Judge Thomas Wingate Rules Historical Racing Machines Are Pari-Mutuel

(Historical Racing machine / Photo by Gene McLean)

On Wednesday afternoon, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate announced a decision that sent sound waves throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky as loud as the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” on Kentucky Derby Day, and the word spread about as fast as Triple Crown winner Justify could run around a racing oval.

In the early afternoon, Judge Wingate issued a 22-page ruling defining that the “Exacta Systems” Historical Racing machines — which are in place and operating at Kentucky Downs race track in rural Franklin, KY. — are pari-mutuel, and, thusly, are legal under current Kentucky law governing the betting on horse racing in the Commonwealth.

Judge Wingate had originally ruled in favor of the Historical Racing operation and machines in an earlier decision a couple of years ago. But that decision was appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals by the Kentucky Family Foundation, which argued that the original court case had not been heard and vetted properly or fully.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals did not rule on the case, per se, but remanded the case back to Judge Wingate’s court for more testimony, briefing and legal review. That case was heard again, and a final decision from Judge Wingate had been expected in the case for months.

In fact, some had expected the ruling to be announced as far back as the Spring of this year. But on Wednesday, the ruling was finally released. And, once again, the ruling was in favor of Historical Racing.

According to one person, who has been closely tied to the litigation, “the horse industry won, and the Family Foundation lost.”

The Family Foundation now has 30 days to decide and file another appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals challenging Judge Wingate’s latest decision. That appeal is a “matter of right,” and can be filed at any time within the time period allowed.

There has been no indication yet as whether or not the Family Foundation will continue the legal battle.

(Entrance to Derby City Gaming in Louisville / Photo By Gene McLean)

But no matter what, Wednesday was a good day for the Kentucky Horse Racing Industry. In addition to the Historical Racing operation at Kentucky Downs — which was the first such business activity in the state — Historical racing is now being conducted at Ellis Park in Henderson, KY, and in Lexington at the Red Mile, in a joint venture with Keeneland. The latest addition to the Historical Racing family of operations was in Louisville, where Churchill Downs now owns and operates Derby City Gaming.

Without doubt, Historical Racing has pumped millions of new dollars into the Kentucky horse racing industry — increasing purses at both Thoroughbred and Standardbred races and adding critical value to those racing institutions that are now currently conducting the operations, as well.

Soon, the Kentucky Racing Commission will begin deliberating several new racetrack license applications. All of the new applications have included Historical Racing operations within the new projects.



The nickname of this horse around the barn is ‘The best horse nobody’s heard of.’ Today we changed it to ‘the next big thing.’ We’ve loved this horse from day one. He’s showed a lot of potential, but we’ve had to be patient with him. Today he showed us what we thought he could do. We’re not going to run two in the Pacific Classic. We’re going to run one horse to be determined. We’re going to see how these horses (Accelerate, Catalina Cruiser) train over the track and pull up.”

JOHN SADLER, Catalina Cruiser, winner
  • 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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