Updated on 05/28/2011 11:15AM

Yavapai Downs cancels 2011 meet due to financial troubles

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Yavapai Downs in Prescott, Ariz., has scrapped plans to run in 2011 just days before the track was scheduled to open for a 56-day meet, according to state regulators and track officials.

Representatives of the track notified the Arizona Department of Racing on Wednesday that the meet would be canceled due to ongoing financial difficulties. Mike Mullaney, the newly installed general manager of the track, said on Thursday that Yavapai will work throughout the year to address the track’s financial problems in the hopes that a meet can be held in 2012.

“My sole focus right now is on salvaging the 2012 meet,” Mullaney said.

Yavapai, which opened in 2001, is a popular summer destination for many of the state’s horsemen after the close of Turf Paradise in Phoenix. Approximately 750 horses were already on the grounds at the time the meet was cancelled, according to Mullaney.

Earlier this year, county officials changed the track’s tax status from a non-profit to a for-profit, a decision that increased the track’s annual tax assessment from approximately $30,000 to $350,000. Mullaney, who was named general manager three months ago, said that he met with the tax assessor on Thursday morning to discuss options that would reduce the track’s tax burden, but he also said that the track had numerous contracts that need to be renegotiated or cancelled.

“The tax assessment gets people’s attention, but there’s a lot of other things here that need looking at,” Mullaney said. “If we can get back to the agricultural mandate that the track never should have left, then we should be in a much better position, not just financially but in the eyes of the community.”

In Arizona, it is customary for the live racetrack to administer the distribution of simulcast signals to sites in the state’s extensive off-track betting network. At the Wednesday Department of Racing meeting, officials of Turf Paradise volunteered to distribute the simulcast signals, according to Lonny Powell, the executive director of the department.

Turf Paradise officials also volunteered to provide management services for the four-day meet at Ft. Tuthill just south of Flagstaff that is scheduled for the July 4 weekend, Powell said. Last year, Yavapai’s management had run the meet.