Breaking News: KY Racing Commission May Form Committee to Research New Racing Licenses; Churchill Downs / Keeneland Release New Photos of Oak Grove Racing Project

About a year ago, a newly formed strategic partnership between two of world’s most iconic, historic and respected racetracks — Keeneland and Churchill Downs — developed and proposed projects to build, own and operate two new live racing venues in the Commonwealth.

One of the newly designed facilities would be located near Corbin, Ky, in Southeast part of the State. The other would be constructed along the Tennessee border in Southwest Kentucky in the city of Oak Grove. At that time, the newly formed partnership submitted applications to the Kentucky Racing Commission.

Although the Kentucky Racing Commission has yet to officially discuss, and/or consider either of the applications, “The Pressbox” has learned through a variety of reliable sources that the Commission may embark on a process to begin reviewing any and all new applications in the very near future, and may consider official action on those — possibly — before the end of the year.

According to our sources, several members of the Commission have been discussing the formation of a “Committee” to receive all the applications for new racing licenses, and that new “Committee” would begin work soon to consider all aspects of the individual proposals.

Apparently, four members of the current Racing Commission have been asked to serve in this capacity, along with the Chairman, Franklin S. Kling. Our sources say that the invitations to serve on this Committee — which will make final recommendations to the Commission, as a whole — have all come from the Chairman

This is a positive step by the Commission, and the overall racing and breeding industries in Kentucky. A move that should be encouraged and applauded by all. Full public disclosure, comment, debate, and full transparency is not a bad thing.

And, the last time we checked, anyone — or entity, for that matter — could or can submit an application to build, own, and operate a racing facility at any location that it deems fitting.

We are endeavoring now to see if the Kentucky Racing Commission will officially comment on the development and matter, at this time.

Since the closure of Thunder Ridge in Prestonsburg, there have been two licenses available in Kentucky — which, by current statutes, limits the number of horse racing licenses. By legislation, only nine racetracks located in the Commonwealth can operate simulcasting from both in-state and out-of-state racing venues. And, that is a critical income proponent for any racing venue.

Both of the newly proposed racetrack applications that have been submitted to date, have plans to operate live race dates, and, as well, simulcasting from other racing operations located all over the globe.

In addition, both of the new racing applications have included plans to own, and operate Historical Racing Machines. This highly successful addition to the racing and wagering menu has been highly profitable for both racetrack operations and the purse accounts at other tracks around the state and the country, including both Kentucky Downs in Franklin and at the Red Mile / Keeneland joint operation in Lexington.

Churchill Downs, in Louisville, is soon to open the state’s largest Historical Racing venue at Derby City Gaming, and recently announced that it — along with Keeneland — had submitted a dates application to the Kentucky Racing Commission, asking permission to race live Standardbred races at the newly designed Derby City Gaming operation. Ironically, this is the same location and site of the former Louisville Downs — which operated as a harness racing facility from 1966 to 1991, when it was sold to Churchill Downs.

Since the Louisville Downs closure, the track has been utilized for various purposes, but mainly as a Thoroughbred training track for many trainers that stay in Kentucky and race here year-round.

Now, it appears that harness racing could resume in Louisville, at least on a temporary basis. If and when the Commission approves the new racetracks, those dates could possibly be transferred to another location — with Commission approval.

Obviously, this would give a real boost to the state’s historical Standardbred racing industry. In recent years, the only track to offer serious purses and live racing options in Kentucky has been The Red Mile in Lexington. The now defunct Thunder Ridge and Bluegrass Downs, located in Paducah, have only provided a few live dates per year. The state-wide fair circuit has struggled to maintain operations, as well.

Revenue from all sources could be utilized to supplement purses for the current race meets and races, and also provide incentives for new, live racing opportunities for owners, trainers, and all persons that are connected to the overall equine industry.

Stay tuned for new developments. In the meantime, take a look at several new “looks” for the proposed racing venture in Oak Grove:

(Oak Grove Site Plan / Courtesy of Churchill Downs & Keeneland)

(Oak Grove Hote Lobby visual / Courtesy of Churchill Downs & Keeneland)

(Oak Grove Grandstand view / Courtesy of Churchill Downs & Keeneland)

(Oak Grove Hotel Suite view / Courtesy of Churchill Downs & Keeneland)



The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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