With only a slight modification from the original proposal approved previously by a committee, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Oct. 24 unanimously OK’d 2012 racing dates for the state’s racetracks. The schedule is nearly identical to that of this year.
The four Kentucky Thoroughbred tracks have been approved for 211 dates in 2012, four more than they were approved for in 2011. The four Standardbred tracks are decreasing their total number of dates from 68 in 2011 to 65 next year.
Due to cancellations, primarily related to weather, the number of dates actually raced can vary from the number approved in any given year.
Before the commission approved the dates, there was a slight change to the schedules for Churchill Downs and Ellis Park that had been approved by the KHRC Dates Committee. Churchill had initially proposed ending its spring meet June 30, and Ellis Park was to begin its live meet July 1.
Previously, Churchill’s meet extended to July 4 and overlapped with the beginning of Ellis Park's meet under an agreement reached between the two tracks after Churchill sold Ellis Park to Ron Geary. Management of both tracks have deemed the overlap to be detrimental to the health of racing in the state due to limited numbers of horses and jockeys to supply both tracks on the same day.
In trying to avoid the overlap, Churchill had wanted to end its meet Saturday, June 30, with Ellis Park starting Sunday, July 1. However, after receiving feedback from the state’s horsemen, Churchill revised its request and will race through July 1, according to track president Kevin Flanery.
Approval of the 2012 dates came during the monthly commission meeting that also included approval of Instant Racing at Ellis Park and the announcement by KHRC executive director Lisa Underwood that she was leaving her post, effective Nov. 16, to become a partner in a law firm.
Also during the meeting, the commission voted to seek an opinion from the state Attorney General’s office on whether funds from the state’s Backside Improvement Fund can be used to help Turfway Park add wax to its Polytrack surface. The commission voted to seek the opinion after some commissioners said they disagreed with the interpretation of Tim West, assistant general legal counsel for the KHRC, that the fund does not allow it to be used for such purposes.
Turfway wants to use $62,435 from Backside Improvement Fund money that has been accrued at the track toward the total $93,955 price tag for the additional wax. Track president Bob Elliston said the track surface is experiencing problems with kickback that affects performance, but he said the overall condition of the track is not a safety issue. He said the track had been refurbished once since being installed in 2005.
Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said about 300 trainers and jockeys had signed a letter requesting that something be done about the racing surface. Maline said there is precedent for use of the Backside Development Fund money for such frontside projects.
The Backside Development Fund was established to help some Kentucky tracks fund improvements to barn areas at their facilities.
Elliston said Turfway plans to proceed with the project, which must be completed before colder weather sets in, regardless of whether it is permitted to use the funds. If the attorney general rules that such a project is consistent with the intent of the legislation that established the fund, the KHRC would reimburse Turfway for the amount requested.
At the conclusion of the meeting KHRC vice chairman Tracy Farmer announced a day-long meeting Nov. 14 in Frankfort, Ky., to hear public comments on the subject of race-day medication. In view of recent national developments leading toward bans or restrictions on race-day medications, the KHRC appointed a committee chaired by Farmer.
Farmer said an entire day at a central location has been set aside for the hearing due to the large number of requests for comment. Among the groups that have told Farmer they are interested are People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, The Jockey Club, and the American Quarter Horse Association.