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Turf Paradise to Cease Operations Oct. 1; OTBs to Close

Track owner Jerry Simms is retiring to spend more time with his family.

Racing at Turf Paradise

Racing at Turf Paradise

Coady Photography

Turf Paradise, which opened in 1956, will cease operations effective Oct. 1.

Track owner Jerry Simms is retiring to spend more time with his family. 

Without live or simulcast racing at the Phoenix track, the 37 off-track betting sites maintained by Turf Paradise will also close effective Oct. 1. Those OTB locations televise the live racing from Turf Paradise as well as simulcasts from other tracks across the United States. But without live racing as well as the contract with the Arizona Horsemen Benevolent and Protective Association coming to an end Sept. 30, the OTBs must close. 

In August, the track announced it would not open for the traditional start of its meet in November but that there was a possibility the track could race early next year. 

"It's devastating. We all kind of held out hope that the two sides of Arizona's HBPA and Mr. Simms could work something out. And God, we just lived on rumors for about three weeks now," said trainer Justin Evans, who was the leading trainer at the track's 2022 meet. "Just everybody you talk to had a different story—'We saw him water the grass, water the turf course, they were cleaning up the saddle paddock.'"

Simms entered into a sales agreement to sell the property to the real estate investment and development firm CT Realty. That sale was scheduled to close in December, according to a membership update reportedly issued by Arizona HBPA executive director Leroy Gessman that has circulated on social media.

Last month, Simms said that the head of CT Realty told him "he thought his chances were only 50/50 of making his deal." CT Realty was supposed to give notice of whether the deal would move ahead by Sept. 15.

Simms purchased the track in 2000 for $53 million.

With Arizona Downs having not raced this year amid financial difficulties, the state of horse racing is dire. The impact on the lives of those who made their living at the track is not yet known. But Evans said he's had to uproot his family and are starting the trek to Delta Downs Racetrack where they will have a new beginning. Not everyone will be as fortunate. 

"It's gonna kill it because now people are going to other places and they're going to make a new life and they're not going to come back on a whim that it's going to reopen or now everybody's going to be gun shy like they are with Arizona Downs. ... It's gonna cripple the Thoroughbred industry, the racing industry in Arizona."

"This is a terrible thing for the racing community for the fans for jocks, trainers, owners, and grooms," added Evans. "You don't realize the effect that it has until you sit and think about them. The farms and ranches around Arizona, the feed stores, the horseshoers, the apartment complexes that rent to the racetrack, the trailer parks. It hurts all the way down the line."