12/11/2012 4:50PM

Simulcast center opens in Amarillo in advance of Saddle Brook Park


The first step toward live racing coming to West Texas in October 2014 will take place Friday, when the yet-to-be-constructed Saddle Brook Park opens a simulcast facility in Amarillo, Texas. The parlor will launch at 11 a.m., with 19 tracks available including Aqueduct, Betfair Hollywood Park, Gulfstream Park, and Fair Grounds.

In August, Saddle Brook received Texas Racing Commission approval to begin simulcasting at a temporary site in the same county where the track will be located for up to two years prior to opening. Lone Star Park near Dallas employed the same practice in 1996. The Saddle Brook Jockey Club simulcast center is at 4332 Southwest 45th Ave., about six miles from where the racetrack is to be built. The 6,300-square-foot simulcast facility can house 200 patrons in a sports bar/restaurant setting.

The closest racetrack to the simulcast center is about a four-hour drive, said Lynn Alexander, who co-owns the facility with his brother, Drew Alexander. The tracks nearest, he said, are Lone Star, Remington Park in Oklahoma City, and Zia Park in Hobbs, N.M. Saddle Brook Jockey Club will draw patrons from around the Panhandle as well as New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Saddle Brook will simulcast Wednesday through Sunday and on holiday Mondays. Officials project simulcast handle to be $10.3 million a year. Lynn Alexander anticipates $500,000 to $800,000 a year will be generated for purses during the pre-opening simulcast phase, with some of those funds to be allocated to purse accounts at other Texas tracks in contracts still being negotiated. The pre-opening simulcast phase runs through Oct. 14, 2014.

Corey Johnsen, a past president of Lone Star and current co-owner of Kentucky Downs, is the project’s operating and management partner through his company, Magellan Gaming. Ann McGovern, a former executive at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston and Ruidoso Downs, has been onsite preparing the simulcast center for opening, Lynn Alexander said. The general manager of the simulcast plant is Monte Griffin.

Drew Alexander in 2001 purchased a Class 2 license enabling him to open a track in Amarillo, the home of the American Quarter Horse Association. The city has a population of about 200,000. The racetrack is a $10 million to $15 million project, Lynn Alexander estimated. It will sit on 286 acres just south of Interstate 40 in Amarillo. The commission this fall granted Saddle Brook’s request for two dates of mixed racing in 2014, from Oct. 24-25.

“It’s going to be very similar to Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky., very much a tailgating, county fair atmosphere,” Lynn Alexander said.

The track will have temporary seating near a 15,000-square-foot anchor building that will house betting terminals, permanent simulcast facilities, a restaurant, and other amenities. The first draft of plans calls for a seven-furlong track and 200 stalls. Lynn Alexander, 66, said getting Saddle Brook up and running has long been the goal of his brother, Drew, 71.

“This has been his dream,” Lynn Alexander said. “He’s been sick for a while, and because of his situation I’m trying to help him fulfill his dream. That’s what it’s about.”

The Alexanders are natives of West Texas and have had racehorses for about 25 years. Drew Alexander lives near Amarillo, while Lynn Alexander has a farm in Kentucky.