10/23/2012 4:11PM

Kentucky racing commission approves September dates for Churchill Downs


The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday approved a September race meet at Churchill Downs in 2013 as part of an overhaul of the state’s racing calendar that also included a dramatic reduction in winter dates at Turfway Park.

The September Churchill meet will be the first held by the racetrack during the month in modern times. The late-summer/early-fall, good-weather dates had previously been held by Turfway Park, but because of that track’s struggles to remain relevant on the state’s circuit over the past 10 years, commission officials urged Churchill to apply for the dates, leading Turfway to concede September to the Louisville track.

As a result, Churchill will now run three meets in 2013, in late spring and early summer, in September, and in November. The track has said that the September meet will distribute at least $240,000 a day in purses, up significantly from the $100,000 that Turfway distributed on average this year in September.

The vote on Tuesday on the 2013 racing calendar was expected to be a formality after weeks of negotiations between tracks and horsemen and a vote last week by a committee to recommend approval. Between the committee vote and Tuesday, however, officials of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association sent a letter to Turfway threatening to withhold permission for the track to simulcast unless it restored six days of live racing in February, leading to some heated exchanges just before the vote was called.

The commission’s chairman, Robert Beck, who normally conducts the meetings in a convivial, efficient manner, pointedly chided horsemen’s officials for threatening to withhold permission to simulcast, saying in a direct, raised voice that “you’re going to have to decide whether or not you’re going to be obstructionist,” just before ending all discussion of the calendar and abruptly calling for a vote. The vote passed unanimously.

Earlier in the meeting, Rick Hiles, the horsemen association’s president, had asked the commission to add the six dates to the February calendar, saying that his organization had determined that horsemen would suffer from a four-week gap in live racing dates following the first weekend in the month. When the commission asked Turfway’s general manager, Chip Bach, whether he agreed with Hiles, Bach said that the track would be open to racing the second weekend in February as well, and asked the commission to add two dates.

Then, following the commission’s official vote, both Hiles and Bach said that they had agreed to adding the other four dates requested by the horsemen’s association as “optional dates,” to be run if the track’s handle in January and February was up over last year. The commission passed the agreement as an amendment to the calendar.

The calendar also includes four “optional dates” for Turfway in March and four optional dates for Churchill in September. Track officials said that the decision to hold the live racing dates will depend on handle and field-size trends.

William Caple More than 1 year ago
Turfway for sure needed to add the dates, considering Churchill took those dates in September. www.derbydeals.com
D More than 1 year ago
Why dont KY just tear down poor Turfway park. I mean they are going to give those crooks over at Churchill Downs anything they want! Biggest problem with horse racing today is greed. Nothing more then GREED IS GOOD mentality in today's America. Build a Mansion on the top floor of Churchill Downs and then for the first time in history make the barn help pay rent on the backside of Calder! Lol complete joke!!
W.G. More than 1 year ago
The fact is, unless Turfway and the other Kentucky tracks get slots, there is no way Turfway can compete with Mountaineer and Hooiser Park in September for horses. There was at least one SIX-RACE program at Turfway on a Sunday during the fall meet because they could only fill those, and the bulk of the races were for bottom claimers. You had $20,000 claimers at Turfway run for less than what $4,000 claimers run for on many circuits. Better for Turfway to run in the winter when they can offer considerably higher purses and perhaps be able to run more stakes races. Churchill can not only offer a more competitive purse structure, they can move some stakes from the November to September (Clark Handicap could be a September stakes next year) meet OR revive the Kentucky Cup stakes Turfway was forced to drop this year to be Breeders' Cup preps at CD. Kentucky officials saw what was happening and realized there could bigger problems as otherwise, some horsemen who go to Saratoga for the summer might just not come back to Kentucky and stay in New York and VLT-fueled purses that if (New York) Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn't mess with (and see him not doing so because it would indirectly affect his chances to become President in 2016) will be going up in 2013.
BrandonLayer More than 1 year ago
Russell More than 1 year ago
Give Churchill what they want? Churchill didn't go to the commission and ask for September dates. The commission went to Churchill and asked them to run in September. Ask yourself why that is.
Guy More than 1 year ago
So the horsemen need to pay $5 per day for sleeping quarters. I wish that's all I have to pay for rent. That's $150 per month. Get real.