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'New Latonia Racetrack' Proposed By Churchill Downs In NKY

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Horses could be racing at a track named for Latonia again.

Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) announced this week that it plans to file an application with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission requesting to host a 2020 winter thoroughbred racing meet at Churchill Downs in Louisville, while the company constructs New Latonia Racing & Gaming.

A specific location for New Latonia was not identified and a call from The River City News to CDI's corporate communications officer was not immediately returned. Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Authority (Tri-ED), which is often involved with large projects in the region, told RCN that it was unaware of any details that weren't released publicly by Churchill Downs.

As to whether the track would go up in Latonia or Covington, the City of Covington also pleaded ignorance, with a touch of optimism. "I haven't found anybody at the city this morning who's been approached about a $200 million track and training facility coming here, but – given the history of the old Latonia Racecourse in Covington – what an exciting possibility that would be," said city spokesperson Dan Hassert. "How much land do they need?"

CDI said that it would spend up to $200 million on New Latonia, which would host live and historical racing, and year-round training, with plans to host thoroughbred racing in future years.

Churchill Downs is requesting a winter race card be awarded to NKYRG, a wholly-owned subsidiary, in 2020 because, the company said, it is a critical, short-term measure to support thoroughbred racing in Kentucky, and would lead to higher purses and pari-mutuel handle. The company argued it would increase tax revenues for the state, the Thoroughbred Development Fund, the Equine Industry Program, equine drug research and higher education.

If approved, the winter dates would ultimately be moved to New Latonia.

Turfway Park in Florence would seemingly be a competitor of New Latonia. Turfway opened in 1959 as Latonia Race Course before changing its name in 1986. The original Latonia Race Track, which operated in its namesake city which eventually became part of Covington during its operations from 1883 to 1939.

The former site of that track is now home to the Latonia Shopping Center.

"Churchill Downs is stepping up to protect and grow Kentucky's thoroughbred racing circuit," said Kevin Flanery, president of CDRT, in a news release. "Our willingness to make a sizeable investment in the neglected northern Kentucky market is our latest effort to improve Kentucky's valuable horse racing and agriculture industries."

Phase one of the proposed New Latonia facility represents an up to $150 million economic development project for Northern Kentucky, anticipated to create nearly 400 direct full- and part-time equivalent positions and an estimated 800 direct construction jobs, the company said in a news release.

The first phase would include up to 1,500 historical racing machines, a clubhouse, food and beverage venues, a one-mile synthetic main race track, inner dirt track, and stabling facilities.

Phase two could include the addition of a hotel with an incremental investment of up to $50 million, the company said.

"Just as Derby City Gaming's historical racing machines have supercharged purses at Churchill Downs Racetrack, we plan to do the same for Northern Kentucky's racing fans at New Latonia," said Flanery. "Our goal is to deliver an ultra-competitive racing product with more entries and high-quality horses that appeal to bettors and horseplayers nationwide."

This article first appeared on The River City News. For more stories like this, visit rcnky.com now

Michael Monks brings a broad range of experience to WVXU-FM as the host of Cincinnati Edition, Cincinnati Public Radio's weekday news and information talk show.