FRANKLIN, Ky. (Tuesday, March 12, 2019) — Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone officially are the new owners and managing partners in Kentucky Downs, finalizing the purchase of the racetrack and year-round entertainment center from the investment group that purchased the facility in 2007.
Winchell and Falcone bought Kentucky Downs' assets through their new company, Kentucky Racing Acquisition LLC. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
“Kentucky Downs is one of horse racing’s brightest success stories of this era,” said Winchell, a prominent horseman and entrepreneur. “We are committed to increasing that trajectory and are looking at options for expanding and improving the overall guest experience. We very much look forward to working with local and state officials, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and our sister tracks in Kentucky for the betterment of the commonwealth’s signature industry. As I told the racing commission, I have spent my entire life around horse racing, and that passion will be a backdrop for every decision we make.”
"The previous owners were visionaries who saw the potential of Historical Horse Racing as an industry game-changer," said Falcone, who brings in years of experience in the gaming and finance worlds. "They demonstrated not only the financial promise of Kentucky Downs but showed how it could be used to strengthen the entire Kentucky racing circuit and turn Kentucky Downs into a major economic engine for the region. Our focus will be to continue Kentucky Downs’ financial success and commitment to the Kentucky racing industry. We’ve already been working hard, and the future looks very promising.”
Winchell and Falcone are bringing in new partners but will own a controlling interest and manage the track.
“The Kentucky Downs acquisition represents an exciting opportunity that is consistent with our business plan to grow through strategic investments in racing and entertainment facilities and apply our operational and management expertise to support future growth," Falcone said. "Our commitment to horse racing extends beyond 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.”
Ted Nicholson continues to run the daily operation as Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager, a post he has held the past three years. During that time, the Historical Horse Racing gaming operation has increased 133 percent, from $349 million in handle in 2015 before his arrival to $814 million last year. Betting on the five-date live meet has ballooned from $16.88 million in 2015 to $36.42 million in 2018, reflecting a 116-percent jump.
Winchell oversees his family’s Winchell Thoroughbreds, a high-end racing stable and breeding operation located on his 320-acre Corinthia Farm near Lexington, Ky. The Winchells were co-owners of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, now a popular stallion at Three Chimneys Farm, and raced world-renowned sire Tapit, in whom the family still owns 50-percent interest. The Winchells won the 2014 Kentucky Oaks and Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff with their homebred champion Untapable, the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with Tapizar and 2005 Kentucky Oaks with Summerly, with other multiple graded-stakes winners including Tapiture, Zanjero and Pyro.
Winchell also operates the Jackpot Joanie’s chain of gaming-bar outlets, three locations of Winchell’s Pub & Grill as well as The Gin Mill and Golden West Restaurant and Casino throughout Greater Las Vegas and elsewhere in Nevada. He also is involved in construction and real-estate development.
Winchell is the son of the late Verne Winchell, founder of Winchell’s Donut empire and a noted horse owner and breeder. Jackpot Joanie’s are named for Winchell’s mom, Joan, his partner in Winchell Thoroughbreds and Verne’s widow.
Falcone was a top casino executive and leading financial analyst before teaming with Winchell to form Kentucky Racing Acquisition LLC.
Falcone served as executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer of Red Rock Resorts Inc. and Station Casinos from 2011 to 2017. His investment business background includes Goldman Sachs & Co., where he focused on restructuring transactions in the hospitality and gaming sectors; Magnetar Capital, and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., where as managing director he was recognized as one of the gaming, lodging and leisure industry’s top analysts.
Photo: Marc Falcone (with Luck sign), Las Vegas Review-Journal