Archive for the Horse Racing Category

Churchill Downs to Host Breeders Cup 2010

Posted in Churchill Downs, Economics, Horse Racing, Louisville News, Sports, State of StateoftheCommonwealth on October 8, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

Finally we’re getting to update State of the Commonwealth, after computer issues the past few days. And in our first update there’s the good news that Churchill Downs will host its seventh Breeders Cup in the fall of 2010 (from a Courier-Journal article that’s light on details):

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will return to Churchill Downs in 2010, officials from both organizations confirmed this morning at a news conference.

Churchill will play host the cup for the record seventh time and the first time since Breeders’ Cup went to a two-day format last year. The event will take place Nov. 5-6of that year.

If you’ll recall, Churchill was claiming last year that the Breeders Cup when held at there didn’t typically earn more revenue than any other racing Saturday during the Fall Meet. Yeah, right, sure, that’s believable. Anyway, we’re glad that the event is coming back to Louisville.


This Just In: Ellis Park to Close

Posted in Economics, Horse Racing, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Sports on July 2, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

Ellis Park

(Ellis Park photo from the Courier-Journal)

The Courier-Journal is reporting that Ellis Park, Henderson’s race track, will close:

Ellis Park owner Ron Geary said tonight he’s closing the Henderson, Ky., racetrack.

Geary said he made the decision after a federal judge denied his request for an injunction against Kentucky horsemen that would have allowed him to offer the track’s races to national account wagering outlets.

We’ll have more details at some point either today or tomorrow, when we learn more via the C-J or other Kentucky news outlets.

UPDATE 7/3/08, 8:45 AM: The Courier‘s full story on the Ellis Park closing is up on their site, and basically it’s a doozy:

Ellis Park owner Ron Geary said last night that he is closing the 86-year-old Henderson, Ky., racetrack, which was scheduled to open its summer meeting tomorrow.

Geary said he made the decision after a federal judge denied his request for an injunction against Kentucky horsemen that would have allowed him to offer the track’s races to national account-wagering outlets that take bets by phone and online.

Geary called it a “permanent decision” for the track founded in 1922 that survived bankruptcy, flooding and even a tornado.

“I don’t have any plans on opening it again as a racetrack,” Geary said in a telephone interview. “That’s for sure.”

A formal announcement at the track will take place this morning, Geary said.

…Lisa Underwood, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, said Geary called her yesterday to inform her that the track would not open for the meet.

“I’m sorry that it came to this,” she said. “It’s sad for the industry, but I am not surprised.”

For years, Ellis had faced an uncertain future, and the dispute with horsemen only complicated that, as it has elsewhere across the country. The disagreement has hurt the Churchill Downs’ spring season, which concludes Sunday.

Churchill’s betting numbers have been down because the horsemen blocked its races from being offered to national account-wagering companies, like Churchill’s Horsemen have that right to block races from interstate betting under a federal law.

The horsemen notified Geary last week that Ellis’ races would be blocked as well, which prompted Geary to file a lawsuit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, where a hearing took place in Owensboro yesterday.

In the lawsuit, he said Ellis lost $2.7 million during the 2007 meet and would be forced to close without the revenue from account wagering.

Basically, if you had no idea until now, horse racing in Kentucky is in a bad way, as horsemen, track operators, and just about everybody involved squabbles over their share of what must be a decreasing pie.

Billy Reed on Big Brown Bummer

Posted in Churchill Downs, Horse Racing, Media, Sports on June 4, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

Big Brown Training at Belmont

(above photo of Big Brown from the Courier-Journal)

We haven’t had a lot of time to write about horse racing this spring, at least not as much as we’d like to. And we’ve got to admit, there was always something about Derby favorite and eventual-winner Big Brown that sorta rubbed us the wrong way.

Well, Kentucky’s dean of sports writing, Mr. Billy Reed, has recently posted a screed on his web site Billy Reed Says entitled The Bad, Bad Backers of Big Brown, and it excellently raises a few issues about the people behind Big Brown that the mainstream media seems unlikely to cover.

