before April, there’s no way the track will reopen in time for Memorial Day. There’s too much to do. But they are pretty optimistic and are a bit more organized than the last owner. We shall see, but it will be great again to drive only 10 minutes to bet and watch live racing instead of 30 minutes at an OTB.

    • Carrie Fales

      ADW reinstated

      • Shasta Sam

        Explain please.

        • Carrie Fales

          I received an email from Express Bet that stated they were now the provider for ADW in AZ. I will see if I can locate it.

          • Shasta Sam

            I do not pretend to be an expert on AZ law but I have been lead to believe that the only wagering allowed is on track, OTB’s and phone betting. No ADW wagering is written into the law.

          • Ruffian31

            Phone betting was just passed two years ago. Betting from home like through BetFair hasn’t quite been approved yet. The Legislature hasn’t approved that yet but it’s been on their desk for a while now. If Express Bet is saying they are the ADW in AZ, however, then perhaps things are changing. Change is rather slow here unfortunately.

  • Tres Abagados Stupidos

    A. McG. ….what’s that saying about a bad penny?

  • RR

    The track closed in 2010 because it was horribly mismanaged financially. This group which includes the guy running KY Downs gives it plenty of potential as a B-C level track. The level of racing there was on the bottom and I doubt it will improve too much as stables spread out all over the country during the summer but it does give AZ horseman a home again during the summer.
    Back when it closed in 2010 I remember reading that many locals did not attend because the property was located in an area more remote than the old Prescott Downs, many wanted raing back there again but it was a very dangerous track at times.
    I don’t think a turf course would make any sense as the level of horses that ran their before just wouldn’t warrant it. Hopefully the new ownership group will do something about the infield though, I remember it being completely barren when they ran before. Good luck to them, I like betting B and C tracks, traditionally they ran from May until Labor Day so maybe they can get things going this season.

    • Ruffian31

      I live near the track and was glad to see it move out of Prescott. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a loose horse from the track running down a main thoroughfare at lunch time and some of the most horrific racing accidents occurred at that old oval. Besides many horses were stolen out of the old facility because there was literally no security, and since the livestock board decided to terminate requiring travelling papers for the animals, was almost impossible to prevent someone from stealing horses. At the new facility it was much tougher to get through without being stopped.

      The only ones complaining when it moved were the ones who actually had to drive somewhere. It’s not so isolated anymore. But the track was horribly mismanaged and I’m surprised it lasted 11 years. I went all the time and have some great racing shots from the track. I have missed going there, especially since I can bet 10 minutes from my house safely instead of going to an OTB in a dangerous part of town much farther away. There’s development everywhere around it now, so it’s not so isolated. I don’t see this track being ready for this season though. There’s way too much that’s needed to be done before it could open, but the new owners have said they are shooting for a Memorial Day grand re-opening…we shall see.

      • Carrie Fales

        May 2019

  • Southwest Dude

    3 mil for a facility that cost 30 to 40 mil to build looks like a good investment to me. The land alone should be worth that if the area developes. This outfit is first and foremost real estate investors. Much like the group who bought Bay Meadows and tore it down.

  • Laney Anderson

    Goodbye turf paradise 🤷‍♂️

    • Ruffian31

      Not it’s not. They run in the winter and spring and Yavapai only runs in the summer. They functioned just fine for nearly 10 years on this schedule.

  • Laney Anderson

    Goodbye turf paradise

    • Carrie Fales

      No. Turf runs October thru 1st week of May

  • Threerules

    If there were more track executives like Corey Johnsen horse racing would be bigger than the NFL.

    • really?

      if every bush track in america had slot machines maybe….but the nfl is shrinking so u might want to pick a different target…

  • 33horses

    I’m excited!

  • thisisfantastic

    Starting up the Downs all over again is gonna be tough, so tough
    But we sure hope they’re gonna make it
    Starting all over again is gonna be rough
    But they gotta face it
    We lost what we had, that’s why it hurt so bad.
    It set Prescott back a hundred years.
    We’re gonna make it up, though it’s gonna be rough
    To erase all the hurt and tears
    Starting all over again is gonna be hard
    But I pray that the love for the horses will help us make it
    Starting all over again is gonna be slow
    But we know that they can make it
    We gotta take life as it comes
    And never worry about who’s right or wrong
    It’s an uphill climb
    To the photo finish line
    They’re gonna try to make it work
    One more time

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