With quarter horse racing about to start in Kentucky, an industry trade group had tabbed a former state lawmaker to serve as its first executive director.
Adam Koenig has been hired to head up the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association (KQHRA), according to a statement the organization released on Tuesday. Koenig was a state lawmaker for 16 years and served as the chairman of the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee for the last six years.
He lost his bid for re-election in a primary last year.
Koenig’s committee dealt with legislation pertaining to racing, and in recent years, authored or helped guide important bills to passage. Last year, he sponsored the broad racing reform bill that included penny breakage, which requires tracks to pay all wagers down to the penny rather than round down to the next 10-cent increment. In 2021, he shepherded the bill that formally legalized historical horse racing machines (HHR) in the state.
Rep. Koenig spent many years helping Kentucky’s horse racing industry, and we are grateful he will continue that work in this new role,” KQHRA President Dr. Richard Connelley said in a statement. “He brings unmatched leadership and relationships that will help us take the biggest step in our history.”
Koenig also sponsored legislation to legalize sports betting in Kentucky. Last year, the House passed the bill for the first time, but proponents could not muster enough support for a vote in the Senate before the session ended.
Koenig to Work with New Track
As executive director, Koenig will oversee the group’s daily operations and be its point person in working with lawmakers, regulators, and other stakeholders.
“I have spent that time fighting for the industry, and while I haven’t previously worked directly in it, I believe my relationships in the Legislature, as well as with the KHRC, will be very helpful for horse owners,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with everyone to ensure quarter horses have a bright future here.”
Koenig will also work with Revolutionary Racing, which received Kentucky’s ninth and final racing license last year. In partnership with EBCI Holdings, the company is building a $55 million quarter horse track and equine center in Ashland. The northeastern Kentucky venue will be the state’s first quarter horse track.
Earlier this month, Revolutionary Racing announced that John Marshall, an experienced track executive, would serve as the track president. Revolutionary Racing plans a six-day meet at The Red Mile harness track in Lexington from April 1-6.
“We have made great strides in making Kentucky the best place to race and breed in the world,” Koenig said. “The missing piece has been quarter horses, so to be part of the beginning of that is truly exciting.”
Primer: Horse Racing in Kentucky
The Bluegrass State is a major player in the equine industry. According to data from the association, it is home to 30,000 quarter horses owned by more than 10,000 people.
Kentucky, of course, is best known for thoroughbred racing. That includes the Kentucky Derby, the most popular race in the US. The state’s thoroughbred circuit consists of five tracks: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ellis Park in Henderson, Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky Downs in Franklin, and Turfway Park in Florence.
Quarter horses are shorter and stockier than their thoroughbred cousins, but they’re also faster. But the biggest difference between the two breeds is the distance they race. Most thoroughbred races range from six furlongs (three-quarters of a mile) to a mile-and-a-quarter. In quarter horse racing, the races are shorter. They can range from 270 yards to 870 yards, which is nearly a mile. In some cases, quarter horses may race at 1,000 yards.
Kentucky also has two harness racing tracks, Oak Grove Racing in Western Kentucky and The Red Mile in Lexington. A third harness track, Cumberland Run, is under construction in Corbin and is expected to open later this year.
Like thoroughbred racing, wagering on quarter horses and harness races is pari-mutuel.
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