Kentucky Commission Approves Churchill Dates Shift To September

In a special meeting held Thursday via webcams, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved an initial shift of racing dates by Churchill Downs. Five dates that were to have taken place this spring surrounding the Derby will now be run in September after unanimous approval by the commission.

Those dates had previously been held by Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs, both of which signed off on the change. Ken Mimmack, board member for Ellis Entertainment, said the group was examining whether there were dates in July where the track could make up those lost cards. How the track would like those dates redistributed depends on the state of the purse account at that point, as Mimmack wants to offer trainers same or better average purses in 2020.

Commission chairman Frank Kling challenged the racing dates committee to meet soon and gather information about how best to re-allocate dates lost by recently-announced track closures. The closure of Keeneland will leave millions of dollars in the purse account and executive director Marc Guilfoil said the committee is aware that horsemen need a chance to run for that money to keep their operations going.

“We’re an agricultural business and we can’t just stop,” Guilfoil said.

Although not strictly under the commission’s authority, Guilfoil believes the stabling of horses will also be a topic of discussion among the dates committee. Keeneland has closed its backstretch to further horses shipping in (although those already stabled there are so far permitted to stay), and other tracks around the country (notably several in Louisiana as well as Laurel Park) have closed their gates to any additional shippers.

“We don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring,” Guilfoil said. “We’re trying to plan for what happened yesterday, and when something new comes up we’ll try to remain nimble and address that. There’s a lot of things going on right now that are completely out of everyone’s purview, but racing is near and dear to our hearts. This is our business, and we’re going to do the best we can to keep our business going.”

Kling also acknowledged the impact of last week’s federal indictments on the Kentucky commission.

“We’re all aware of the allegations of grievous misconduct in our industry,” said Kling. “I want to assure you that we have been and will continue to work on these issues. We will move forward with our agenda to protect safety and integrity in horse racing and we’ll be following up next week with more work for the commissioners.”

Also on Thursday, the commission unanimously approved emergency regulations that would allow licensed activity like simulcasting and historical horse racing to be temporarily moved if a licensed facility becomes unusable. The temporary host spot must be within a 60-mile radius of the original location without being contiguous and must also be 60 miles away from another premises hosting live racing and 40 miles from a simulcast facility. A competitor could grant written permission to have a temporary facility closer if they choose.

This regulation will be primarily aimed at tracks or parlors sustaining damage from natural disasters, but could also be enacted in the next week with regards to Turfway Park.

Churchill Downs Inc. will soon demolish the grandstand there, and CDI executive director of racing Mike Ziegler said the company has identified a 40,000-square foot location in the Newport Plaza Shopping Center that could be set up as a temporary facility for historical horse racing and simulcast.

“We need this now more than ever,” said Ziegler. “As everybody knows, purse generation through historic horse racing has stopped in the state. We have a place identified that as soon as we’re up and operational we can begin to release purse money for Turfway Park as we move forward.”

Ziegler hopes quick approval by the commission can allow CDI to retain some 72 full-time positions normally based at Turfway. Many of those employees will be allowed to transfer to Churchill, Derby City Gaming, or CDI’s Miami Valley facility on a temporary basis.

Ziegler indicated demolition at Turfway would begin as soon as horsemen leave.

“The quicker we can get this up and operational, the better we all are,” said Ziegler. “In light of the coronavirus epidemic we’re all experiencing, we need to get this in place as quick as we can with the allowance for social distancing which has come into play in the last ten days.”

The post Kentucky Commission Approves Churchill Dates Shift To September appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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