Kentucky Racing Acquisition (KRA), a new company co-founded by Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone, has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase all the assets of Kentucky Downs from parent company Kentucky Downs Partners, the investment group that has owned the race track since 2007.
Located near the Kentucky and Tennessee border, Kentucky Downs features more than 750 Historical Horse Racing machines and conducts live turf racing each September, including the annual running of the Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup race, on North America’s only “European-style” race course.
The venue is a pioneer in modern Historic Horse Racing, the electronic form of pari-mutuel betting on horses that is gaining nationwide recognition as one of the great financial success stories in the sport’s history. Since the introduction of the HHR machines, betting on racing at the southern Kentucky facility has increased from $20m in 2010 to nearly $800m to date in 2018.
The co-founders of KRA are well-known within the horse racing and casino gaming industries. Ron Winchell oversees his family’s Winchell Thoroughbreds, a prominent racing and breeding operation located in Lexington, KY that currently owns over 120 horses including racing and breeding stock.
Marc Falcone brings significant financial and gaming experience to Kentucky Downs, having previously served as executive vice president VP, CFO and treasurer of Red Rock Resorts and Station Casinos from 2011 to 2017.
“Some of my fondest early memories are of visiting race tracks with my father and thoroughbred racing has been a passion of mine ever since,” said Winchell. “As such, I am personally thrilled to be carrying our family name into this exciting opportunity to take the reins of Kentucky Downs, one of American racing’s great success stories of the past decade.This represents the first step in KRA’s plan to further advance racing and HHR in the Commonwealth.”
Ray Reid, president of Kentucky Downs Management and Kentucky Downs Partners, commented: “We purchased Kentucky Downs in 2007 with the goal of reversing the business fortunes of Kentucky racing, and I believe we have done that. Kentucky Downs Partners is confident that Ron and Marc are the right people to continue to expand on this momentum, so much so that many of our current owners intend to be part of and support the new investment group moving forward.”
Falcone stated: “Our agreement to acquire Kentucky Downs represents a terrific opportunity that is consistent with our business plan to grow through strategic investments in racing facilities and apply our operational and management expertise to support future growth. Our commitment to horse racing extends beyond this announced plan to acquire Kentucky Downs as Ron and I believe there are other opportunities where our combined expertise and experience can help foster consistent growth for the sport.
“KRA is committed to continually improve and enhance the business at Kentucky Downs by investing new capital in additional food, beverage and hospitality offerings as well as in technology and property infrastructure to grow the customer’s entertainment experience. KRA also is focused on the potential opportunity to develop a new facility in Oak Grove, KY if awarded that license by KHRC.
The KRA transaction is expected to close early in Q1 2019, subject to regulatory approvals from Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) and other customary closing conditions. Financial terms were not disclosed.