KY Racing Commission Approves Saratoga Casino Holdings as New Owner of Ellis Park

As expected, the Kentucky Racing Commission officially approved the Saratoga Casino Holdings as the new owner and operator of Ellis Park, at a special-called meeting on Tuesday afternoon in Lexington.

Last week, in an exclusive report, “The Pressbox (” announced that Ellis Park — the rustic, little Thoroughbred track located in Henderson, KY. — was being sold and that the sell was imminent.

On Monday, that news came a step closer to reality. About lunchtime, the Kentucky Racing Commission announced that it was holding a special meeting today — Tuesday, July 17 — to consider three important issues.

One of those issues, listed as “C” on the official agenda, which was released with the announcement of the meeting, was the transfer of the license from the current owner, Ron Geary, to a new ownership team.

This morning, “The Pressbox” ( officially confirmed — through a number of highly-placed sources — that the Kentucky Racing Commission would approve Saratoga Casino Holdings, LLC as the new owners of the racetrack. Currently, SCH is the parent company of Saratoga Casino Hotel in Saratoga Springs, NY and the Saratoga Casino Black Hawk in Black Hawk, CO.

SCH owns and operates the Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc. in Saratoga Springs, NY, as well.

At 1:3o p.m. ET today, all the activity came to culmination and finalization as the Commission approved the transfer. Saratoga Casino Holdings will take over all the day-to-day activities, and decision-making authority immediately.

“Everything went very well,” said Marc A. Guilfoil, the Executive Director for the Kentucky Racing Commission. “Seamless.”

Just a couple of years ago, Saratoga Casino Holdings purchased a minority position in Ellis Park. According to our sources, the partnership was still led and operational control was still held by Geary and his management team.

Today, Saratoga Casino Holdings announced that it had purchased the remainder of the financial interests in Ellis Park from Geary, and that full ownership and operations would be transferred, if approved by the KRC. That approval took just a few minutes, and was absent of any drama.

Geary was quoted by Jennie Rees, who provides expert communications expertise for the track, as saying:

“It’s been 12 years, and I just turned 71. My wife and my two kids and my nine grandkids for years have asked me to slow down. I think it’s time. I’ve enjoyed working with Saratoga over the years.
“It’s been a really fun and fast-moving 12 years. I feel like we’ve had some great successes and we’ve brought it a long ways with so many people’s help. I know Saratoga will be focused on continuing the progress.
“Back in 2011, I was trying to figure out what it took to get Ellis into the black and make it profitable. I decided I had to invest in Instant Racing, called Historical Horse Racing now. I took a whole year and visited 44 different racetracks, casinos, racinos and met a bunch of people and talked to them that I would like to bring in a 20 to 30-percent partner to help me launch Instant Racing. Seven groups or people were interested. One of the last groups I met with was Saratoga, and there was kind of a bond immediately. We always got along great. We always dealt with each other with openness and candor. They are a very dependable group of people, ones you can trust. I went with them. They put up $4 million to get the original Instant Racing open in the clubhouse, and we’ve been working together ever since. They are good people.”

In other Kentucky news for Tuesday, the Commission approved a couple of other important issues on the Agenda, as well.

The Commission voted to approve the request of Churchill Downs to own, operate and make public Instant Racing Machines at its’ new venue, Derby City Gaming.

That location is scheduled to open in advance of the Breeders’ Cup, which will be hosted by Churchill Downs this November.

In addition, the Commission approved Churchill Downs’ request to utilize the Ainsworth Game Technology Historical Horse Racing System and Entertaining Game Theme.

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 ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean