Kentucky Downs applies for Oak Grove harness track

by Jennie Rees, Kentucky Downs publicity

Franklin, KY — The ownership of Kentucky Downs has filed an application with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to build a Standardbred track to be named Oak Grove Meadows on 80 acres near the intersection of Interstate 24 and U.S. 41-A in close proximity to Fort Campbell and Clarksville, Tenn. Kentucky Downs is committing $45 million to the Oak Grove project and plans to spend an additional $25 million in a major expansion of its existing track in Franklin, Ky.

“We appreciate the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission opening up applications for new licenses,” said Corey Johnsen, Kentucky Downs’ president who has been involved in the opening or reopening of five tracks in the United States and Latin America. “For a number of years, we have been working with the Kentucky Harness Horsemen’s Association and the City of Oak Grove to fill a void in the Standardbred circuit and to create an entertainment and tourist destination in southwest Kentucky that complements existing businesses and enterprises.”

Photo courtesy of Kentucky Downs

Above is a conceptual view of Oak Grove Meadows.

The proposed track would race 15 days from Oct. 11 to Nov. 10, 2019, with purses fueled year-round by up to 500 Exacta Systems historical horse racing (HHR) terminals, the innovative technology that marries the pari-mutuel wagering system that is the backbone of American horse racing and the action of electronic video gaming while based on the results of previously-run races. The harness track will be five-eighths of a mile with 450 stalls.

Kentucky Downs, which earlier this year completed the largest renovation in track history, also plans an expansion to double the size of the main building housing its historical horse racing and simulcasting operation as well as constructing a state-of-the-art equestrian complex. The new space will be able to accommodate an additional 800 HHR terminals, a full-service steakhouse and sports lounge. The track also wants to build an indoor equestrian arena with an integrated grandstand that serves live-racing guests and a new cross-country eventing course in the infield. The multi-purpose arena venue would be supported by two warm-up areas and expanded stabling capacity, as well as RV and trailer parking to service event participants and RV stopover traffic from nearby Interstate 65.

The global design and architectural firm Populous — known for the renovation and expansion of world-class facilities such as Ascot Racecourse and Yankee Stadium — has been retained for both Oak Grove Meadows and the Kentucky Downs’ expansion. Dennis Moore, one of the country’s most-respected track superintendents, will oversee the construction of the new harness racing surface.

“We have put together a dream team of experts and are excited to share our plans with the Kentucky horse industry,” Johnsen said. “We have developed expertise in operating historical horse racing and marketing to the Nashville region. We are confident that our plans at both sites will complement each other and provide maximum revenues for the Kentucky horse industry. This new phase will bring Kentucky Downs’ investment to $141 million since 2007.”

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