Yavapai Downs in Arizona will not run a race meet in 2011 due to financial difficulties.
Track management informed the Arizona Racing Commission, horsemen, and other members of the state racing industry of the cancellation during a May 25 meeting in Phoenix, according to Mike Mullaney, general manager of the track.
“There just isn’t the money to run a race meeting,” Mullaney told The Blood-Horse. “We have a debt of about $14 million now. It costs $2,500 a day just to maintain the racetrack.”
Officials and board members of the non-profit Yavapai Farm & Agriculture Association, which runs the Prescott Valley, Ariz., racetrack, met May 24 to discuss options that might enable the track to conduct this year’s meet. Yavapai was scheduled to open May 28 and run through Sept. 6. However, it was decided not to run in 2011 to give management time to solve the financial difficulties so the track can operate in 2012.
The association has payments due on a loan of approximately $13 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stemming from construction of the track 10 years ago and refinancing in 2009. Last year, Yavapai was reassessed as a commercial rather than a non-profit agricultural entity, changing its annual property taxes from $30,000 to $349,000.
Mullaney, who became the general manager this past January, said the Yavapai County Assessor’s Office has since decreased that $349,000 assessment by some $90,000.
In addition to conducting the Yavapai meet, the Yavapai Farm & Agriculture Association in the past has run the four-day Flagstaff meet over the Fourth of July weekend.
"I hope that Flagstaff won’t become a casualty of all this,” Mullaney said, noting Turf Paradise management at the commission meeting expressed interest in running the Flagstaff meet this year.
Yavapai management will now meet with horsemen who are on the grounds to try to ease the transition. About 750 horses were already at Yavapai, which had drawn entries for its May 28 and 29 cards.
It is also possible, Mullaney said, that horsemen, in the form of the Arizona Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, could become involved in running Yavapai next year.
On May 26, Gary Miller, president of the Arizona HBPA, issued a statement regarding the cancellation.
"Understandably, we have all been rocked to our core with the announcement that Yavapai Downs was not going to run its meet this year," the statement read in part. "The AHBPA is working within our organization and with others to provide help to those abandoned by the decision to not run at Yavapai Downs in 2011.
"We are a community, and we will demonstrate our commitment to the horsemen and racing community. I remain committed to racing at Yavapai Downs and will work with the parties in authority to review and research the track's needs and to recruit solutions that assure such a devastating announcement does not occur again."