Locals win big on horse track bet

A bold and risky business move in 2015 proved to be a good bet for one local company.

According to public records obtained by The Mountain Advocate, on Tuesday, October 31, Willow Creek Farms, LLC executed their option to purchase 149 acres. The land was purchased from the Tri-County Joint Industrial Development Authority for $432,774, and later that same day, sold the property to Cumberland Run, LLC, for $1,113,720.

According to records with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office, Willow Creek Farms, LLC lists as registered agent Ashlee Smith Valentine and member Thomas A. Smith. Willow Creek Farms, LLC took out an initial option to purchase the land on January 13, 2015, and paid to renew the option multiple times since. The land is located between Allison and Buchanan Blvd. off the Corbin Bypass in west Knox County.

“It was a pleasure working for over five years with both Keeneland and Bruce Carpenter (Corbin Industrial Authority) to put this project together,” said Valentine. “I’m excited to see the expansion of the horse industry in our hometown, as well as economic growth and employment opportunities for our community.”

The deal pleased local officials. “I am excited about the recent sale of property in the Corbin Tri-County Industrial Park to Keeneland and look forward to this project moving towards completion,” said Bruce Carpenter, Corbin Economic Development Director.

The million-dollar bet on the land also involves risk for Cumberland Run, LLC. A state horse racing license as yet to be issued by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Following the announcement of a partnership between Keeneland and Churchhill Downs to bring the horse racing track to the Knox County area, a statement released by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stated “Over the last several months, we have informed Kentucky’s race tracks that we would not consider any applications for new race track facilities in Kentucky. Despite that communication, Churchill and Keeneland have chosen to submit an application for new race track facilities. At this time, neither of us have any plans to take any action related to this application or any other application for a new race track facility. It is our hope that in the future we will be able to develop a process and criteria to determine whether any new race track facilities are needed in the Commonwealth.”

However, according to Vince Gabbert, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Keeneland, “We continue to work with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to determine what is next in the process to obtain a license in order to be able to move the project forward.  We are not able to proceed until the Racing Commission awards us a license but remain optimistic about that process and what that means for the local area.”

Gabbert went on to say “We are excited about the prospects of this project and greatly appreciate the input and support of all of the local officials and community.”

In a positive reflection of Gabbert’s optimism, on October 17, 2017, the 149 acres was rezoned by the Corbin City Commission so construction for the quarter horse race track could take place.

Unless a special-called meeting of the racing commission happens, their next regularly scheduled meeting is 1:30 p.m. on December 12.

Cumberland Run, LLC is expected to bring about 150 permanent jobs, as well as 2,000 indirect jobs, to the area and stimulate the economy in the surrounding area by an estimated $10 million in tax revenue.