09/02/2008 11:00PM

Kentucky panel goes public

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Members of a task force created by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to study racing issues in the state gave presentations on Wednesday in the task force's first full public meeting, held at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion just outside Lexington.

The task force has been split into four subcommittees focusing on (a) staffing and funding levels for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, (b) financial concerns facing the racing industry, (c) integrity of racing and parimutuel activities, and (d) laboratory facilities in Kentucky. The chairs of the four subcommittees gave brief presentations on their work before the task force agreed to meet again on Sept. 23.

Robert Beck, chairman of the Lab Facilities subcommittee and chairman of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, suggested that the state study the possibility of creating its own laboratory to handle drug testing. The racing commission now contracts with a laboratory at Iowa State University. Beck said the cost of building a lab would be $15 million, and that the annual budget would be $5 million.

Nick Nicholson, chairman of the Industry Financial Matters committee and president of Keeneland, gave a presentation with Ron Geary, the owner of Ellis Park, outlining the desire of Kentucky racetrack to keep purses high in order to stay competitive in the simulcast marketplace and give breeders incentive remain in the state.

The full task force is expected to release a report of its findings by Dec. 1.