High bid for Arizona’s Yavapai Downs rejected by USDA

Apr 9, 2012 10:30 AM

Tax dollars totaling $14.7 million were loaned to the operators of Yavapai Downs in Arizona when that horse track replaced Prescott Downs as the summer racetrack on the non-fair Arizona racing circuit.

Actually, the track cost $22 million in 2001 when it was built by the Yavapai County Fair Association.

But business at the property kept dwindling to the point that last year the track operators filed for bankruptcy, leaving the U.S. Department of Agriculture holding a huge note for the money previously loaned.

Hoping to recapture a good portion of the debt amount, the USDA put the place up for auction. High bidder with an offer of $3.25 million was Gary Miller, former president of the Arizona Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Aside from saying the Miller bid was too low, the USDA gave no other reason for not accepting the high bid but did add that it wanted to negotiate a deal with the "backup" bidder. That was Texas horseman Joe Davis who capped his bid at $3 million.

Failure to accept the Miller bid, say horseman, threatens this year’s summer race meet, thus depriving horsemen of their usual summer home.

A horsemen’s association spokesman was quoted as saying, "The USDA has its head in the sand if it thinks this thing is going to sell for more than Miller’s offer."