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Breathing New Life into Bankrupt Racetrack

Pounding hooves of quarterhorses and thoroughbreds may soon echo off the previously non-active Yavapai Downs racetrack if all expectations of its new owners are met.

In a $3.22 million deal that just closed in mid-January, the racetrack has been purchased by Kentucky Downs President Corey Johnsen and his four associates from JACOR Partners in Phoenix.

The JACOR Partners are brothers Tom, Dave and Mike Auther; and Joe Jackson, all principals in a real estate investment and development company.

The Daily News in Bowling Green, Kentucky, indicated that Johnsen said the Arizona-based horse racing scene had “…great sentimental value for him.” He also indicated he was gratified to be a part of re-establishing the year-round racing circuit.

Yavapai Downs features a 90,000-square-foot clubhouse and grandstand. It also has accommodations for up to 800 horses. Located on 120 acres, the track and its related facilities will require several million more dollars to bring it back into play.

The track itself is a one-mile oval dirt track. Beyond that are stall areas and temporary rings.

The racetrack had not been active since 2010, when it went bankrupt. In 2015, a prior owner, Gary Miller, had assumed a $5.5 million federal loan in an attempt to bring the track back, but he was unsuccessful. The track on the eastern edge of Prescott Valley along Highway 89A has been vacant since then.

Johnsen, who now owns Kentucky Downs, a racetrack in Franklin, Kentucky on the border with Tennessee, has past history with horseracing in Arizona. At one time, while attending Arizona State University, he worked as a backstretch groom. He later worked in marketing and public relations for Turf Paradise racetrack in Phoenix.

“We look forward to improving purses for all the hard-working horsemen, encouraging the Arizona-bred program that has produced so many solid runners and provided an entertaining product for many dedicated horseplayers.”

Johnsen also said that he was honored to be a part of Yavapai Downs, and that he was pleased with the JACOR Partners team. He noted they are Arizona natives with long-time commitments and experience in doing business in the state.

One of the partners, Ted Auther, said that he views Yavapai Downs as a great venue for summertime horseracing, with all its amenities and attractions, especially in the moderate summer climate.

“Arizona has a population of more than seven million, and is one of America’s fastest growing states,” Auther said. He noted that the Quad Cities area and immediate surroundings will soon approach 300,000 population.

The new owners indicated they would not predict a firm date for re-opening the track, for that would depend upon how long it takes to apply for and receive permits from the Arizona Racing Commission. They say it possibly might open in 2018, but it is more probable that the 2019 racing season – Memorial Day through Labor Day – would see the track in full operation. QCBN

 

By Ray Newton, QCBN

 

PHOTO CAPTION

#1    The 90,000 square foot grandstand and clubhouse for Yavapai Downs will require renovation before the race track opens for horseracing. New owners are hoping to reopen the track by early spring 2019.

Photo by Ray Newton

 

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