(Presque Isle Downs)

On Wednesday, after it was announced that Churchill Downs, Inc. would be purchasing and acquiring Presque Isle Downs in Erie, PA., Ray Paulick — the person behind The Paulick Report — took to his “Twitter” account and penned this eloquent piece of prose:

“Churchill Downs Inc. buys Presque Isle Downs. Will CDI do for the Pennsylvania track what it did for Calder in Florida?”

Wow. Really?

It doesn’t surprise me, mind you. The guy obviously as a problem with the world’s most renown and famous racing venue, and the home to the greatest horse race in the history of horse races. He takes his shots whenever he can, even when it doesn’t make any sense or serve any real purpose — like Wednesday.

But since the guy is suppose to be in the business of honest, open communication, it would be nice to know what the burr up his saddle truly is and what (exactly?) has Churchill Downs ever done to offend him so? How about a little full disclosure there, Ray? Was the Coca-Cola in the pressbox flat? Couldn’t you find a space in the press parking lot?

Yet, while we wait for Ray to be forthcoming (which is undoubtedly rare), I think most can admit that this latest salvo may be the most ridiculous. Even by Ray’s less than pewter standard. Truly, it is an all-new low for the man known for his low blows.

The truth is that Churchill Downs has reinvested more money in its’ home track and base of operations in Louisville, Kentucky than any other racetrack in North America has done to improve either its’ property or product. Bar none.

There is little doubt that Churchill Downs has spent more money improving the quality of its’ property; the quality of its’ amenities; and the quality of its’ race program more than any other racetrack in the world, for that matter. Bar none.

Each year, it seems, the track is either building new facilities to accommodate customers and fans at all levels; or it is purchasing neighboring properties to help recreate the local community and help the historic facility transition into a new and innovative sporting venue. The work being done right now at both the racetrack property, and at the new “Derby City Gaming” operation is truly amazing, and overwhelms what any other racetrack is currently doing, or has ever done, for that matter.

In fact, if the Kentucky Racing Commission will ever act, there is an application sitting on the desk of the Chairman that — if approved — would allow Churchill Downs and Keeneland, two of the most renown racing institutions in the world, to build and operate two new racetracks right here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Hopefully, some day, that will come to fruition.

But that isn’t all that Churchill Downs does for racing in this country.

Despite the fact that it must compete against casino operations within hearing distance of the track announcer, and unfair gaming restrictions that are almost as Draconian as Kentucky’s, Churchill Downs continues to own, operate and support Arlington Park and the lynchpin of racing in Illinois.

Without any doubt, the track has one of the finest turf courses in the world, and continues to be the home of the Arlington Million — one of the world’s most premier racing events that attracts some of the best grass horses from North America and overseas.

Certainly, Arlington Park is a tribute to racing in that state.

Despite the havoc that Hurricane Katrina wrecked on the entire Gulf Coast, and the catastrophic destruction it caused the beautiful city of New Orleans in 2005, Churchill Downs has stuck it out, and has rebuilt one of the most historic and important Thoroughbred racing venues in this country at the Fair Grounds.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) left a lot to be desired in how it reacted to the devastation that the Category 5 hurricane created, Churchill Downs — to its’ credit — rebuilt. Right on the very spot. And, while it took time for both the ground, the grass, and the new facilities to mend the broken hearts that the storm twisted apart at the racetrack, as well, the new and improved Fair Grounds is one of the most popular racing venues in the country. This winter, more horses and horsemen are there racing and plying their trade than in recent memory.

Certainly, the Fair Grounds is a tribute to racing in that state.

Now, if all the applications are approved and the financing is completed, Churchill Downs appears to be on the cusp of expanding its’ racing operations and brand into Pennsylvania with the anticipated purchase of Presque Isle, near Erie, Pa. That is anticipated to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2018.

If there is anyone who should appreciate a new, competent, successful, respected and compliant racetrack operator in the Keystone State it should be Ray Paulick. After all, he literally drove up there — apparently with some Jimmy Johns in hand — for the Racing Commission hearings into the alleged veterinarian and trainer issues over race day medications.

But, with little doubt, Churchill Downs is likely to bring along with them the same group of experts that has allowed them to conduct safe, compliant, and successful racing programs like they have previously done and continue to do in Kentucky, Illinois and Louisiana.

And, with little doubt, Churchill Downs is likely to reinvest in the racing infrastructure and Pennsylvania Thoroughbred industry, like they have previously done in the aforementioned states.

Only time will tell, but the chances are that Presque Isle Downs will become better, more efficient, and offer a better racing product to such a degree that it, too, will become a tribute to racing in that state.

Finally, in closing, and since you bring it up, Ray, there can be an argument made that Churchill Downs helped save racing in the state of Florida by doing exactly what it decided to do with Calder Race Course.

In truth, a good argument can be made that much of the success that Gulfstream Park is enjoying in the Sunshine State now is due, in some part, to the fact Churchill Downs had the guts to do what the Racing Commission and the geldings in Tallahassee didn’t have the stomach to do.

Due to the fact that none of the respective governmental bodies would ever own up to their duties and obligations, and would regulate the dates in which the tracks could and should run, then all the racetracks — in that one locale — wanted and tried to run all of the dates; in order to run one track out of business.

That “free market” mentality nearly cost South Florida everything. Overlapping race dates cost both tracks horses and horsemen. Overlapping race cards cost customers, and handle. Overlapping races was overlapping the banks of racing like a tidal swale, much like Hurricane Harvey did to the southern shores of Florida a year ago.

By shutting down its’ operation at Calder, and leasing the dates to Gulfstream Park, Churchill Downs ended that futile and senseless battle, which should have never happened if the State had done its’ job. By allowing Gulfstream Park to now operate the live racing product in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, they can coordinate the schedule; accommodate the fans and the horseman; and create a better product year-round without over-saturation.

In short, Churchill Downs did the right thing. And, as a result, Gulfstream Park is now a tribute to racing in that state.

I wonder if someone that “tweets” or goes to “Twitter” is considered a “Twit?”

I don’t know, really. I love Twitter, and I might be a “Twit,” too. But it seems that the definition of a “Twit” sure can apply from time to time.