Kentucky Harness Track Wants Quarter Horse Dates

by Kathleen Adams

Representatives from Kentucky's racetracks submitted their preliminary applications for 2004 racing dates to members of a subcommittee of the Kentucky Racing Commission Sept. 2. The Thoroughbred schedule is typical, but there are other proposed changes.

The Red Mile, a Standardbred facility located just outside downtown Lexington, has applied for Quarter Horse dates and also wants to drop its traditional spring harness meet and race in August.

"It was purely a decision based on the export of our simulcast signal," said Julie Sorrell, director of mutuels and simulcasting at The Red Mile. "It will provide greater opportunity for race dates for Kentucky harness horsemen."

In recent years, the spring meet has spanned 24 nights. A late summer meet and the Grand Circuit meet combined go for about the same number of days. Next year, the track has applied for 41 days.

As for Quarter Horse racing, Sorrell said the track applied for only two dates with wagering. There would be 10 races each program.

Commission executive director Bernie Hettel said that before the dates committee could consider any request for Quarter Horse racing, the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association first must secure a host racetrack in order to comply with Kentucky racing statutes.

Hettel asked those at the meeting aligned with Thoroughbred facilities if they thought their horsemen would raise objections to the proposal. No one voiced an opinion, but Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs, said: "Don't take our silence as agreement. We don't have enough data."

Quarter Horse simulcasting isn't permitted in the state until there is live racing and a purse account for the simulcast revenue. Efforts to hold Quarter Horse racing at Turfway Park have failed thus far.

The Red Mile in the 1990s applied for summer Thoroughbred dates, but its request was denied by the racing commission.

The deadline to submit final applications to the dates committee is Oct. 1. The commission is expected to announce racing dates by Nov. 1.

On the Thoroughbred side, Turfway would race Jan. 1-April 1, Sept. 8-Oct. 7, and Nov. 28-Dec. 31. Keeneland would race April 2-23, and Oct. 8-30. Churchill would race April 24-July 5, and Oct. 31-Nov. 27. Ellis Park would race July 7-Sept. 6. Kentucky Downs would race Sept. 11-21.

With The Red Mile racing in August and September, Bluegrass Downs would offer harness racing April 29-June 5, and Thunder Ridge Raceway would race from Oct. 1-Nov. 23.

The Quarter Horse races, if everything comes together, would be offered July 16-17, along with non-wagering events July 1, 15, 18, and 31.