Corey Johnsen (President)

Photo by Anne M. Eberhardt

Corey Johnsen has an extensive and varied background in horse racing.  Johnsen has enjoyed a 40+ year career in the sport, having been a bettor, groom, horse owner and breeder, publicity and marketing director, track president and owner who has overseen the launch or re-opening of numerous facilities in the United States and the Americas.

Corey Johnsen was the President and part-owner of Kentucky Downs from 2007 to 2019, when the track was sold to a partnership led by Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone.  During his time there, Kentucky Downs went from a novelty with its European-style turf course to an industry leader, offering some of the most lucrative purses in America during its boutique all-grass meets. Johnsen and his partners in Kentucky Downs began operating Historical Horse Racing terminals on Sept. 1, 2011 and have used that innovative pari-mutuel technology as a game-changing force for the good of the Kentucky horse industry.

Since the Kentucky Downs purchase in 2007, Johnsen has been an active owner and breeder of Thoroughbreds and very involved in industry efforts to improve the economics for the horse business.  He was the Chairman of the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), a multi-breed coalition, from 2011 to 2018.  Johnsen succeeded KEEP co-founder Brereton Jones, former Governor of Kentucky, as the Chairman of the organization.

Johnsen was a key player in getting slot machines at Oklahoma horse tracks, bringing the Breeders’ Cup to Lone Star Park in 2004 and Historical Horse Racing to Kentucky. In 1986, he was awarded an Eclipse Award for Local Television at Louisiana Downs.  At every track stop, he has been immersed in the local market’s civic and charitable works and tourism. His record shows his desire to work with horsemen, other tracks and industry stakeholders to benefit not only his operation but its region, circuit and the entire sport.

A native of Tacoma, Washington, Johnsen has owned horses since 1979, when he began putting together partnerships among his college friends to buy claiming horses.  His Lone Star Thoroughbreds campaigned Honey Rose, a Grade 1 stakes winner in her native Argentina and an American stakes winner.  Most recently, Johnsen and partner Bill Casner owned the homebred Colonel Samsen who won the 2016 Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

Johnsen’s five-decade career in the industry started as a teenage $2 bettor at Longacres Racetrack and groom at Centennial Park, the summer before his graduation from Arizona State University. He shot up the management ranks through the publicity and marketing departments at Turf Paradise, Arlington Park and Louisiana Downs, and as part of senior management at Remington Park and Lone Star Park was instrumental in the development, construction and launch of those tracks. Johnsen, who rose to become president and part-owner of Lone Star Park before its sale, also has been involved in the opening or re-opening of four tracks in the Americas, including in Mexico City and Uruguay.

Currently, Johnsen is President of CJ Thoroughbreds working with his son, C.J. Johnsen, and Mike Renfro.  While residing in Grapevine, Texas, he is an active board member of the Texas Thoroughbred Association, Old Friends, and the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation.

 

C.J. Johnsen (Vice-President)

Kentucky Downs Director of Broadcasting & Wagering from 2012 to 2019, editor/publisher of JockeyTalk360 and part owner of CJ Thoroughbreds.  Directed efforts at Kentucky Downs that saw wagering increase from over $3.5 million in 2011 to over $36 million in 2018, which was also was named the #1 ranked track for the 4th straight year by the Horseplayers Association of North America.  Has qualified to the National Handicapping Championship and Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

 

Mike Renfro (Vice-President of Business Development)

Competed at the highest level in his two favorite sports, horse racing and football.  Campaigned the graded stakes winner Dr. Death.  Has owned many top horses and has considerable experience in racing partnerships.  Enjoyed an 11-year career in the NFL as a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers.  Is a member of the TCU Sports Hall of Fame and the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame.

 

Ken Carson

A well respected pedigree expert.  Currently manages Valor Farm in Pilot Point, Texas for Douglas Scharbauer.  Was part of the team that selected Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba for the Scharbauer family.  Has mated mares for many top stables including John Franks, Don Adam and Sagamore Farm.

 

Steve Asmussen

Inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.  Trained champion fillies My Miss Aurelia, Rachel Alexandra, and Untapable.  Currently training multiple Grade 1 winning filly, Midnight Bisou. 

 

Bret Calhoun

Has enjoyed success at the highest level of Thoroughbred racing all over the country.  In 2010, won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint with Dubai Majesty and the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with Chamberlain Bridge.  Other notable trainees include Finley’sluckycharm, Patrona Margarita, Promise Me Silver, Fiftyshadesofgold, and Mr. Nightlinger.  Has over 3,000 career wins and more than $73 million in earnings.

 

Eoin Harty

Trained top Grade 1 winners such as Well Armed, winner of the Dubai World Cup, and Colonel John, Travers Stakes victor.  A former top assistant to Bob Baffert, Harty was intimately involved with many Grade 1 winners including Hall of Famer Silver Charm.  Harty has shown a nice touch with fillies, having won the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with Tempera.

 

Mike Maker

Began career as an assistant for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Trained Breeders’ Cup winners Furthest Land and two year old champion Hansen. Also trained Grade 1 winning horses Stately Victor, Joha, King David, Kitten’s Dumplings, Admiral Kitten, Al’s Gal, Bigger Picture, and Henley’s Joy. All-time leading trainer in wins and earnings at Kentucky Downs’ lucrative turf meet.

 

Dale Romans

An Eclipse Award winning trainer with a strong record in Grade 1 races at a classic distance.  Won the 2011 Preakness with Shackleford and has saddled Cherry Wine, First Dude, Keen Ice, Dullahan and Paddy O’Prado to in-the-money finishes in Triple Crown events.  Also, has a successful touch with fillies and mares including Grade 1 stakes winners Tapitsfly, Swift Temper, Sassy Image, C.S. Silk, Molly Morgan and Birdatthewire.

 

Mike Stidham

Trained grade 1 winning mares Sutra, Her Emmynency, Two Altazano, and Zipessa.  His home base is at Fair Hill, which gives his trainees easy access to all east coast tracks.

 

Wesley Ward

Trained Breeders’ Cup winners Judy the Beauty and Hootenany.  Also trained grade 1 winners Lady Aurelia and Sunset Glow.  He is regular successful trainer at the Royal Ascot meeting in England.