Senator Seeks To Bring Breeders Crown Back To Kentucky

Harness racing at The Red Mile
Published: March 25, 2024 02:08 pm EDT

Kentucky State Senator Damon Thayer hopes an amendment to state legislation could help pave the way for a return of the Breeders Crown to the Bluegrass State.

Sen. Thayer, a Republican who serves as the Senate Majority Floor Leader, introduced an amendment that would create an international harness racing event reserve account of up to $900,000 USD for a Kentucky track that hosts an international harness racing event that distributes at least $5 million USD in purses and awards.

Beginning on July 31, 2024, the account would receive $300,000 USD annually until it reached the $900,000 USD threshold.

“My goal is to see Kentucky part of the Breeders Crown rotation,” said Sen. Thayer, a longtime horse racing advocate who is completing his 22nd and final year in the Senate. “That’s the language we came up with to try to get us in the running. The licensing fee to host the Breeders Crown is $900,000 [USD]. So, I wanted to set up a perpetual fund that would give a Kentucky track the impetus to make a bid for the Breeders Crown.”

Lexington’s Red Mile has hosted Breeders Crown races on two occasions, including the championship’s inaugural event, the two-year-old colt and gelding trot won by Workaholic, on Oct. 5, 1984. Three years later, the track was the location for the Breeders Crown Mare Pace, which was won by Follow My Star.

Since 2010, all 12 Breeders Crown races have been held at a single track.

“Getting Kentucky in the rotation for the Breeders Crown is a strong economic driver,” said Sen. Thayer. “The Red Mile is the obvious spot and Lexington would be a great host city, but that certainly wouldn’t preclude our two newer tracks, Cumberland Run and Oak Grove, from bidding on it if they want to. But clearly the Red Mile has the facilities, the history, the racing surface and a big-time city like Lexington that would make it a prime host.

“This would be a great opportunity to show off the horse capital of the world.”

Sen. Thayer, whose prior experience in horse racing included working for the Breeders’ Cup, played an instrumental role in advancing the 2021 legislation that brought historical horse racing to Kentucky. The pari-mutuel gaming machines have generated billions of dollars in wagering and fuelled the growth of the industry and purses in the state.

“We’ve got a lot of Standardbred farms here and more and more are being added every year,” said Sen. Thayer. “People are buying the dual-eligible Kentucky-breds at the Lexington Selected Sale here in the fall. The Standardbred industry is really on a very positive trajectory.”

In addition to the amendment for the event reserve account, Sen. Thayer introduced an amendment to provide up to $250,000 USD annually for Standardbred, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse aftercare facilities in Kentucky that have achieved and maintained levels of service and operation that resulted in national accreditation.

“I just feel with the success of historical horse racing here in Kentucky that we should peel off some of the proceeds each year to support aftercare efforts here,” said Sen. Thayer. “I think this is the best way to do it.

“Before I leave at the end of the year, I wanted to make sure that aftercare was included in that amendment. We incentivize the breeding of racehorses through our breeders’ incentives program — Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Quarter Horse — and I felt we should have something on the backend to show our support for these aftercare efforts.”

The bill containing the equine-related amendments advanced from committee last week and will be voted upon this week.

Sen. Thayer represents Kentucky’s 17th Senate District, which includes southern Kenton County, and all of Grant and Scott counties. He announced this past December that he would not seek re-election in 2024.

“I made my decision not to run again with a clear mind and a happy heart,” said Sen. Thayer. “I’m enjoying my last session but looking forward to the next chapter of my life. It will probably be heavily involved in horse racing and bourbon making, my two favourite things.”




Kudos to the senator of Kentucky. We need more leaders like him. What support Kentucky is getting...amazing!

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