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7/24/2014 6:00:00 AM
Yavapai Downs for sale, but owner holds out hope
Les Stukenberg/The Daily CourierGary Miller inspects Yavapai Downs prior to finalizing the purchase Dec. 10, 2012. 
Miller has put the property, which he purchased for $5.5 million, back on the market for $7.45 million.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Gary Miller inspects Yavapai Downs prior to finalizing the purchase Dec. 10, 2012. Miller has put the property, which he purchased for $5.5 million, back on the market for $7.45 million.
Tom Scanlon
The Daily Courier

After his plan to bring back horse racing to Prescott Valley came up short, Gary Miller is trying to sell the former Yavapai Downs.

Less than a year and a half after purchasing it for $5.5 million, Miller is selling the horse and auto racetrack - now known as the Prescott Valley Race Course/Prescott Valley Speedway - for an asking price of $7.45 million.

"Everybody who sells something is always looking to make money," Miller said late Wednesday. "Am I looking to make a killing? No. I'm looking to get horse racing going."

When he purchased the property at auction, Miller said he hoped financial backing would help him bring back horse racing. The sound of horse hoofs pounding to the finish line has been quiet here since 2010, the last season of racing before the track went into bankruptcy.

While Miller has been able to fire up car racing, his hope of getting horses running again has not got out of the gate.

"I've been unable so far yet to find the proper financing package" for horse racing, Miller said.

He said that his listing of the track is open to various offers, from anyone who wants to take over the operation to potential partners that would keep him on board.

"The race track is listed for sale," Miller said. "What I'd like to do is get the race track running. If it means I have to dilute my equity, great. Whatever is in the best interest of horse racing."

Miller, a Scottsdale resident who owns the commodity trading company Petromet, said auto racing at the Prescott Valley Speedway "is going quite well."

Compared to horse racing, he added, "it takes less capital to get open ... and generates less cash flow."

Miller says crowds of up to 850 have been coming to the weekend auto races.

"Car racing, although profitable," Miller said, "does not support the mortgage."

And he is carrying a $5.5 million mortgage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program has been the largest creditor at the track since it moved from its historic Prescott site to build a larger oval. The federal agency agreed to the bankruptcy court sale to Miller.

The Prescott Downs track had racing from 1959 to 2000, when it moved to Prescott Valley and became Yavapai Downs, which opened in 2001. Horse racing at those two tracks typically ran from Memorial Day through Labor Day, with as many as 300 people employed during the racing season.

Wagering on horse races, including off-track betting, made the track a lucrative enterprise.

According to an auction description before Miller's purchase, the former Yavapai Downs spreads across more than 124 acres, with "a one-mile racetrack, and 862 horse stalls with additional stalls available."

Miller said the revenue traditionally has been more than $3 million annually, "and projections show the operation would be profitable."

Miller said he had received "administrative approval" from the Arizona Department of Racing, the first step toward being approved for horse racing and wagering. But after his financing plan failed to come to fruition, Miller has withdrawn his application.

He said there is no chance of horse racing this summer, though he hopes jockeys will saddle up for racing next summer.

"I have at least three interested parties that have contacted me," Miller said.

"I think the place has tremendous potential to do well."

And he remains confident that the horses will be running again in Prescott Valley.

"I am unable to obtain the financing as of yet" for horse racing, Miller said. "I'm not a quitter - I'm going to do the best I can to get this thing running."

Follow Tom Scanlon on Twitter @tomscanlonpress

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Article comment by: How did the track increase in value?

40% increase, what a joke.

Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014
Article comment by: told you

If the horse track does open up eventually lets hope it has better management than the car track has had. The car counts and fan counts have dwindled to almost nothing. Not worth the price anymore to go watch. Need some professionals at both horse and car tracks to make it work.

Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014
Article comment by: Yavapai buy it, donate buildings

to various local fire agencies for a training facility.

We all win, tribe gets to see lands returned to their natural state, firefighters get valuable practice, the people get rid of a horrid eye (and nose) sore.

Where do we sign the petition?

Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014
Article comment by: Michael Deigo

Remember the Goodyear track outside of Phoenix Well here you go same thing soon to be abandoned maybe not if the Prescott valley Family has anything to do with it.3.45 Million mark my words. Deigo

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: Yavapai Indian Ownership Good Idea

I hadn't thought about the Yavapai buying it. That would be a good idea. Maybe go into partnership with the Y-A on this side of the mountain. A horse track could certainly enhance their current gambling properties. If it can make a dime, I hope they buy it. If horse racing is a dieing sport, let the track go to something else. Maybe cattle or a regional auction. Hopefully not more danged houses and more danged outsiders moving in.

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: Dan Patch

Maybe the Yavapai Prescott tribe should take a look at buying it to control, er, uh, I mean integrate all the gambling in these parts. ...

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: Horse Pucky

This track was an example of "buy high sell low". It was built at the height of the OTB expansion and they counted on that money to increase (but it didn't). Add to that the Indian Casino boom and horse betting was only gonna get worse. It's too expensive to buy/feed/house/train a bunch of racehorses when you can throw up a craps table for nothing and serve booze to boot. I liked the racetrack I just don't see it coming back. They should have kept it small at the old fairgrounds. It would probably have done OK.

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: Good move

Sell it to someone who has the money to get it going. For now the place sits in limbo. I approve of this sale. I hope it works out for everyone

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: Not on The inside

What a mess, Yavapai Down is the gift that keeps on giving!! Except to the tax payers that is! So folks read between the lines here. Mr Miller was nothing more than a front man. NOW, the race track is ripe for the Fains to buy pennies on the dollar or Turf Paradise! When will people wake up and smell the coffee or something else! YOU.. the taxpayer have been bamboozled. Here's a thought... maybe the Town of Prescott Valley will buy it. LOL Voter apathy is costing you big.

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: Byte Me

Mr. Miller, sorry to hear that the track is back on the market. We still hope to be able to enjoy a day at the races and hope your efforts will allow you, or another entity, to bring the track back to life. The auto racing is great, and we appreciate that you opened that venue up again. I know you are opening yourself up to a lot of "I told you soes" but thanks for trying and I hope you find partners to help you complete your vision.

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: Count Your Change Before Leaving the Window!

You can't cheat an honest man,
So never give a sucker an even break.

As I drove past the site, I recalled, "That sure had been a nice empty field."

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Article comment by: GONE FISHING


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