Citing a lack of horses, The Red Mile harness track in Lexington received approval July 14 to cancel the two-day Quarter Horse racing scheduled for July 22-23.
Prior to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission vote to approve the request, Julie Sorrell, mutuels and pari-mutuel manager at the harness track, said a lack of purses had already led the track to reduce the Quarter Horse schedule to one day. Sorrell said the track decided to cancel the entire meet when it appeared there would only be about three horses available for each of the five races.
Marc Guilfoil, deputy executive director of the commission, said efforts were being made to see if Churchill Downs, Turfway Park, or Keeneland would be interested in scheduling at least one Quarter Horse race during their fall meets to use some of the purse money accrued for Quarter Horse racing.
William Coplen, who was affiliated with The Red Mile when it first began conducting Quarter Horse racing, said he was concerned that if there was no live racing for the breed in Kentucky in 2011, it would also mean an end to Quarter Horse simulcasting. That, he said, would also likely result in Quarter Horse racing never returning to the Bluegrass State because there would be insufficient funds for purses.
Coplen, now president and chief executive officer of Exchange Unlimited, said Quarter Horse racing continues to prosper across the U.S. while other forms of racing have experienced downturns. He also noted Kentucky has a large Quarter Horse population.
Also during the July 14 commission meeting, Will Farmer, one of the state veterinarians, reported there were six fatalities at Churchill Downs from May 12 through the end of the meet July 4. The state vet's office had previously reported there was one fatality at the Louisville track during the week that included the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), bringing to seven the number of catastrophic accidents during the meet.
In response to a question from commissioner Ned Bonnie, Farmer said the number included only racing fatalities, and that there were no figures for training fatalities. Farmer said tracks only report racing injuries.
Dr. Mary Scollay, the equine medical director, said the state requires necropsies on horses that died as a result of a racing injury and may request such a report on training fatalities. She said the commission staff would work with racetracks to try to obtain data on fatalities that occur during training hours.
According to a state regulation: “A licensed racing association or training center under the jurisdiction of the commission shall report the death or euthanization of any horse on its grounds immediately to the chief commission veterinarian.”