Kentucky's racing calendar remained in flux Tuesday after Churchill Downs and Kentucky Downs failed to reach agreement on September dates.
Racing commission executive director John Ward met for more than 30 minutes in private with Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, and Corey Johnsen, president of Kentucky Downs in Franklin, in an attempt to negotiate an agreement.
Kentucky Downs wants to race seven days in September. Churchill has said the track would be hampered by competition for horses if the Franklin track pulls several hundred out of the Louisville pool on those days.
Commission chairman Bob Beck said he hoped the tracks would be able to reach an agreement before the full Kentucky Horse Racing Commission meets next Tuesday. Otherwise, the tracks would have to make their respective cases to the commission, and "we will decide it for you, and nobody will like that," he said.
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Johnsen said afterward the talks were "communicative and cordial." Flanery slipped away without comment.
"I think the foremost thing we have to deal with is a shortage of horses," Ward said. "We're looking at declining horse populations so we have to use the inventory we have in a prudent way to make sure we have full fields and good purses."
That means minimizing overlap, Ward said.
Meanwhile, the race dates committee gave conditional approval to recommend 15 days of racing for Bluegrass Downs in Paducah.
The dates are contingent on the track receiving approval from the harness horsemen and on the commission's receiving more financial information on the soundness of owner Caesar's.
Bluegrass Downs representatives on Tuesday said that while the track had only about $27,000 in betting on 15 days of live racing last year, the $5 million in handle on simulcasting was enough to pay the bills.
It costs the racing commission more to regulate the meets at Bluegrass Downs and at Thunder Ridge in Prestonsburg than the state receives in tax revenue, Beck said. Only about $950 was wagered on Thunder Ridge live races last year.
Beck asked that Thunder Ridge owner Murray Sinclaire be available in person or by conference call to provide financial details about his track before the commission meets next week.
Attorney Bill May said Sinclaire was committed to racing the 21 harness dates requested for 2015 but hoped the racing commission would approve transfer of the license to Keeneland, which has an agreement to purchase it, move it to Corbin and open a quarter horse track and instant racing facility.
Commission approval of the sale should not be assumed, Beck said. "We have not finished due diligence on the deal. I don't think we've got all the facts yet."