“They’re Off”: Construction Is Racing Down at Oak Grove’s New Racing Facility

On Tuesday morning, it became officially official. A new, live, Standardbred racing venue — which will have a state-of-the-art Historical Racing venue, an equine center, hotels and other commercial development attached — is now fully under construction in little Oak Grove, KY.

For now, construction is racing to get the new facility built in time to accommodate live racing later this year. A promise and a pledge all the connections made prior to, during and after the bid process was considered and delivered.

And…

Soon, racing will be racing at the new, beautiful showplace in beautiful Southwest Kentucky.

“Horse racing is an integral part of Kentucky’s history and culture, and Churchill Downs is thrilled to further invest in our state’s signature industry through Oak Grove Racing & Gaming,” Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery said. “We have seen the tremendous impact Derby City Gaming in Louisville has already had on both the racing industry and local community, and we expect the same degree of success here in Christian County.”

“Keeneland is proud to play a role in strengthening the Commonwealth’s horse racing industry and creating new opportunities for horsemen and racing enthusiasts in Kentucky and beyond,” Keeneland Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Vince Gabbert said. “The jobs, tourism, and revenue generated by Oak Grove Racing & Gaming is good news, not just for Christian County, but for all of Kentucky. A win for horse racing is a win for us all.”
After years of contemplating, designing, lobbying, and a fair share of wringing of hands, the Kentucky Racing Commission approved and awarded live racing dates and a license to a new entity comprised of  both Keeneland and Churchill Downs back in November of 2018. At that time, officials of both Keeneland and Churchill Downs assured the Racing Commission and its’ appointed members and officers that they would move heaven and earth to get the facility up and operational for live racing in 2019.

On Tuesday morning, the earth part was being moved.

In small chunks by the men and women in their dress clothes, with designer shovels to match. There was Theresa Jarvis, the Mayor of Oak Grove on hand to lend a helping hand and supportive words. There was Steve Tribble, the Christian County Judge Executive, smiling from ear to ear. There were Kevin Flanery, the President of Churchill Downs, and Vince Gabbert, the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Keeneland, there to shake hands and sift dirt. There was Mark Simindinger, Ken Jackson and Doug Hendrickson, both representing the Kentucky Racing Commission, there to put their respective seals of approval.

In the background, heavy equipment and those operating the various devices were there, too, moving ground in bigger spoon fulls. There was activity aplenty. There was dust and dirt to prove it.

The new facility will be constructed in two overlapping phases.

The first phase will include the development and construction of the harness race course, overnight stable facility and race-day paddock stable facility which will be completed in time for our inaugural live race meet in October 2019.

The second phase of the project, scheduled to open in the first half of 2020, will feature up to 1,500 historical horse racing machines; a 128-room hotel; a grandstand with seating capacity for 1,200 and event space for indoor events; a 3,000-person capacity outdoor amphitheater and stage; an equestrian center including indoor and outdoor arenas as well as a 30 pad RV park.

All in all, it was a sunny day.

A sunny day for the Kentucky racing industry.

A sunnier day for both Oak Grove and Christian County.

Here’s a closer look in photos:

(Photos from David Welker / “The Pressbox’s” roving reporter on hand)

(Dignitaries from Oak Grove, Christian County and those representing the horse industry were also on hand / Photos Provided by RunSwitch Public Relations)

 

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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