Kentucky horse racing calendar likely to keep September shift

jpatton1@herald-leader.comOctober 7, 2013 

We Miss Artie with John Velazquez up wins the 100th Running of the Dixiana Breeders Futurity at Keeneland Race Track on Saturday October 4, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photos by Mark Cornelison | Staff

MARK CORNELISON — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

The Kentucky racing calendar appears to have settled into a holding pattern. For 2014, the state's Thoroughbred and harness tracks requested largely the same dates they have this year, but several are "optional" as the tracks await a ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court on the legality of instant racing, also called historical wagering.

For 2013, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission moved September racing from Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky to Churchill Downs in Louisville, where it flourished. That probably will continue next year. Churchill track president Kevin Flanery said leaders there "came out of this feeling very good," with wagering handle three times what it had been last year at Turfway.

Turfway president Chip Bach said the Florence track was pleased overall with the January, February and March results, but in weaker December, the track is asking for three fewer days of live racing.

The race dates committee recommended approval of the dates for Turfway and traditional dates for Keeneland in Lexington and the state's three harness tracks. The Red Mile will ask for seven optional Saturdays of racing, which the Lexington track would run only if instant racing is ruled legal and it can add the new form of gambling.

Conflicts between Churchill and Kentucky Downs in Franklin over who has "host track" status, which means a bigger share of betting revenue, in September must be resolved before the full racing commission votes on dates this month.

Commissioners also asked Ellis Park in Henderson to supply details on its building plans. Representative Bob Jackson said that if instant racing wins court approval, the track also plans an expansion. Several commissioners pressed Jackson to address complaints about poor conditions at Ellis, including questions about the racing surface.

The Kentucky Supreme Court could rule on instant racing early next year.

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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