KY Racing Commission Approves Transfer of Turfway Park License to Churchill Downs

(Artist rendering of the planned “New Turfway Park” / Photo Courtesy of Churchill Downs

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, the Kentucky Racing Commission took a final and decisive action regarding the future of Thoroughbred racing in Northern Kentucky. Just like a thriving Thoroughbred in the stretch drive, the Commission moved willingly, strongly, and convincingly.

On Tuesday, the Kentucky Racing Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the transfer of the racetrack license to Churchill Downs, Inc.

“As part of its’ statutory mission, the KHRC is committed to promoting and enhancing horse racing within the Commonwealth. The KHRC’s decision today (Tuesday) to approve the change of control request regarding Turfway Park, LLC ensures a strong year-round racing circuit.”

That was the statement issued by Kentucky Racing Commission following the meeting.

Now, Churchill Downs — which owns its’ signatory and historic racetrack venue, along with the Churchill Downs Training Center and the Derby City Gaming complex in Louisville and is part-owner of the new Standardbred racetrack that is scheduled to open later this month in Oak Grove, KY. — will expand its’ footprint in the Commonwealth, and its’ holdings in the horse racing business, overall.

Racetrack representatives are scheduled to tour the Turfway Park facility in Florence, KY. on Thursday, and will begin making plans for both immediate, and long-term improvements to the property and the racetrack surface, as well.

According to Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery, who gave a full report to the Kentucky Racing Commission in its’ meeting on Tuesday, the new owners will be consulting with Dr. Mick Peterson to review the existing Polytrack surface to see if any improvements need to be made before the track renews Thoroughbred Racing later this year.

Churchill Downs officials did announce that the new administration would investigate ways to install a new dirt track at the location, as well. If possible, the new dirt track would be installed inside of the current, all-weather track, and would be about 7-furlongs.

According to multiple sources, Churchill Dows also plans to utilize some of the revenues from Derby City Gaming to immediately supplement the purse accounts at Turfway Park at the upcoming meet. The plan is to nearly double the average purse from the $11,000-$12,000 range to about $24,000.

According to Flanery, Churchill Downs will conduct the 2019-2020 race meet utilizing the existing facilities — with some improvements. But Flanery went on to announce that as soon as the meet ends in March of 2020, a major construction phase will begin at the current property.

The current grandstand and other buildings located nearby are scheduled to be demolished at that time in order to make way for a new facilitiy that will house up to 1,500 Historical Racing Machines; a new simulcast space; and new grandstands and clubhouse space for live racing.

The total investment in the new track and facilities is expected to reach $150,000,000, and create 400 permanent jobs, with an additional 800 construction jobs.

The majority of the construction is scheduled to be completed in 2020, with a grand opening of the new complex to be held in the early part of 2021.

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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