by Kathleen Adams
When longtime friends Tim McCall and David Holloway decided they wanted to return live Quarter Horse racing to Kentucky, they knew they faced an uphill battle. Now, the matter may end up in court.
"It was a $20-million development," McCall said of the plan for Southern Bluegrass Downs in Williamsburg. "We had the support of the mayor of Williamsburg and we had a good location. Williamsburg is just off the first exit coming up from Tennessee, which doesn't have racing, and the closest track is 100 miles away. It would have been the first opportunity for a lot of people to see live racing."
The Kentucky Racing Commission didn't share that enthusiasm for a Quarter Horse track. On Oct. 28, it wouldn't grant Southern Bluegrass Racing a license.
"We're preparing an appeal to the Franklin Circuit Court," said McCall, a retired criminal attorney. "We're asking for the commission's decision to be reversed. I thought the racing commission was victimized by poor leadership by their chairman and vice chairman, and of course, the pressure put on the commission by Keeneland and Churchill Downs."
Shoop, chairman of the Kentucky Racing Commission, could not be immediately reached for comment. The commission in September formed a committee to study the Southern Bluegrass Downs proposal, and the committee subsequently recommended against licensing the association.
Officials from other tracks in the state, including Churchill and Keeneland, expressed concern that the proposed facility would negatively impact three off-track betting parlors located in southeast Kentucky.
While the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association hasn't voiced formal opposition to a separate Quarter Horse track in the state, Marty Maline, executive director of the organization, has said the group is against allowing Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds to share race dates at any Kentucky racetrack.
"We haven't discussed the issue of a separate track," Maline said. "We'll probably do that at our next meeting. But we're concerned the Quarter Horses will be in competition with the Thoroughbreds."
McCall and Holloway don't see their quest for a Quarter Horse track as an either-or proposition. They insist Southern Bluegrass Downs would not take anything away from the Thoroughbreds but give Quarter Horse owners a place to race horses.
"There is a growing interest in Quarter Horse racing," McCall said. "We have people here in Kentucky who have to ship other states because they can't race here. I think the Quarter Horse people are getting screwed."