Ask Ken Churchill if he’d like to see a repeat performance of the 2019 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes held last month at his Silver Springs Ranch near Beaumont, and he will give you an unqualified thumbs up.
He and business partner Ron Walsh are in agreement it was a great pair of days, and they believe the ranch will be a site next year on the fair circuit of horse races.
Their half-mile all-weather track has been a training spot for a couple of years for horses getting ready to go nose to nose at Pocono Downs.
Churchill, who has homes at Harveys Lake and in California, purchased the former 5R ranch on Star Hill Road in 2016.
The ranch launched Joseph Rosentel’s racing success nearly 60 years ago, but over time lost some of its luster, and when it went on the market in 2013, Churchill recognized an opportunity.
He said recently that a financial adviser was not certain he should bring in a working partner, and after initially meeting Walsh, set the decision aside but something started gnawing at him when tending to another investment in California.
Churchill said he was on the street near his Old Monterey Cafe - a restaurant he owned for nearly two decades - when he bumped into a friendly couple on the street.
He struck up a conversation, and told them he was wrestling with a business deal back in Pennsylvania, and the couple said, “Where in Pennsylvania?”
“After I told them Harveys Lake, they admitted they knew the area well,” Churchill grinned.
“I told them about a possible business partner, and they asked rather sheepishly about whether they might recognize the name. After I told them Ron Walsh, they let me know I couldn’t find a harder working man around and I couldn’t go wrong,” Churchill said.
“Call it providence, or what have you, but I made the decision then and there to bring him aboard,” he said. “As it turned out, he had once worked for the Rosentels as a kid.”
Now living in Mountaintop, Walsh said he had nothing to do with his partner’s fortuitous weekend in California but was glad it happened.
“We had a great time with the Sire Stakes,” Walsh said.
To get there, the two invested about $5 million in a massive renovation of the property starting with the existing track and removing unsuitable track covering and adding about 6,000 tons of foundation material to make it just right for what Churchill calls, “my best clients, the horses.”
The spring-fed pond in the interior of the track has its own potential beyond racing, but that’s for another day, with Walsh wanting to focus on the horses.
A new 64-stall barn was added followed by outbuildings for equipment and storage. Paddocks were built for the horses and two covered training Equicizers were added.
As for the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, Churchill and Walsh agreed they had some other very vital partners who made it all come together including Landmark Community Bank, LHC Construction, John Halliday Trucking, and Damiens on the Lake.
There was no admission charged for the races - with Thursday for the 2-year-olds and Friday for the 3-year-olds - but Churchill said they accepted a $5 donation for parking and expected to be making a sizable donation to the Wyoming County United Way, as his way of saying, “Thank you for all you do.”
“It’s all been crazy good,” he said, noting the plans for the 78-acre property are now in the fourth phase of eight total phases.
Future plans over the next year call for a new 64- or 80-stall barn, and on a knoll just above the track he is looking to build a state-of-the-art event center for weddings and corporate meetings with the plans expected to be in front of the Wyoming County Planning Commission soon.
If you want to check Silver Springs Ranch out, Churchill and Walsh are planning for an open house on Saturday, Sept. 13.