Kentucky Downs was approved for five racing days in 2016

Kentucky Downs was approved for five racing days in 2016

Rick Samuels

Kentucky Downs, Churchill Agree on Dates

KHRC approved the 2016 schedule during a meeting Oct. 26.

Kentucky Downs and Churchill Downs will have no overlapping dates next year under a schedule approved Oct. 26 by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Kentucky Downs, the all-turf track on the Tennessee border, had requested seven racing days for 2016, two more than this year. But it settled on five again in what appears to be an amicable compromise.

Under the approved schedule, Kentucky Downs will race Sept. 3, 8, 10, 11, and 15. Sept. 10-11 is a weekend. In addition, the track was awarded 10 simulcast host days, which is more than this year.

Churchill will begin its meet Sept. 16 and offer 11 programs through Oct. 2. The second and third weeks will feature racing four days a week.

"We would like to run more racing days," Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen said after the commission meeting. "But we also know we're not in a vacuum. We need to work together with the other tracks. I think after September 2016 we'll see if some of the different things we've tried will work or not."

Churchill president Kevin Flanery said the track is good with the compromise.

"I was the one who suggested trying something like this," Flanery said. "I think we'll get a stronger racing circuit for Kentucky. That's really the goal here."

In order to avoid an overlap, Ellis Park gave up Sept. 3, a Saturday, to Kentucky Downs. The track's 2016 meet—34 days, which includes four optional ones—will end Labor Day, Sept. 5.

Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park, which have historical race wagering machines, have had a good working relationship. Johnsen said he hopes to take advantage of a statutory change regarding the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, which supplements purses for Kentucky-bred runners.

"We didn't address this with the racing commission yet, but it's critically important for Ellis Park to have maiden (special weight) purses of $40,000 or better," Johnsen said. "We're going to recommend more KTDF purse money go to Ellis Park to strengthen the circuit."

Keeneland will race its traditional schedule with 16 programs in April and 17 in October. For Churchill's other two meets, it will run 37 days from April 30-July 2 and 20 days from Nov. 2-27.

Turfway Park had added racing dates after improved business from December 2014-March 2015. It was approved for 73 programs, which includes six optional dates in February and March 2016.

There will be racing four times a week in January—three nights and one afternoon each week—and in December 2016 the track will return to racing five programs a week, up from four.