Churchill, Kentucky Downs reach compromise on September racing dates

Lexington Herald-Leader

A day after the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's race dates committee sent Churchill Downs and Kentucky Downs back to the negotiating table, the tracks have worked out a deal that allows both to run some days in September.

The agreement, released Wednesday by the racing commission, keeps September racing alive at Churchill Downs in Louisville, which had threatened not to run if the track couldn't have the month to itself.

Kentucky Downs in Franklin, which asked for seven days of live racing, will get five: three Saturdays, a Thursday and a Wednesday.

Churchill Downs will get 11 days of live racing, rather than 21 days. Churchill originally proposed to start live racing Sept. 10, but it will give that date to Kentucky Downs and start Sept. 11 instead.

The two Thoroughbred tracks will overlap live racing on two Saturdays.

But Churchill Downs gets "host track" status from Sept. 8 to 30, which will entitle the track to a bigger share of simulcast betting revenue. Kentucky Downs had asked for host-track status for 11 days.

Ellis Park in Henderson will race four days in September and is to have host track status through Sept. 7.

"We would like to offer more live racing days, but it just didn't work out for 2015," Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen said. He had no comment on the loss of host-track status, which in 2014 added about $35,000 to the track's bottom line and another $35,000 for purses.

Churchill Downs racetrack president Kevin Flanery issued this statement:

"Churchill Downs applauds the spirit of compromise that led to the agreement on 2015 racing dates, and we appreciate the leadership of executive director John Ward and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission that was essential in reaching this agreement. Most of all, we appreciate the agreement as a signal that all Kentucky tracks are focused and working together to deal with the issues of field size, a dwindling supply of available horses and the impact of shrinking foal crops that affect us all."

These dates and the rest of the racing calendar must be approved by the racing commission, which is scheduled to meet Tuesday.

There was no word Wednesday on Thunder Ridge in Prestonsburg; the harness track requested 21 days of live racing, but the race dates committee said it couldn't take any action without financial information from owner Murray Sinclaire.

The racing commission must award dates for next year by the end of the month.