BY MIKE KILLBREATH
CCN Executive Editor
SWARTZ CREEK (CCN) — Thoroughbred horse racing could return to Michigan if a request for dates is accepted by state officials, according to a story Thursday on The Morning Gazette Radio Show. Approval of racing dates is necessary to close a sale of property in Swartz Creek formerly used for harness racing until the track closed after the 2014 live racing season, according to a statement on the web site for the Michigan Horsemen's Benevolent and Protection Association.
George Kutenios, president of the non-profit organization, announced that a deal has been reached with the proposed new owners for the property that was shuttered after horsemen were unable to reach a deal that prompted the January 2015 closing of Sports Creek Raceway. The statement on the web site also indicated that simulcasting of other races around the country would return to the Swartz Creek facility.
Kutlenios revealed that a Nov. 1 closing date is proposed, pending approval of live racing dates by the Michigan Gaming Control Board that oversees horse racing in the state.
Michigan lost thoroughbred racing when Hazel Park Raceway closed last year to leave Northville Downs as the only remaining track in Michigan which once had eight live racing facilities during the 1970's. Northville Downs offers harness racing.
Amwest and AmRace & Sports LLC are the Louisville-based companies from Kentucky that are bidding to reopen the Swartz Creek facility. Amwest operates tracks in both Kentucky and Oregon. AmRace & Sports LLC provides simulcasting services to tracks around the country. An official at the Michigan Gaming Control Board confirmed that the group has requested live racing dates for at least 30 days between May 31 and Labor Day weekend.
Converting the track for thoroughbred racing would be an expensive venture. Hazel Park Raceway, which had operated for 70 years, spent more than $2 million on renovations to convert from harness racing in 2014. Hazel Park Raceway employed more than 200 people after converting to thoroughbreds to attract bigger crowds. The facility also operated simulcasting to allow patrons to bet on races at other tracks around the nation.
The asking price on the property was $2.5 million, according to public information revealed by the Genesee County Board of Commissioners last spring when announcing a $980,000 purchase offer to buy the 106-acre site. Commissioners talked about transforming the site into a county park.