- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A proposal by the Keeneland Association and a partner to acquire an Appalachian harness track and shift its license to build a quarter horse track in the Corbin area will draw close scrutiny, horse racing regulators said.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Chairman Bob Beck said Tuesday that some commissioners have “significant questions” about the proposed transaction.

“So I don’t think it’s a good idea to assume at this point that that transaction would be approved by the commission,” Beck said at a meeting where a commission panel reviewed proposed 2015 race dates for tracks.

Keeneland Association is teaming with Full House Resorts in the proposed venture.

The proposal calls for purchasing Thunder Ridge harness track at Prestonsburg and moving the license to develop the quarter horse track in southeastern Kentucky.

Keeneland Association Chief Operating Officer Vince Gabbert said he didn’t know what concerns have surfaced among some racing commission officials about the proposed venture.

He said Keeneland and its partner have an option to acquire a site in the Corbin area. For now, they’re waiting for the regulatory review, he said.

“We’re very enthusiastic about the project,” Gabbert told reporters Tuesday. “We want to get moving on it because we feel like it is a very good project.”

Keeneland race track is located in Lexington.

The developers of the proposed quarter horse track hope to tap into the Tennessee market by also offering the slot-like Instant Racing game.

Before that can happen, the racing commission will need to be comfortable with the transaction.

“There are concerns inside the commission that that is a deal that is going to have to have a lot of transparency and be looked at very closely,” the commission’s executive director, John T. Ward, told reporters. “Just don’t assume it’s a done deal.”

Las Vegas-based Full House is not currently licensed by the Kentucky racing commission. Full House owns, develops and manages gaming facilities throughout the country.

Gabbert said Keeneland and its partner hope to start quarter horse racing in 18 months after getting necessary regulatory approval. He said it’s “improbable not impossible” that there could be quarter horse racing in the Corbin next year.

Thunder Ridge has been making plans for 2015 racing in case the transaction is not finalized, but its request drew close scrutiny as well from racing commission members.

The commission’s race dates committee didn’t offer a recommendation Tuesday on the race dates request. The full commission must award racing dates for Kentucky tracks by Nov. 1 under state law.

“We’ve requested them to give us a more complete understanding of their financial condition and track operations and condition of the track,” Beck said. “And we have not gotten that information yet. So until we get that information and we can analyze it, we’re just not in a position to approve or reject the dates application.”

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