Thomas Meeker, who guided Churchill Downs through a racing renaissance and led the transformation of Churchill Downs, Inc. into one of the world's major racing companies, will be presented with the 2006 "Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award" by Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners Nov. 11 at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville.Meeker, who retired in August after 22 years as president and chief executive officer of Churchill Downs' parent company, will be receive the honor during the annual KTO Awards Dinner. The evening's activities are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.The KTO annually presents the award to a member of the racing industry who displays the spirit and passion for the sport that was exhibited by Jones, a Kentucky breeder, owner, and former chairman of the board of Churchill. Previous winners have included owner and breeders William T. Young, William S. Farish, and Allen E. Paulson; trainers D. Wayne Lukas, Claude "Shug" McGaughey, Elliott Walden, and Ken McPeek; and journalist Jennie Rees of the Courier Journal. Churchill Downs publicist John Asher was the KTO's 2005 honoree.Meeker earned a reputation as one of racing's most dramatic leaders and one of the most important figures under the Twin Spires during his tenure as president of Churchill Downs, and later as president and CEO of its parent company. Shortly after his arrival as interim president in 1984, Meeker, 40, launched the track on a five-year, $25 million capital improvement program that included the construction of its first ever turf course--a development that led in 1988 to the first of a record six visits by the Breeders' Cup World Championships to the track.Starting in 1994, Meeker led CDI into an era of interstate expansion. The evolution of CDI as a premier North American racing company began with the opening of Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind. The company's expansion strategy was implemented over the next few years with CDI acquisitions of Ellis Park, Calder Race Course, Hollywood Park, Fair Grounds, and its merger with Arlington Park in Chicago. Meeker led Churchill Downs to a $121 million renovation that was completed in April 2005. The transformation of the track from a seasonal racing facility to a live racing center with year-round opportunities for social, business, and entertainment gatherings has made Meeker one of Churchill's most important leaders.
Tickets for the dinner are $100 per person and may be purchased by contacting Marlene Meyer at (502) 458-5820.