There will be no battle of September race dates in Kentucky this year, as the 2017 schedule will look a lot like 2016.
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Oct. 4 approved a racing schedule that replicates the 2016 season. In recent years there has been debate as Kentucky Downs has pushed to offer more dates at its meet held in late summer, while Churchill Downs has raised concerns about how expansion would impact its September meeting and Keeneland has raised concerns about impact on its fall meeting.
This year the tracks were in agreement in the schedule presented to the KHRC. Kentucky Downs is content with five race dates for 2017, although the track would still like to add two or three more race days some year down the road.
"We all worked together; all talked about our positions. We would like to run seven or eight days in September, ultimately," said Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen. "However, things went so well this year and rather than spend a lot of negative energy on issues like this, we just felt it in the best interests of the industry to apply for the same dates as last year."
In autumn 2015 Kentucky Downs pushed for more race dates but ultimately retained five. It did race the Saturday before Labor Day with Ellis Park being dark that day. That same schedule is in place for 2017 as Kentucky Downs will race Sept. 2 while Ellis is dark. There are no overlapping dates on the Kentucky schedule as Kentucky Downs also will race Sept. 7, 9, 10 and 14. Churchill will run its September meeting Sept. 15-Oct. 1.
"It's the same corresponding days," Johnsen said. "We need to spend our time on positive things. ... I think 2017 is going to be another year of growth and we're all going to have a better idea of where we're at. I think 2018 is the right year for us to sit down and say, 'What should this look like?' I think 2017 is going to be another great year for the circuit."
The Kentucky Derby (gr. I) will be Saturday, May 6. The spring Keeneland meet will run April 7 through April 28 with Churchill beginning it's spring meet April 29. Churchill spring will continue through June 30.
Turfway Park will generally run four days a week from Jan. 1-April 6. Ellis will begin its summer meet July 1 and wrap up Labor Day, Sept. 4.
The Keeneland fall meet will run Oct. 6-28 followed by Churchill's fall meet, Oct. 29-Nov. 26. Turfway closes out the year, racing Nov. 29-Dec. 31.
For a complete schedule click here. The schedule begins on page 17.