(edited press release)
Gulfstream Park officials credited warm dry weather and a five-day race week for generating increases in the all-sources handle, on-track handle, and attendance during the winter/spring meet that ended April 23.
The all-sources handle for the 79-day meet, which opened Jan. 3, rose 3.69% to $660,745,153, up from last year’s all-sources handle of $637,202,590 for 87 racing days. On-track handle for 2009 was $42,270,739, a 6.71% increase from last year’s $39,613,200 total.
"Racing five days a week led to an automatic increase in field size, and bigger fields attract interest and lead to higher handle," said Gulfstream Park President and General Manager Bill Murphy. Last year Gulfstream raced six days a week.
Handle was strong for three of Gulfstream Park’s four biggest days. All-sources wagering during Sunshine Millions Day (Jan. 24) increased 9.98% to $13,602,677, the day of the Donn Handicap (gr. I) (Jan. 31) saw total wagering increase 14.54% to $13,816,476, and total wagering jumped 35.9% to $14,714,887 on the day of the Fountain of Youth (gr. II). Business did not fare as well on Florida Derby (gr. I) day, when the first race was delayed by 15 minutes. Track officials said the delay compressed post times throughout the rest of the card and reduced the amount of time for accepting wagers. The result was an 8.77% decline in the all-sources handle to $18,470,378.
Attendance is estimated at Gulfstream Park because admission is free. The track estimated is attendance at 317,782, an increase of 8.49% over last year’s estimate of 292,918.
Gulfstream Park also saw gains in slot machine revenue.
"Our business grew about 4.3% over the first three months of the year," said Steve Calabro, Vice President of Gaming, "and we’re experiencing double-digit growth, about 13%, in April."
Calabro added the two highest monthly revenues for coin-in — the volume of play for slot machines — were recorded, respectively, in March (more than $57 million) and January (more than $54 million). He also said that 13 of the top 20 highest revenue days were recorded during the 2009 meet. A month-to-month comparison of East Coast slot facilities by the Gaming Industry Observer newsletter, a publication of the Spectrum Gaming Group research firm, reportedly showed Gulfstream Park’s business increasing while revenue at other regional facilities declined.
"I attribute that to the fact that more and more people are discovering our product," Mr. Calabro said.
Todd Pletcher captured his sixth consecutive Gulfstream Park trainers’ title with 37 winners, with Kenny McPeek finishing a close second. Jose Lezcano, who during the meet recorded his 1,000th career victory, took his first riding championship at Gulfstream Park with 67 winners. Jockey Elvis Trujillo also picked up his 1,000th career victory during the meet.
Florida racing now moves to Calder Race Course on April 24 and continues four days a week through Jan. 2, 2010.