Kentucky Awards License for Revolutionary Racing’s M Quarter Horse Track
Quarter horse racing is coming to Kentucky. On Tuesday, the state’s Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) voted unanimously to approve Revolutionary Racing’s application to build a $55 million track in Ashland.
Groundbreaking is expected to occur later this year.
With the award, all nine of Kentucky’s racing licenses have now been awarded. Besides being the first quarter horse track in the state, it’ll also be the first track in the northeastern part of the state.
Revolutionary Racing comes to Ashland after working with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment to revive Colonial Downs in Virginia three years ago.
There’s a proven playbook and an appropriate term: This is not our first rodeo,” Revolutionary Racing Chairman Larry Lucas told Casino.org after the KHRC meeting in Lexington. “We plan on using that expertise to execute and make it highly profitable for us and for the other stakeholders, including the horsemen and the commonwealth.”
The commission’s approval comes just a month after Lucas, other members of the Revolutionary Racing team, and officials from Boyd County gave an informal presentation and answered questions about their project at the KHRC’s June 21 meeting.
HHR Parlor Also Planned
Along with the track license, Revolutionary Racing will also get the ability to offer historical horse racing (HHR) machines. They are gaming machines that look like slot machines. However, each wager is based on the outcome of previously run races rather than a random number generator.
There are more than 5,500 HHR machines at Kentucky tracks and satellite facilities across the state. The rise of HHR over the past decade has been credited with improving the quality of horse racing in the state and positioning Kentucky as a top year-round racing market.
“We will fast track both of them,” Lucas said of both the track and the HHR parlor. “But it’s in everybody’s best interest, especially the racing community, that we get the HHR facility up sooner than later.”
HHR machines are also very profitable. The seven tracks and HHR satellite facilities won $54.9 million out of $633.4 million wagered in May. After taxes and payments to breeding development funds, the tracks cleared $45.5 million.
Revolutionary Racing plans to build its HHR facility at an old Sears retail store in a mall adjacent to the 177-acre property where the track and equestrian center will be built.
There are also plans for a satellite facility. Revolutionary Racing must locate that within 60 miles of the track, according to KHRC regulations.
Big Move for Eastern Kentucky Community
Ashland is a city with a population of about 20,000, and Boyd County has about 48,000. They’re located between Portsmouth, Ohio, and Huntington, WV, and part of the Huntington metro area, which includes more than 350,000 people.
The arrival of gaming in the area is a big step, especially considering that Boyd County, until just two years ago, was a “moist county,” meaning it had limited alcohol sales. A countywide vote to go completely wet in 2020 passed by a more than 2-to-1 margin.
Boyd County Judge-Executive Eric Chaney, a Republican, told Casino.org Tuesday that more people opposed going wet than opposed bringing gaming to the county.
Chaney added that since becoming the judge-executive in the county, he’s changed how the county has pursued economic development to focus on quality of life issues and make the area a draw for tourists and visitors. He said the KHRC’s licensing Revolutionary Racing was a win for the community,
“We are building a very strong foundation to be able to move Eastern Kentucky and Boyd County in a direction that’s going to promote quality of life exponentially,” he said.
AQHA Excited About Kentucky Opportunity
There’s no official timeline yet for when racing may start at the Ashland track. Lucas told Casino.org that Revolutionary Racing is working with the KHRC and other stakeholders to align with the other tracks in the state and the other quarter horse tracks.
In a statement to Casino.org, Janet VanBebber, chief racing officer for the American Quarter Horse Association, said the organization has talked with Revolutionary Racing several times about the company’s plans. Revolutionary Racing has not yet submitted its application. Still, the AQHA is excited about the opportunity to have their sport in what many consider the horse capital of the world.
“As we navigate the critical path toward implementation of live racing, know that our leadership will be reviewing track design, commitment to abundant racing opportunity, and other factors before affording final approval,” VanBebber said. “We are dedicated to the protection of both horse and rider and securing a viable opportunity for our members to showcase their equine athletes. We look forward to engaging with Revolutionary Racing in this pursuit.”
Quarter horses are shorter and heavier than thoroughbreds. They also race faster over shorter distances.
Last year, the AQHA ran more than 6,200 races with purses valued at $126.1 million. The total amount wagered on those races was $344.1 million.
Revolutionary Racing said it expects its offer daily purses of $500,000 during its meets.
By comparison, there were more than 33,500 thoroughbred races last year in the US, with purses valued at $1.18 billion. Bettors wagered $12.21 billion on thoroughbred races last year.
State Lawmaker Questions Award
Not everyone seemed to buy into Revolutionary Racing’s proposal. After the KHRC’s vote, Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown), a racing industry veteran, questioned why the agency performed little due diligence. He also wondered why there were no questions about the group hiring the son of a commissioner as its lead attorney.
Thayer also criticized Revolutionary Racing as the “hand-picked applicant” by Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat.
Done at special meeting so @AndyBeshearKY hand-picked applicant could be granted the license. Little due diligence, no questions about questionable background of the man leading the group or its hiring of a commissioner’s son as lead lawyer. @janetpattonhl @_AustinHorn (1/2) https://t.co/8ER2NhLkAL
— damon thayer (@damon_thayer) July 26, 2022
“I have no issues with a new quarter horse track in Ashland, but the process is problematic,” Thayer tweeted. “Pushed by the Governor, done months ahead of annual race dates application meeting, why the rush?? I will be watching closely.”
Revolutionary Racing did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
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