Kentucky Racing Panel Reorganized Again

The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority has been reorganized yet again.

Democratic Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order July 3 reorganizing and renaming the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, which is now the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Several of the “new” members already had been appointed to fill expired terms. The only holdovers from the KHRA, established when Republican Ernie Fletcher became governor four years ago, are Tom Ludt and Thomas Gaines, who will serve on the new KHRC.

Along with Ludt and Gaines, members of the KHRC are Robert M. Beck, chairman; Tracy Farmer, vice chairman; Edward S. Bonnie; Francis Thomas Conway; John T. Ward, Jr.; Frank L. Jones Jr.; Burr James Travis II; Michael Anthony Pitino; Jerry L. Yon; Elizabeth “Betsy” Stone Lavin; Dr. Foster Harold Northrop; Alan J. Leavitt; and Wade Houston.

Ward currently serves on the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council. Jones, active in the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, was a member of the Kentucky Racing Commission before it was abolished by Fletcher.

“Kentucky’s signature industry is in crisis and immediate, aggressive action is necessary to preserve its integrity,” Beshear said in a statement. “The actions I have taken reflect my continued commitment to strengthening horse racing in the commonwealth.”

The KHRC includes the 15 appointees and the secretaries of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, Public Protection Cabinet, and Economic Development Cabinet, who serve as ex-officio members.

The announcement drew criticism from Republican Kentucky Sen. Damon Thayer, who called the changes political.

“It’s another example of this governor trying to thwart the will of the legislature,” Thayer said July 3. “This reorganization needs the approval of the General Assembly, and it cannot be codified until January 2009. It’s an inappropriate time to reorganize something that didn’t need reorganizing. By all accounts, the horse racing authority was doing a wonderful job.”

It was expected Beshear, elected in November 2007, would reorganize the KHRA soon after he took office. That never occurred.

Thayer said the KHRA did a good job establishing the breeders’ incentive programs in Kentucky and also was making progress on regulation of anabolic steroids. He also questioned the timing given the July 3 announcement that Ellis Park wouldn’t hold its summer meet.

“It’s an inopportune time reorganizing the racing authority particularly when there is no compelling reason to do so,” Thayer said. “I hope the new horse racing commission will continue the good work of the racing authority on breed development and the banning of anabolic steroids by Jan. 1, 2009.”

Also on July 3, the KHRC issued a brief statement on the closure of Ellis Park, saying it was “disappointed to learn” the meet had been canceled, and it had hoped a “resolution could be reached” to allow for Thoroughbred racing this summer.