09/18/2012 2:11PM

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approves sale of Ellis Park stake


The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved an agreement reached by the owner of Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., to sell 30 percent of the track to a partnership headed by the owners of Saratoga Casino and Raceway in upstate New York.

The vote was considered a fait accompli after a subcommittee of the commission unanimously recommended approval two weeks ago.

The agreement between Ellis owner Ron Geary and the Saratoga interests was hammered out over the past several months after Geary began seeking money to build a gambling parlor at Ellis Park housing Instant Racing machines. The Saratoga interests are purchasing 30 percent of the track for $3 million in cash.

The agreement also includes options allowing the Saratoga interests to purchase an additional 20 percent of the track over the next several years, with the price of the shares determined by several factors, including whether the state legislature authorizes casino gambling in Kentucky. Another option would allow the Saratoga interests to buy out the remaining equity in Ellis.

The Tuesday commission meeting was the first for new commissioner Neil Howard, general manager of Gainesway Farm in central Kentucky. Howard replaced Tom Ludt, president of Vinery, who did not ask to have his appointment renewed, citing other professional obligations. The owners of Vinery recently announced that they are seeking to sell the business, and Ludt also is the chairman of Breeders’ Cup Ltd. and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.