Quarter Horse Racetrack Proposed for Kentucky

A proposed Quarter Horse racetrack in Kentucky has raised concerns by other industry interests in the state, but Southern Bluegrass Racing plans to apply later this summer for 2003 racing dates.

Tim McCall, a retired attorney and 50% owner of Southern Bluegrass Racing, said he and partner David Holloway, a Thoroughbred owner whose horses include 10-year-old sprinter Bet On Sunshine, would like to open a Quarter Horse track in Williamsburg in southeast Kentucky. Initial plans call for three days of racing.

The facility, to be located on 45 acres, would cost about $20 million, McCall told the Kentucky Racing Commission June 25. He also said Southern Bluegrass Racing has an agreement with the American Quarter Horse Association, which has attempted to bring live racing back to the state.

"The Quarter Horse people want a presence in Kentucky," McCall said. "I don't think it would interfere in any way with Thoroughbred racing. It's in a location that's entirely rural. I think it would be good for the state."

Churchill Downs president Alex Waldrop said his company is concerned about the impact a racetrack would have on three nearby Kentucky Off-Track Betting Corp. branches. Waldrop said OTB parlors in the state have been nothing more than a "viable feeder for purses," and that any competition "would be a sucker punch for racing."

Laura Pruitt, general manager of Kentucky OTB, said the proposed racetrack site is about 10 miles from Corbin, the corporation's top-performing facility, which draws about 50% of its business from the Knoxville, Tenn., market. Williamsburg is 10 miles closer to Tennessee, a state with no legalized gambling.

McCall said he had discussed a possible purchase of the Corbin OTB. He said the Quarter Horse racetrack plan isn't designed to damage the off-track betting business.

Turfway Park and Ellis Park have spoken with the AQHA about holding Quarter Horse races, but the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has resisted. Because there is no live Quarter Horse racing in the state, Quarter Horse simulcasting isn't permitted at any racetrack.

Racing commission vice chairman Frank Jones Jr. said Southern Bluegrass Racing is welcome to apply for dates, but that he would prefer to see industry consensus before the commission votes on a racing license for the association. Outside of the horsemen's group, no other parties have expressed opposition to Quarter Horse racing or simulcasting in the state.

There was no discussion of legislation introduced earlier this year that would have legalized electronic gaming devices at the state's eight existing racetracks. (The bill failed to come up for a vote in the House, but it could resurface after the November election or early in 2003.) Southern Bluegrass Racing representatives made no mention of alternative gaming during the presentation before the racing commission.