Centaur to Purchase Hoosier Park Interest from Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs announced Dec. 13 that it has reached an agreement to sell its majority interest in Hoosier Downs to former minority partner Centaur Inc.

Terms of the deal involving the Anderson, Ind. track were not announced. The sale is expected to close in the first quarter of 2007.

When the deal closes, it will represent the third property Churchill has sold since 2005, a group that includes Hollywood Park and Ellis Park.

Churchill chief financial officer Mike Miller said negotiations with Centaur really picked up in the last several weeks.

"As stated previously, we continue to look at Churchill Downs' assets and determine those which are deemed non-strategic," he said. "We are committed to making all of our assets fit our strategic plans."

Churchill's racetrack portfolio now consists of Churchill Downs, Calder Racecourse, The Fair Grounds, and Arlington Park. Miller said it was company policy not to comment on any deals either real or rumored, but pointed towards the company's decision for a synthetic track at Arlington Park as evidence of a continued commitment to the industry.

Miller also declined to comment on whether other parties besides Centaur were interested in buying Hoosier Park, which was developed by Churchill Downs in 1994. Centaur and a group called Conseco had interests in the track from its inception, with Centaur buying out Conseco's stake in 2001.

"Centaur was a terrific partner, and they were the logical buyer," Miller said.

Centaur racing CEO Jeff Smith, who led the development of Hoosier Park while a Churchill Downs executive, said the investment group is excited about the track's future.

"It's been a dream of Centaur from the beginning to own the track and OTBs," he said, mentioning Indiana off-track wagering sites in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and Merrillville.

"Churchill Downs has been instrumental in developing Hoosier Park, and we are very fortunate to be taking over what has been established through the years. We plan to advance what has already been developed."

The sale needs approval from both the Indiana Racing Commission and the City of Anderson Department of Parks and Recreation. Anderson owns the land upon which Hoosier Park sits.

Churchill Downs will continue to carry races from Hoosier Park through its simulcast network.

Rick Moore, who was a Churchill Downs executive when he assumed the role of Hoosier Park president and general manager in 1994, will continue his positions under Centaur's sole ownership.

Hoosier Park was the first pari-mutuel horse racing operation developed in Indiana, opening as a Standardbred race track in 1994. Thoroughbred racing was added in 1995.

Centaur also owns Fortune Valley Hotel & Casino in Central City, Colo. Centaur led the group that originally purchased the property from Harrah's Entertainment in May, 2003.