Kentucky Moves Ahead With Hike in License Fees

A $1-million reduction in funding from the state has led the Kentucky Racing Commission to propose an increase in license fees. In some cases, the fees would triple, but commission officials said the hike is necessary to maintain basic services.

The increases, the first in nine years, will require a change in the Kentucky Revised Statutes. A license for a Thoroughbred or Standardbred owner or trainer would go from $35 to $100, for example.

"It's a matter of making the dollars work," Bernie Hettel, executive director of the Kentucky Racing Commission, said during a meeting Thursday. "We need to keep the same level of services."

Commission chairman Frank Shoop said the commission is leasing about 40% of its office space at the Kentucky Horse Park in an effort to generate revenue. He said he hopes the license-fee hike is a "one- or two-year situation. We hope to get some funding through various ways."

Commissioner Nate Sholar, who represents the Standardbred industry, opposed the fee schedule. He said because Thoroughbred purses are much larger than harness purses, and because in general the training day rate is much lower for Standardbreds, the fees shouldn't be the same for both breeds.

In other business, the commission indicated it is open to the idea of having live Quarter Horse racing to facilitate simulcasting of the breed in Kentucky. Officials tend to agree that Kentucky law requires there to be at least one live race of a particular breed before simulcasting can commence.

The American Quarter Horse Association has contacted Turfway Park about the possibility of offering Quarter Horse races. Ellis Park also has come up in discussions.

Bluegrass Downs and The Red Mile, two harness tracks, have expressed interest in simulcasting Quarter Horse races should the opportunity arise. At Bluegrass and other tracks that import Thoroughbred racing, Quarter Horse and "mixed" races that are part of programs are blacked out because there are no purse accounts for the revenue.