10/26/2009 12:00AM

Kentucky tracks ask for fewer 2010 dates


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Turfway Park in northern Kentucky plans to schedule 81 live race cards in 2010, according to the dates request the track filed with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, a 33-date reduction from the 114 live dates the track scheduled in 2009.

The request by Turfway underlines the shifts on the Kentucky racing circuit as tracks attempt to mold their racing calendars to fit an era of declining handle and increased competition for entries from tracks in Indiana and Pennsylvania that have recently opened or have expanded their race meets because of subsidies from slot machines. In all, Kentucky's five Thoroughbred tracks applied for 206 live racing dates for 2010, down from 273 requested for this year (although only 239 dates were scheduled to be run).

The requests will be considered at a meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday. On Monday, a subcommittee of the commission asked representatives of the racetracks to attend a meeting in order to answer any questions commissioners might have about the requests in advance of the Tuesday meeting.

Commissioners who attended the meeting voted afterwards to recommend that the full commission approve the dates as requested by the tracks. By and large, the commissioners said they sympathized with the racetracks' efforts to increase or maintain field size by reducing the number of opportunities for trainers and owners to run their horses.

Under its request, Turfway would pare the brunt of the race days by running three-day race weeks in January and February and shifting to four-day race weeks in March. The track has typically run five-day weeks during all months of live racing.

Churchill Downs requested 62 live racing dates, with 42 during its spring meet and 20 during its fall meet. In 2009, Churchill was scheduled to run 73 live race dates during its spring and fall meets, but the track went to the commission during last year's spring stand to ask permission to pare seven Wednesday cards from the remainder of the spring schedule. As a result, Churchill will run 66 live race dates.

Ellis Park applied for 27 race dates, down from its 48-date request for 2009. Before opening its 2009 meet, however, Ellis Park went to the commission to ask for permission to pare its meet to 23 days, a request the commission approved. After the meet started, Ellis asked for permission to add five days back, a request that was also approved.

Keeneland requested its usual 32 race dates, and Kentucky Downs asked for four dates.