03/22/2007 12:00AM

Johnsen, partners buy into Kentucky Downs

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A partnership headed by a former executive with Magna Entertainment Corp. and an investment banker has reached an agreement to purchase 85 percent of Kentucky Downs, the Franklin, Ky., racetrack that annually holds a six-day all-turf meet, the partnership said on Thursday.

Corey Johnsen, the former president of Magna's Lone Star Park in Texas and president of Magna's southern operations, and Ray Reid, the president of Reid Investments, lead the partnership that has agreed to buy the controlling share from Churchill Downs, Turfway Park, and Kelley Farms. Those three companies will each retain a 5 percent share in the track, which sits near the border with Tennessee.

Johnsen resigned from Magna earlier this year in order to pursue the acquisition. Reid and Johnsen own racehorses and broodmares in partnership, and last year, their horse Honey Rose was second in the 2006 Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf, held at Kentucky Downs.

Kentucky Downs is scheduled to run a six-day meet this year, beginning on Sept. 15 and ending on Sept. 25. The track's turf course has dips and hills that make it more similar to a European grass course than most U.S. turf courses.

Johnsen said on Thursday that the new management did not expect to ask for any more racing dates or make any significant changes to the operation.

"We plan on maintaining the status quo," Johnsen said, adding that he expected the transaction to close in June.

Racetracks in Kentucky have been lobbying for the authorization to operate slot machines for several years. Though the effort has little chance of success this year because of a short legislative session and a governor's race, the racing industry is expected to mount an aggressive push for slot machines next year.

Kentucky Downs is the closest racetrack to major population centers in Tennessee, where gambling is illegal.