By Kathleen Adams
Negotiations between the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association and a Lexington Standardbred racetrack are continuing to move forward and could soon result in the return of live Quarter Horse racing to the Bluegrass.
On Sept. 10 several members of the Kentucky QHRA board of directors met privately with representatives of The Red Mile to discuss purse structure as well as possible alterations to the harness racetrack to make it ready for Quarter Horse racing.
"My main concern is still the track surface and getting some traditional Quarter Horse distances," Kentucky QHRA president Dwaine Cissell said. "If they can get the track resurfaced, it'll be a go. But if they think they're just going to harrow it, it won't work."
The hour-and-a-half meeting took place at The Red Mile clubhouse, and afterwards, several Kentucky QHRA board members walked the red clay racetrack and measured it.
Cissell said before leaving the facility he called the director of racing for the American Quarter Horse Association and requested someone from the national organization travel to Kentucky to evaluate the racetrack and make appropriate recommendations.
"Nothing is set in stone right now. I've turned the ball over to someone else (AQHA). They'll bring someone in as soon as possible to look over the track configuration," Cissell said.
Director Dave Loney described the talks as "warm and cordial." He added "it's naïve to say it wouldn't be the chance of a lifetime to race in the horse capital of the world, but today was not the time to reduce it to writing."
In an unexpected move, The Red Mile presented its initial application for 2004 Quarter Horse race dates to a subcommittee of the Kentucky Racing Commission Sept. 2. The Kentucky QHRA has until the end of the month to either accept a deal with The Red Mile, or find another host racetrack. Failure to do so effectively closes the door on Quarter Horse racing in Kentucky for 2004.
In the past, the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has fought all efforts to hold Quarter Horse races at Thoroughbred tracks.
However, prominent Kentucky Thoroughbred breeder John T. L. Jones, owner of Walmac International near Lexington, said recently he supported holding Quarter Horse races at The Red Mile. In addition to overseeing his Thoroughbred operation, Jones also owns and races Quarter Horses.
While The Red Mile has only applied for two pari-mutuel Quarter Horse dates, live racing would open up Kentucky to year-round Quarter Horse simulcasting.
The Kentucky QHRA has tentative plans to meet again next week with Red Mile officials to work out specific details of the proposed plan.
The deadline to submit formal applications for race dates is Oct. 1. The Kentucky Racing Commission will announce the 2004 dates on Nov. 1.
"Since Quarter Horse racing would be new to The Red Mile, they'll have to explain to us how they'll do it," executive director of the Kentucky Racing Commission Bernie Hettel said.
"They'll also have to come up with a business plan which would satisfy the AQHA. But if everybody likes it, then I can't see a reason not do it."