First, does the general public know that Big Brown’s trainer Rick Dutrow is “a boorish loudmouth who has a long rap sheet for illegally medicating horses?” Maybe the former, but we doubt many know about the latter. Secondly, does the public know that one of the partners of International Equine Acquisitions Holdings — the group that owns Big Brown — was fined by securities regulators? Probably not:

In October, 1999, [Michael] Iavarone was fined $7,500, censured, and suspended from the securities industry for 10 business days for association with A.R. Baron & Co., a New York firm that was the subject of a criminal and civil investigation.

Documents show that Iavarone was a general securities representative at A.R. Baron from July, 1993, until it collapsed in July, 1996. The following year, the firm was prosecuted by the Manhattan district attorney on charges of cheating thousands of investors out of $75 million. More than a dozen A.R. Baron officials either pleaded guilty or were convicted of wrongdoing.

According to records, Iavarone was accused of executing “unauthorized transactions which exceeded $22,000 in the accounts of public customers” in July and December, 1995, without his customers’ knowledge or consent. He did not admit guilt in the case.

About that same year, Iavarone said he ended his association with a now-defunct investment firm, Joseph Dillon & Co., which was censured in September, 2002, and fined $35,000. The firm’s chief executive was banned for two months by securities industry regulators for improper telemarketing methods. Iavarone told Newsday he had little involvement with Joseph Dillon, where he was a registered stockbroker, and had no knowledge of any wrongdoing.

And that’s the tip of the iceberg, so give it a read. As much as we’d like to see a Triple Crown champion — and clearly human foibles aren’t a horse’s fault — we gotta admit these guys don’t seem worth cheering for.

Louisville Business: Churchill Downs Sues Horsemen, GE to Sell Appliance Park?

Posted in Churchill Downs, Economics, Horse Racing, Labor, Louisville News on May 15, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

Churchill Downs

(above photo of Churchill Downs from

If you’ve been following horse racing with more than a casual interest this spring, you might be aware of the until-now relatively low-key feud between Churchill Downs and two different horsemen organizations (generally horsemen include owners and trainers) over online wagering. Well, that simmerin’ pot came to an angry, boiling head yesterday as Churchill filed suit (from Business First):

The ongoing battle between Churchill Downs Inc. and Kentucky horsemen escalated Wednesday afternoon, when the racetrack operator filed suit against the Kentucky Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and officers for each of the organizations.

Churchill Downs Technology Initiatives Co. and Calder Race Course Inc. also were listed as plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in Louisville.

In the suit, Churchill Downs Inc. and its affiliates allege that the KHBPA and the KTA violate the Sherman Antitrust Act by blocking the distribution of Churchill Downs’ simulcast signal to national advance-deposit wagering, or ADW, sites, including Churchill’s own ADW site,

The only races the horsemen allowed to be simulcast during the current Spring Meet were the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, May 2, and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 3.

The suit amends a complaint Churchill filed on Thursday, April 24, against the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent Protective Association and the officers of those organizations.

Those organizations sought to block the simulcast of Calder races to out-of-state, off-track betting sites.

In both cases, the horsemen are seeking a greater share of the money that bettors wager at off-track betting parlors and on Internet betting sites.

“It is in the best interest of our racetrack, our horsemen and certainly our customers for the Churchill Downs signal to be made available to racing fans throughout the country,” Churchill Downs Inc. executive vice president Steve Sexton said in a news release. “Unfortunately, our negotiations with Kentucky horsemen have not advanced.”

The suit is the latest salvo in the battle between Churchill Downs Inc. and the horsemen.

Beginning today, Churchill cut purses for Spring Meet races by 20 percent.

The Courier-Journal‘s article on the same issue adds the following comment from Churchill’s opposition:

“I don’t believe we’ve breached anything,” David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, said in an interview.

In other big, maybe-going-to-affect-a-lot-of-Louisvillians news, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that General Electric is looking to sell its appliance unit, which would “mean more uncertainty for the 5,000 workers at Appliance Park” (from the C-J):

GE has hired Goldman Sachs to run an auction for the appliances unit, which could fetch up to $8billion, the Journal reported.

