HENDERSON, KY – Ron Geary has loved horses for a long, long time. Even when he was starting ResCare – a home health care service — and turning it into a corporate and business model and a huge financial success, you could always find him – on occasion– at a racetrack. Or, on occasion — with one of his horses at the racetrack. Or, on occasion, watching one of the races on TV.
So when Ellis Park came up for sale by Churchill Downs several years ago, it was a natural thing for Ron Geary to think about buying the little racetrack that sits along the Ohio River in Henderson, KY.
Now, he is at a racetrack more than on occasion. And, he is with horses more than on occasion. And, he is watching races more than on occasion. A passion and an occasional trip has turned into an occupation.
“I am really excited about this summer,” said Ellis Park president and majority owner Ron Geary.
That’ right, Ron Geary bought Ellis Park. And, now, after several years of spending his money, time, much of his mind time, and most of his time commitment, the new occupation is nearly ready to be what Geary wants most of all – a success.
“I think everybody will be impressed with the new tote board and video board. That’s just the beginning. I think you are going to see the quality of horses continue to improve. I’m excited about all the new 2-year-olds that will come our way, just like we had such outstanding horses last year. It’s going to be a nice niche for Ellis Park to bring 2-year-olds to develop for outstanding times ahead,” said Geary.
“I expect to have really good crowds. We got rained on a little bit too much last year. But I think people will really want to come out this year no matter what, because there will be outstanding races, whether on a dry track, a sloppy track, on dirt or turf. It’s going to be a fun place to come.”
Ron Geary, who has been a friend of mine for years, is a fun guy. And, Ellis Park has always been a fun place. Both Geary and Ellis Park have that “down home” charm that makes you feel comfortable, makes you feel good, and makes you feel like you are exactly where you want and should be.
But now, Ellis Park has become a good place to run All your horses, too. After collaborating with the management at Kentucky Downs, the leadership at the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and the Board members of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, Ellis Park has able to get a large sum of money switched to the track to help supplement purses.
Kentucky Downs, which has a strategic relationship with Ellis Park, transferred $1.65 million in purses and purse supplements for Kentucky-bred horses to Ellis in an agreement blessed by the Kentucky division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents owners and trainers at the commonwealth’s five thoroughbred tracks.
In addition, Geary – and his partners – have built a new entertainment area for the installation of brand new Instant Racing machines that have been created by Exacta Systems. The new machines, along with the new facility, have added both glitz and dollars to the track and the purse accounts, as well.
“I can’t wait for everybody to come out and try out our machines,” Geary said. “We’re excited about the future there. A lot of our new purse money this year came from the growth of historical horse racing handle at Ellis Park, as well as from some assistance from the Kentucky HBPA and Kentucky Downs and its machines.”
Geary is a man known for innovation. And, he knows how to build a business success – per ResCare. Now, he is becoming known as a person who can rebuild a racetrack.
And, both the industry and the horses – I’m sure — are happy for it.