Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who abolished the state racing commission in favor of a racing "authority."

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who abolished the state racing commission in favor of a racing "authority."

Associated Press

Thoroughbred Breeders Land Spots on New Racing Panel

The new Kentucky Horse Racing Authority includes several individuals with ties to the Thoroughbred industry. The authority replaces the Kentucky Racing Commission, which was abolished Jan. 6 by Gov. Ernie Fletcher.

The authority, which now falls under the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, will be more than a regulatory body. Fletcher said it is the first proactive step to enhance and grow Kentucky's signature horse industry. The authority will be responsible for promoting economic development activities in the state, and will work to strengthen ties between the horse industry and the state's universities, as well as promote the horse tourism industry.

"I am committed to enhancing the horse industry by appointing leaders of integrity and experience to oversee the industry and take steps to preserve Kentucky's horse farms," Fletcher said in a prepared statement.

"This is consistent with Gov. Fletcher's continuing efforts to restructure government," said Bruce Lunsford, who headed a blue ribbon committee that assisted in government reorganization. "The authority will regulate racing fairly and focus on promoting the industry in order to help Kentucky's economy and create jobs."

Fletcher, a Republican, had asked members of the racing commission to resign after their terms were extended in November by outgoing governor Paul Patton, a Democrat. Resignations, including one from commission chairman Frank Shoop, were received Jan. 5-6.

In signing the executive order, Fletcher appointed ex officio members Secretary of Environmental and Public Protection LaJuana Wilcher, Secretary of Commerce Jim Host, and Secretary of Economic Development Gene Strong to serve on the authority.

Bill Street, a Republican and retired chairman of Brown Forman Corp., was named chairman, and his term expires in 2007. Hopkinsville attorney Constance Whitfield, a Republican, was named vice chairman, and her term expires in 2006. Other appointees are:

For terms ending in 2005:

Don Ball (Republican), owner of Donamire Farms

John Cashman (Republican), formerly of Castleton Farms and The Red Mile harness track

Tom Handy (Republican), former commonweatlth attorney

Larry Telle (Republican), senior vice president of Hilliard Lyons

For terms ending in 2006:

Dell Hancock (Democrat), of Claiborne Farms

Tom Ludt (Republican), president of Cromwell Insurance Agency

Kerry Cauthen (Republican), of Four Star Stables

Jack Steinman (Republican), chief executive officer of Engravers Printing

For terms ending in 2007:

Ben Walden (Republican), Thoroughbred owner and breeder

Donna Smith (Democrat), Saddlebred enthusiast

Doug Hendrickson (Republican), real estate developer and Thoroughbred owner and breeder

Fletcher said Bernie Hettel would remain as executive director of the authority. Hettel also serves as chief steward and is in the booth at the Churchill Downs and Keeneland meets.