“We just don’t comment on this kind of speculation,” Kim Freeman, spokeswoman for the Louisville-based Consumer & Industrial division, said when asked about the report. Goldman Sachs also would not comment on the report.

IUE/CWA Local 761 President William T. “Tommy” Spires said he hadn’t been aware of any sale plans.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s business as usual,” Spires said. “I’ll continue to do everything I can to save the jobs here. I’m as shocked as anybody else at this time. I just find it hard to believe.”

Through a spokesman, Mayor Jerry Abramson said he and officials of Greater Louisville Inc., the local chamber of commerce, have been talking to GE managers during the past two weeks about rumored job losses at Appliance Park.

Abramson said he spoke to Jim Campbell, CEO of GE Consumer & Industrial, which also includes lighting, and was told the company was looking at job reductions across the board but hadn’t made a decision about Louisville.

“That conversation didn’t include the possible sale of the appliances division,” Abramson spokesman Chad Carlton said. “Certainly, we’ll be proactive in the event they want to go that route and make the case, to either GE or new owners, that Louisville is a great place to continue operations.”

About half of Appliance Park’s 5,000 workers are in white-collar jobs in areas such as marketing, finance, and research and development. The others are union workers who build dishwashers, washing machines and top-freezer refrigerators.

…The appliance business, which for years used the slogan “We bring good things to life,” has been the public image for GE and provided most of the company’s consumer products.

Last year the Consumer & Industrial business accounted for less than 8 percent of GE’s overall revenue of almost $173billion.

As GE was confirming plans to sell its plastics business in January 2007, Immelt was asked about other industrial businesses it might shed and responded, “The other obvious candidate … is Consumer & Industrial.”

Reasons for keeping it, he said, were that the GE brand was important to the business, it returns major amounts of cash to the parent company and presents innovation opportunities.

So it’s not entirely clear what will happen to Louisville, but we’re guessing we might soon see a return of the “GE isn’t me” t-shirts we remember from Appliance Park layoffs in the 1980s.

What’s In the Weeklies? Week of May 7

Posted in Churchill Downs, Horse Racing, Louisville News, Media, Sports, Uncategorized, What's In the Weeklies? on May 7, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve gotten a chance to post one, but it is also Wednesday, so it’s time for another installment of What’s In the Weeklies?

LEO May 7

LEO Weekly, May 7, 2008 issue:

Overall Score: 27 points

Velocity May 7

Velocity Weekly, May 7, 2008 issue:

Overall Score: 28 points

Velocity pulls out the surprise win this week! Granted, it’s gotta be tough for any editor in Louisville to put together a paper the week after the Derby, when not much happens. And Velocity‘s Derby coverage was pretty vapid, to be sure (which is fine — we’re not looking for anything too serious when it comes to, say, Barnstable-Brown stories and photos). But the prospect of a thin paper led to some “risky” editorial choices that, while not de riguer for Velocity, actually seemed to work! Like a full two-page poem, we gotta like that. And a decent interview with Kevin Phillips, and a piece on House of Ruth, “a local organization that provides financial and social support to people with AIDS and HIV.” So perhaps Velocity should take more chances in the future.

As always, please feel free to comment! Especially as regards stuff we don’t cover in the weeklies, such as theater and film coverage.

Derby Wagers Down 3.2 Percent

Posted in Churchill Downs, Horse Racing, Kentucky News, Louisville News, Sports on May 6, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

If you weren’t sure before whether or not the United States is in a recession, perhaps this news from Business First may convince you: Churchill Downs reports that Kentucky Derby wagering was down 3.2 percent from 2007:

Despite the second-highest attendance in history, wagering from all sources on the Kentucky Derby dropped 3.2 percent from 2007.

All-source wagering was $114,557,364, down from 2007’s total of $118,317,714, Churchill Downs Inc. said in a news release.

On-track wagering totaled $12,118,527, down 0.3 percent from 2007, and off-track wagering was $102,438,837, down 3.6 percent.

Wagering from all sources for the 12-race Derby Day card at Churchill Downs, also declined, dropping 2 percent.

