In yet another sign of the Kentucky horse industry’s economic troubles, Turfway Park has told horsemen it plans to close its barn area in mid-April rather than remain open in the spring and summer as a training center.
Turfway president Bob Elliston March 5 confirmed reports from horsemen the Northern Kentucky racetrack plans to close the stable area two weeks after its live meet concludes April 3. The main issues are money and a dwindling racehorse population in the state.
For the first time this winter the Churchill Downs Training Center in Louisville was closed because there weren’t enough horses to make keeping it open worthwhile.
“We can’t afford a loss of about $150,000,” Elliston said. “It’s expensive to maintain the backside. The horsemen did come back to us and say they are exploring ways (to keep open for training at Turfway). Our finance team and the horsemen are working together, but we need to know soon.”
Turfway has charged daily stall rent for training during the off season but needs about 500 horses to break even. Last year there were about 350 on the grounds.
Horsemen have said they like training horses on the Polytrack and then shipping elsewhere to race. But as the situation in Kentucky worsens, “the population of horses just isn’t there anymore,” Elliston said.
Though Turfway is considered a good location for shipping to other tracks, travel expenses are high, Elliston said. Also, horses are leaving Kentucky to race at tracks in states that boost purses through alternative gaming, he said.
In addition, some horsemen have had trouble paying stall rent, another indication of racing’s ongoing financial crunch.