Turfway Project Gets Go-Ahead From Commission

The Kentucky Racing Commission on Wednesday in motion a plan to construct a dormitory at Turfway Park, where recent backstretch improvements have included installation of surveillance cameras.

Funds for the project -- about $300,000 -- will come from a 0.5% fee on pari-mutuel handle. The money is used for backstretch improvements at the Northern Kentucky racetrack. Turfway will put up the funds to the get the project rolling, and then be reimbursed from the fund.

Turfway president Bob Elliston said the surveillance cameras were installed for safety reasons, "but there is an integrity issue as well." Integrity was a key part of the "Racing 2000" initiative headed by racing commission vice chairman Frank Jones Jr., a Thoroughbred owner.

To that end, it was announced that Kentucky racing produced only four positives in 2000 -- all of them in the first six months of the year -- from 26,000 starters. In all, 151 rulings last year generated $21,000 in fines that help support commission operations.

In other business at Wednesday's meeting:

- The racing commission approved an agreed order that will permit jockey Tracy Hebert to compete in other jurisdictions should he be licensed. Hebert has been suspended several times by the commission the past few years, and his Kentucky license expired Dec. 31, 2000.

- A request by The Jockeys' Guild for a $5 raise in pay for jockeys whose mounts don't finish first, second, or third was approved by the commission. Guild regional manager Mickey Solomone indicated the fee hasn't been raised in 11 years.

During the meeting, Don Sturgill, general counsel for the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said the Kentucky HBPA had no problem with the pay raise, but he requested that the Guild stay out of medication issues. When asked about Sturgill's comments after the meeting, Solomone said they had nothing to do with losing-mount fees.

The Kentucky HBPA leadership is in favor of the use of therapeutic medication on race days. Solomone said the Guild believes such medication can mask physical problems in horses and thus could jeopardize the lives of jockeys who ride the animals.

- Ryan Driscoll, who formerly headed communications at Louisiana Downs, was introduced as the new general manager of Kentucky Downs, which is located near the Tennessee border. Richard Cummings, who most recently served as president of The Red Mile, a Lexington harness track, now serves as a consultant for Kentucky Downs.

- Commission chairman Frank Shoop said he would meet with racetrack executives before any action is taken on the state level to increase licensing fees, including taxes on racing operations. Churchill Downs president Alex Waldrop told the commission that the tracks, which continue to battle riverboat casinos in nearby Indiana and Illinois, don't need a tax increase.