10/14/2014 2:10PM

Mediation sought for Kentucky dates dispute


Churchill Downs in Louisville and Kentucky Downs in Franklin on Tuesday were ordered by a committee of the state’s racing commission to engage in mediated discussions over September racing dates next year, with the two tracks agreeing to continue the discussions after the initial talks bore some fruit, commission officials said.

The dispute over the September dates first arose two weeks ago at a meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s dates committee when Churchill officials stated they would not run a meet in September if Kentucky Downs was granted dates during the same time. At that meeting, committee members urged Churchill and Kentucky Downs to work out a deal on the dates, but both sides arrived at the Tuesday meeting without an agreement.

Robert Beck, the chairman of the dates committee, told officials for both tracks that the committee would prefer an agreement, but he also cautioned that the committee would award dates regardless of a deal, using language that suggested Kentucky Downs’s dates request likely would be granted. A Kentucky statute says the racing commission “shall consider and seek to preserve each track’s usual and customary dates,” and Kentucky Downs has been racing in September for far longer than Churchill, which ran a September meet for the first time in 2013.

Churchill has requested 12 dates in September, racing on a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule from Sept. 10-27. Kentucky Downs, which races only on turf, requested seven live dates, with five of those to be held during the Sept. 10-27 timeframe.

Kevin Flanery, Churchill’s president, told the committee two weeks ago that Kentucky Downs has an adverse effect on Churchill’s ability to fill races when it runs at the same time as the track. While Churchill has struggled with field sizes all year, Kentucky Downs recently closed a six-day meeting this year with field sizes in excess of 10 horses per race.

By statute, racing dates in Kentucky have to be awarded by Nov. 1. The full commission is next scheduled to meet on Oct. 21.