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Keeneland seeks to build racetrack near Corbin

Feb. 15, 2013 @ 04:30 PM

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Lexington thoroughbred racetrack Keeneland has partnered with Nevada-based Full House Resorts in an effort to purchase land and build a Quarter Horse racetrack in the Corbin area.

Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason told the Lexington Herald-Leader (http://bit.ly/XDFSz6) in an exclusive interview about the plans.

“We think we’re putting things forward that will be a great help to the industry and the sport,” Thomason said. “We’re looking to the long term, looking to do something big, and it will be special. ... We think the community will embrace it and enjoy it and it will provide economic gains.”

The plan would include purchasing the Thunder Ridge harness track in Prestonsburg and reinventing it.

Keeneland leaders said they envision a “Keeneland-esque” facility that would offer simulcasting and instant racing in addition to a boutique summertime Quarter Horse meet of about a dozen race dates.

“We’re going to build a modern facility, scaled to the market ... that will grow to meet the demands of the area,” Thomason said.

The proposal would need regulatory approval before it could proceed.

State Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said on Thursday that there’s a market for the track.

“I think Keeneland should be lauded for its desire to take the Keeneland model and bring in a new partner and build a new racing and simulcasting facility in Kentucky,” Thayer said. “Don’t see many people building new racetracks these days. ... There is pent-up demand for race dates, Quarter Horses in this part of the country who want to run, and fans who will come to see them race.”

Keeneland’s partner, Full House, operates casinos in Indiana, Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico and would share ownership and operation of the facility in southern Kentucky.

Jim Dacey, spokesman for Full House Resorts, said the companies would work together to determine the scope of the facility, but it will be a “casino-entertainment complex.”

The proposal came as a surprise to Knox County Judge-Executive J.M. Hall, but he told the newspaper Thursday the idea sounded like a good one.

“I would love to have a racetrack in Knox County. Like a Keeneland, here? If we have something here, we could pull in people from Tennessee,” Hall said. “That would be pretty big.”

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