Whitesburg KY
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Track moving to Corbin

Keeneland gets permission to purchase Prestonsburg track

The Keeneland Association took strides forward Tuesday in its plan to build a quarter horse track in the Corbin area, winning approval from racing regulators to acquire an Appalachian track as part of the venture.

Keeneland wants to purchase Thunder Ridge harness track at Prestonsburg and shift its license to build the quarter horse track in southeastern Kentucky. Keeneland’s plans for the quarter horse track include opening a parlor for the slotlike Instant Racing game in hopes of tapping the nearby Tennessee market.

The venture has to clear other regulatory hurdles with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, including the proposed track move from Prestonsburg to Corbin.

Keeneland Association Chief Operating Officer Vince Gabbert said a couple of potential sites are being considered. He said the goal is to begin live race at the Corbin-area track in the summer of 2016.

“From an economic development standpoint and an industry standpoint, we feel like this project is not only good for Keeneland and good for the community, but good for the state as a whole,” Gabbert said.

The Keeneland Association wants to purchase Thunder Ridge from Appalachian Racing. Terms of the purchase have not been disclosed. Keeneland race track is located in Lexington.

Keeneland is looking at limited live racing, perhaps eight to 12 days, at the proposed quarter horse track, Gabbert said. One scenario calls for live racing every other weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day, he said.

The venture could include installing 500 to 700 Instant Racing terminals at the Corbin-area track, he said.

Instant Racing allows people to use a device resembling a slot machine to place bets on previously run horse races in which the identities aren’t revealed until the wager is made.

The game has been a success for Kentucky Downs, a small track at Franklin near the Tennessee line.

Kentucky Downs has seen wagering and field sizes go up for its short live racing season, boosted by revenues from the Instant Racing game that have sweetened purses.

Instant Racing revenues are up by more than 11.5 percent so far this year at Kentucky Downs, and the track draws many of its patrons from Tennessee, said track President Corey Johnsen.

“The business remains very strong,” he said.

Kentucky Downs has 390 Instant Racing terminals but would like to eventually add as many as 400 to 500 terminals, he said.

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