(Photo: A trotter returns to the paddock barn after testing out the new surface at Cumberland Run.)
CORBIN, Ky. — (Monday, Oct. 9, 2023) — Cumberland Run opens this Sunday, bringing live horse racing to southeastern Kentucky for the first time and giving the state a third standardbred track.
Cumberland Run staged its harness meet the past two years at The Red Mile in Lexington while the five-eighths of a mile track was being built. The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland Run — the part of the property that offers year-round electronic gaming, simulcast wagering on other horse tracks and now sports betting — opened in late July.
Kentucky’s newest horse track will race 12 days: Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays from Oct. 15 through Nov. 7, with a first post of 1 p.m. Eastern.
“We’re excited to bring live racing to southeastern Kentucky,” said Ted Nicholson, Vice President of Racing for The Mint Gaming properties. “We look forward to our purses increasing each year and building Cumberland Run into a harness-racing gem while continuing to build back the standardbred industry in Kentucky.”
Said Mike Tanner, CEO of the United States Trotting Association: “The opening of Cumberland Run strengths an increasingly resurgent state standardbred industry that will attract horsemen, both local and out-of-state, to breed and race horses in Kentucky. Together with The Red Mile and Oak Grove, Cumberland Run will comprise a circuit that makes a lucrative, compelling, year-round reason to be part of Kentucky harness racing. The sport’s future is very bright in the Commonwealth, and I’m looking forward to being in Corbin on Sunday to see it for myself.”
Cumberland Run is celebrating its opener Sunday with a one-day carnival featuring games and rides for kids between noon and 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Admission and parking. While the indoor gaming facility is restricted to those at least 21 years old, the outdoor area overlooking the racetrack is open to all ages.
“I hope everybody comes out for opening day with our carnival event, bringing their families and friends,” said Henry Graffeo, Vice President and General Manager of Cumberland Run and The Mint Gaming Hall Cumberland in Prestonsburg. “We really want to make it an experience for everyone.”
There has not been horse racing in the eastern part of Kentucky since Thunder Ridge harness track 114 miles away in Prestonsburg closed in 2018. In addition to The Red Mile, there is harness racing in Oak Grove near Hopkinsville in southwestern Kentucky.
“The opening of Cumberland Run in Corbin will be the final piece of the puzzle in the new, vibrant standardbred racing circuit here in Kentucky,” said Kentucky Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, adding of Cumberland Run’s co-managing partners, “Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone have made a significant financial commitment to both the thoroughbred and the standardbred side. We’ve seen what they’ve done at Kentucky Downs. I’m excited to see what they do at Cumberland Run. The standardbred industry is really going through a revival here in Kentucky. Cumberland Run will be a big part of that.”
Daily purses for overnight (non-stakes) races will average $110,000 a day, a substantial increase over the Corbin meets staged at The Red Mile. The minimum purse will be $8,000, topping at $20,000, better than or competitive with other Midwestern harness tracks.
“The overnight purses will be significant, and as a result I think we’ll have a lot of horses wanting to race there,” said Jim Avritt Jr., president of the Kentucky Harness Horsemen’s Association. “It gives folks a reason to stay in Kentucky for another four weeks.”
Horses eligible for the Kentucky Sires Stakes program will compete for considerably more. The meet will include Kentucky sires stakes legs and finals for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds with races categorized by gait (trotters and pacers) and sex. The preliminary legs will be worth $30,000 for 2- and 3-year-olds and $35,000 for 4-year-olds. Each final will carry a $70,000 purse.
For trainer-driver Randy Jerrell from Kevil in far western Kentucky, the additional race dates are even more critical than the enhanced purses.
“The best thing for the Kentucky circuit is that it is giving us more days to race,” he said. “We’ve had such a short period of racing before Cumberland Run came around.”
“A small person like me, it gives me more chance to make money,” echoed owner-trainer Jackie Gray of Lebanon. “It’s very critical. For a track starting out, those are really good purses. And they should go up, and people get more attracted to harness racing then. That will help us, too. There will be more investments in harness racing. Once they see it, I think people will say, ‘This is nice. Let’s have fun doing this.’”
Cumberland Run, just off the Corbin Bypass, is halfway between Lexington, Ky., and Knoxville, Tenn. The track is located just a few miles off Interstate 75’s Exit 29 coming south from Richmond and Lexington and from I-75 Exit 25 heading north from Williamsburg and Tennessee.
“We’re getting into a part of the state that has never had harness racing,” Avritt said. “Hopefully the folks in that part of the state and perhaps northern Tennessee will get a chance to experience it. It’s all about growing the sport. We hope to attract new interest and new fans. We hope folks will come out and see it.”