River Downs is expected to be ready for 2014.

River Downs is expected to be ready for 2014.

John Engelhardt

New River Downs, Others Apply for Ohio Dates

River Downs near Cincinnati has asked to race from May through September 2014.

River Downs, demolished earlier this year to make way for an integrated racing and gaming facility, plans to open in early May in 2014 and race through September, according to a request for racing dates submitted to the Ohio State Racing Commission.

September dates would fill a gap in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky market now that Turfway Park no longer races in September. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission last year shifted Turfway's September meet to Churchill Downs beginning in 2013.

River Downs, owned by Pinnacle Entertainment, applied for 102 racing days with racing four or five days a week from May 7-Sept. 28. River Downs currently offers full-card simulcasts in its clubhouse, but with that building scheduled to be demolished as well, officials have asked to go dark for simulcasts from February to April 2014.

When completed, the River Downs facility will have video lottery terminals, restaurants, and other amenities. Construction is well under way, and the new one-mile dirt surface is expected to be ready for 2014.

There will be a turf course, too, but it remains to be seen if there will be any grass racing next year. The entire course was dug up and will be replanted.

This year's River Downs meet was transferred to Beulah Park.

Meanwhile, Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns Beulah Park, applied for 77 racing days next year at two facilities; the Beulah Park license will move to the planned Hollywood Mahoning Valley Race Course near Youngstown to capitalize on the VLT law.

Beulah Park, near Columbus, would race from Jan. 6-April 12, and Mahoning Valley from Nov. 1-Dec. 20. PNGI officials said Aug. 22 construction of the racetrack gaming facility is on schedule, with a planned opening in the third quarter of 2014.

ThistleDown Racino, owned by Rock Ohio Gaming and formerly called Thistledown, applied for 122 days from April 18-Nov. 16 with racing four days a week. OSRC officials noted the two-week overlap with Mahoning Valley in November.

It could be months before the OSRC is able to approve the dates. The tracks must reach an agreement with the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association on number of days or risk losing the right to offer full-card simulcasts the following year.