Trainers and Tri-State natives react to unprecedented Churchill Downs move

Trainers and Tri-State natives react to unprecedented Churchill Downs move
Published: Jun. 3, 2023 at 6:55 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Starting June 10, the remainder of Churchill’s Spring Meet will take place in the Tri-State.

[Previous Story: Churchill Downs to move remaining races in the Spring Meet to Ellis Park]

The move comes after 12 horses died in a short span at Churchill Downs, but the move to Ellis Park is unprecedented.

“Having 12 in a fairly short period of time, it’s unprecedented and nobody really knows how to deal with that,” former Henderson Mayor Steve Austin said.

Churchill Downs bought Ellis Park back in September of 2022, and the $79 million purchase is already paying off by being able to host the remainder of the Spring Meet.

With just a month remaining in their Spring Meet, those races, now shifting over 100 miles away from Louisville to Henderson.

“I think it’s a good thing for our community, it will be good for the businesses out on [US] 41, and the hotels, motels and restaurants in Henderson and Evansville.”

Steve Austin is not only the former mayor of Henderson -- but also an avid racing fan. Austin thinks the next month will give people a sense of what Ellis Park’s future will look like.

“I think we’re going to get a good sense of how Churchill is going to run Ellis Park in the future,” says Austin. “I think it will be upgraded and updated, and I think they’ll add new opportunities for people to come over there and participate in other ways.”

Everyone is talking about what Ellis Park is known for -- the track.

“Ellis Park has been very famous for its track surfaces,” Austin said.

Dana Hancock is a trainer at Ellis Park. She says the park went from having a month to renovate -- to just a week.

“The track’s wonderful,” Hancock said. “I mean the track is no different than any other time you ever come to Ellis Park.”

She says stables will fill up fast, and trainers will have to ship horses. Lucky for her, she’s on familiar grounds.

“This is my home,” Hancock said. “This is where I live, this is where I’ve always been stationed. For somebody that has to travel quite frequently it’s nice to just be at home and it’s nice to know that all the big time is fixin’ to come to Ellis Park.”

As for Austin, June 10th can’t come soon enough.

“I’ll be over there day one when they open back up,” Austin said. “I’ll be in hog heaven right there.”

Officials say the races will run from June 10 to July 3, including the Stephen Foster Stakes on July 1.