11/02/2012 12:37PM

Yavapai Downs: Bankruptcy court approves sale of track to HBPA president


A bankruptcy court on Tuesday approved the sale of Yavapai Downs for $5.5 million to Gary Miller, the president of the state’s Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

The approval clears the way for the possibility that the Prescott, Ariz., track will reopen for a summer season next year. The track closed abruptly just prior to the 2011 racing season, and its owner, the Yavapai County Farm and Agriculture Association, then filed for bankruptcy.

The sale will need final approval from the United States Department of Agriculture, which holds $14.65 million in loans to the track’s former owners. Under the deal approved by the court, Miller and the USDA will now enter a 45-day to 90-day due diligence period to review documents pertaining to the track’s operations and finances. Final approval could come by Jan. 15.

Miller was unavailable for comment on Wednesday morning, but Tom Metzen, the executive director of the Arizona HBPA, said that Miller is confident that the track can reopen by Memorial Day, the traditional start of its summer meet in Arizona’s relatively mild high country, approximately 90 miles north of Phoenix.

“We’ll make it,” Metzen said. “Gary has until Jan. 15, and in the meantime, we’ll get to work on all the things that need to get done to get the meet going.”

After Yavapai announced that it was closing, many Arizona horsemen laid up for the summer or shipped to Arapahoe Park in Colorado or Les Bois Park in Idaho, Metzen said. As a result, many horsemen are excited about the possibility of Yavapai reopening, Metzen said.

“It’s really been a pain in the neck for all these people,” Metzen said, referring to the abrupt closure of the track last year, which occurred after many horsemen had already shipped up to the track. “So we’re really looking forward to it opening back up.”

Yavapai Downs was built in 2001 at a cost of $21 million to replace the aging bullring and grandstand at the county’s fair grounds, which had been used for race meets in the Prescott Valley since 1960. The track has approximately 825 stalls.