Off-track wagering was affected by the ongoing disputes between online betting sites and horsemen in Kentucky and Florida, which has limited participation, Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton said in the release.

This news comes after the revelation that Keeneland’s spring meet wagering was down 12.7 percent as well. While neither story is as depressing as Eight Belle’s demise — or even this bit of inanity — neither spells good news for Kentucky’s economy.

Take a Pass on War Pass, Get Out to Record Store Day, and Much More

Posted in Drink, Happenings, Horse Racing, Music, Sports on April 19, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

Okay, we admit, our blogging has been more than a tad infrequent of late. As we’ve noted recently, the spring weather has out of the house much more often than usual. Throw in the typical pre-Derby over-saturation of work and activities, and you’ve got a recipe for a nearly-abandoned blog. But don’t worry, dear readers! We’ll be back to normal — ie. posting daily — at some point. We’re just not sure when.

War Pass

But for now let’s get on to business. The business of horse racing, that is. The aforementioned Kentucky Derby is fast approaching, as you well know, and with it comes a slew (get it? Seattle Slew? ah, we know it’s a bad pun) of speculation on which horses will be running. And with that, we received the news this morning that War Pass (above), one of the more highly anticipated entries, will not be running (from the Courier-Journal):

War Pass, last season’s unbeaten 2-year-old champion, is out of the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown after sustaining a small fracture in a left front sesamoid, which forms part of a horse’s ankle.

Trainer Nick Zito said prominent Churchill Downs veterinarian Rick Fischer told him the injury probably happened in the final yards of the April 5 Wood Memorial, when War Pass set a very fast pace under pressure before finishing a close second to Tale of Ekati.

“It’s been an uphill battle this year, what can I tell you,” Zito said this morning by phone. “Just a struggle,unfortunately. He’s a great horse who just had obstacle after obstacle. We just got a bad break here. Rick Fischer is a really good country vet. I said.

‘Doc, when did this happen? He said, ‘It’s new – 20 yards before the wire.’

“… Obviously it was a very tough race on him.”

It’s unfortunate that last year’s Breeders Cup Juvenile champion won’t get the chance to compete in the Kentucky Derby, but as they say, those are the breaks (okay, okay, we’ll stop with the bad puns!). Fortunately, the injury does not appear to even be career-threatening, so we wish War Pass and Nick Zito all the best.

Gypsy Hut

In other, non-horsey news, we forgot to mention that Thursday night we’d be in Cincinnati, at the Back On Track party for Viva Radio. Viva Radio is an online radio station, brought to you by the American Apparel folks, and it happens to be a pretty great listening resource — as you can imagine, online radio requires none of the commercial restraints of broadcasting. And they have contributors from all over the country, including Louisville’s own Kim Sorise, whose show “Soundhouse” airs from 3 to 4 pm every Saturday. So anyway, the party consisted of a few New York, Detroit and Columbus djs (Glen of Absinthe & Presents, Neil M. of Get Low!, Rob Low of Young Toughs, MC Tedward, Odes from Columbus), as well as Cincy local Pete Fusco and Louisville’s Kim Sorise. A fun time was had by all, and we got home so late we completely missed the earthquake! Also, we gotta say, we loved the Gypsy Hut, located in Cincy’s Northside neighborhood, not a far walk from Shake It Records, one of our favorite record stores.


Which reminds us that today, April 19th, is Record Store Day (in addition to being our mom’s birthday). Participating stores in the Louisville area are ear X-tacy and Underground Sounds, so if you’ve got the time and inclination, drop on by either store — or both! We’re not sure what’s on tap at Underground Sounds to celebrate, but ear X-tacy will have a 1 pm dj set by Dwight Johnson, a 3 p.m. in-store performance by Metroschifter, an 8 p.m. screening of “Juno,” with movie-related giveaways, and lots of stuff will be on sale all day long, including 20 percent off vinyl from 1 to 3 pm, and 10 percent off new CDs all day long, and even more (see picture above). Those are deals way too great to even think about passing up. Support your local independent music retailer!