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Mayor and governor have no current plans to spend on mystery Breeders’ Cup guests

Kentucky Derby winner Justify, with exercise rider Humberto Gomez in the irons, trained at Churchill Downs before Preakness Stakes. | Courtesy of Churchill Downs

The administrations of the mayor and governor may have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars entertaining mystery economic development guests at the Kentucky Derby over the past few years, but both say they do not plan on doing the same when Churchill Downs hosts the Breeders’ Cup this November.

Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development spokesman Jack Mazurak told Insider that they have no plans to entertain Breeders’ Cup guests this year, after spending $86,982 on 42 tickets for guests to attend the Kentucky Derby and Oaks this May. A spokesman for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet did not know the plans for the agency, which spent $37,278 on complimentary tickets for 18 guests this May.

Mayor Greg Fischer’s spokeswoman Jean Porter also said the city was not bringing in guests, “but the Mayor and our economic development team will be talking with a variety of Breeders’ Cup guests about Louisville as a great place to locate and/or expand business.”

Fischer’s economic development team spent $72,441 on 32 Derby and Oaks tickets this May and has spent $390,000 in total over the last four years entertaining and lodging guest during those weekends. The administration of Gov. Matt Bevin has spent over $350,000 on complimentary tickets to Derby and Oaks over the last three years but has not yet revealed what it spent in total for those guests.

Both the city and state have indicated that the identity of these guests are exempt from disclosure under the Kentucky Open Records Act, as they could reveal the identity of prospective businesses interested in locating to Kentucky.

The secrecy surrounding who uses the complimentary tickets has drawn criticism.

Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, has filed a new ordinance that would require the mayor to disclose the identity of those Derby guests to the public within three years.

Republican Metro Councilwoman Angela Leet, who is running against Fischer in this fall’s mayoral election, said taxpayers have a right to know their identities, as the tickets were paid for with tax dollars. She also insinuated that Fischer used the tickets to secure campaign contributions.

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