Horse Racing Should Continue After Sale Of Turf Paradise In Phoenix

Written By Dan Holmes on April 19, 2023 - Last Updated on April 20, 2023
The sale of Turf Paradise should not affect horse racing in the short term.

Phoenix’s only thoroughbred racing track is apparently close to being sold to an out-of-state developer. Horse racing will reportedly continue on the track in the short term. But the new owners could have plans to redevelop the property.

CT Realty, with headquarters in Newport Beach, CA, is reportedly in the final stages of purchasing Turf Paradise from Jerry Simms. The racetrack has been in operation for more than 50 years and is one of just three horse racetracks in Arizona.

Future of Turf Paradise remains uncertain

While there are several dozen off-track betting parlors across Arizona, there are no betting apps, as online horse betting is illegal in the state.

According to its website, CT Realty develops commercial real estate properties across the US. AXIOS Phoenix reports that CT Realty intends to redevelop a portion of the property for “industrial and multi-family uses” but keep the track open for racing over the next few years.

Simms has owned Turf Paradise since 2000. The racetrack opened in 1956 at 19th Avenue and Bell Road. It’s one of the few tracks in the US that offers horse racing from October to February. However, Turf Paradise did not request race dates from the Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) for the summer. That means racing will probably not resume at the track until the fall.

CT Realty CEO James Watson has not confirmed whether the track will be shut down in the future. Officials closed Turf Paradise for nearly two full racing seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have reduced the track’s racing schedule since re-opening.

Track General Manager Vincent Francia told ABC15 that Simms wants to “spend time with his grandchildren.”

“[Watson’s] background is in industrial development, that’s what he has excelled in, but he’s also been involved in horse racing before. He was a member of the California Horse Racing Board. He owned Portland Meadows up in Oregon at one point.”

Fate of Arizona Downs seems more certain

Arizona Downs is also reportedly under contract to be sold. The buyer is 1/ST (Stronach Group). It’s a good probability that the new owners would keep the venue as a racetrack. 1/ST Racing operates and owns Golden Gate Fields (Berkeley, CA), Gulfstream Park (Hallandale Beach, FL), Laurel Park (Laurel, MD), Pimlico Race Course (Baltimore, MD) and Santa Anita Park (Arcadia, CA).

It’s a bad sign, however, that no track in Arizona has applied for a June to September racing license this year, according to the ADG.

In an interview with Thoroughbred Daily News, Arizona Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Executive Director Leroy Gessmann provided details of what he’s learned about the sale of Turf Paradise.

“Our understanding is [Turf Paradise is] going to be developed in stages, and they’re going to race for one to two, [maybe] three more years depending on the development process. With both parcels of land, I think they’re right at 200 acres. There’s a lot of empty ground here. They’re going to start with the empty ground and then work towards the racing operation, I guess. We hope Mr. Watson will continue racing for a couple of years until we can make other arrangements.”

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes writes about sports betting, sports media, and sports betting legislative matters. He's the author of three books, and previously reported for Major League Baseball, as well as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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