07/22/2005 12:00AM

Kentucky group invests in Mongolia


LEXINGTON, Ky. - A Kentucky group is joining with the government of Mongolia to build the Asian nation's first Thoroughbred racing facility.

A Lexington businessman, Joe Flynn; the president of the Stony Oak training center, Larry Richardson; and Martha Layne Collins, a former governor of Kentucky, are among the members of the Asia-Pacific Equine Investment Company, which aims to build a new racing facility on the site of an existing track near Mongolia's capital city of Ulaanbaatar. The group also intends to introduce simulcasting and conduct other forms of gambling, with hopes of expanding into a newly established free economic zone on the Chinese border.

Mongolia is bordered by Russia on the north and by China on the south. It has a long history of horsemanship.

"Asia-Pacific Sports Promotion Co., a subsidiary of the original company, will operate the racing and gaming operations in cooperation with the Mongolian company Roaring Hooves, which is comprised of numerous individuals and existing racing organizations," according to a release issued by the investors.

The proposed Ulaanbaatar simulcast and gaming facility is planned for an Oct. 2005 opening and has additional backers in Planet Hollywood, Libra Securities, and PDS Gaming. Its tote services are being installed by United Tote.

Plans call for the new racetrack to conduct a brief meet in 2006 with native Mongolian horses and Thoroughbreds, and a full-scale meet in 2007.

This is not the first investment Flynn has made in the region. About a decade ago, he and other Kentucky-based horsemen joined to purchase 60 percent of the Hong Kong-area Guangzhou Jockey Club in China for $10 million. That effort fell apart when the Chinese government, which did not want to see expanded gambling, shut down the racetrack.

Mongolia, which has a history of racing its native ponies, is a better opportunity, Flynn believes.

"This country is mad about horse racing," Flynn said, adding that Mongolia's annual three-day Naadam Horse Festival earlier this month drew 280,000 people. The Naadam festival includes other sports like archery and wrestling, but the horse is a central figure, as it has been for centuries in Mongolia, where nomadic tribes on the country's steppes became renowned for their horsemanship. The Naadam events included a 30-kilometer cross-country horse race.

Currently, Mongolian races like those at the Naadam festival generally feature small Mongol horses who carry children as jockeys.

"It's a democracy, too, which is what we like," Flynn said of Mongolia. "We feel very safe with the investments, and the government is pro-U.S."

Racing Hooves, which will team with Asia-Pacific to operate the racetrack, consists of 11 horse organizations that merged for the project, Flynn said.

Flynn and partners hope to establish more than a Thoroughbred racetrack in Mongolia. They would like to build an entire Thoroughbred industry there from the ground up. They plan to import 600 Thoroughbreds there this year and another 400 next year. To show the Mongolians what they have in mind, Asia Pacific invited a dozen Mongolian officials to Kentucky last year, where they toured such farms as Lane's End, Gainsborough, and Coolmore and had Thanksgiving dinner at the races at Churchill Downs. Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville, which has an international internship program, has offered to hire some Mongolian horsemen to train them about Thoroughbred management.

Flynn said that the racing plans aren't limited to Thoroughbreds, though. Asia Pacific also is working on a 2,000-horse registry for the Mongolian native horses, a project that could add value to that industry, too.

Gainesway adds two Grade 1 winners

Gainesway Farm in Lexington has added a pair of Grade 1 winners to its 2006 stallion roster.

Gainesway, which announced earlier this month that the sire Mr. Greeley would relocate there from nearby Spendthirft Farm, has now collected Whywhywhy and Cuvee from Spendthrift.

Whywhywhy, winner of the 2002 Futurity, Sanford, and Flash Stakes, is a 5-year-old son of Mr. Greeley and the winning Quiet American mare Thorough Fair.

Cuvee, winner of the the 2003 Futurity, Saratoga Special, and Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes, is a 4-year-old by Carson City out of the Star de Naskra winner Christmas Star.

Gainesway plans to announce the 2006 fees for their two new stallions in October.

B. Wayne Hughes purchased the legendary Spendthrift Farm last June, saying he had no intention of going into the commercial breeding business and had little interest in standing stallions.

Hughes leased the Spendthrift stallion operation to the farm's former owners, a partnership headed by Bruce Kline, for the 2005 season.