Churchill Downs concluded its 2006 fall meet on Saturday, Nov. 25, with solid gains in on-track wagering and a slight increase in average daily attendance.
The 132-year-old Louisville, Ky., racetrack hosted the Breeders' Cup World Championships for a record sixth time on Saturday, Nov. 4, smashing previous records for on-track and all-sources wagering and drawing a crowd of 75,132, the third-highest attendance in Breeders' Cup history. Breeders' Cup wagering and attendance figures are not included in Churchill Downs' meet-end wagering and attendance figures. As such, average daily wagering and attendance numbers, comparing 20 days of racing in 2006 with a 21-day fall meet in 2005, are used for year-over-year comparisons.On-track wagering for the 2006 fall meet, which includes money wagered on Churchill Downs live races and whole card simulcasting at the historic track, totaled $26.62 million over 20 days, compared to $24.47 million wagered over 21 days in 2005. Average daily on-track wagering was $1.33 million, up 13.68% from the $1.17 million wagered a year earlier.Off-track wagering, which includes money wagered on Churchill Downs races at simulcast-wagering outlets around the world, was $145.62 million over the 20-day period in 2006, compared to $157.73 million wagered over the 21-day meet in 2005. Average daily off-track wagering was $7.28 million, versus $7.51 million in 2005, a dip of 3.06%.Total wagering was $172.24 million in 2006 versus $182.20 million in 2005, with average daily wagering from all sources down 0.81% to $8.61 million from the $8.68 million wagered in 2005. Average daily attendance climbed slightly during the 2006 fall meet to 7,848, up 0.36% from the daily average of 7,820 in 2005. The average number of betting interests per race was 9.57 horses, a decline of 5.90% from the average of 10.17 in 2005.Average daily purses for the 2006 fall meet were $486,974, up 1.74% from the average of $478,632 per day paid in 2005."Overall, we are pleased with the results from our fall season and with the outstanding results our Churchill Downs team delivered on Breeders' Cup Day," Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton said. "The home of the Kentucky Derby has established itself as the premier venue to host racing's Championship Day, and we extend our gratitude to our horsemen, employees, customers, and the greater Louisville community for making the event a tremendous success."Churchill Downs set new records for on-track and total wagering during the 23rd Breeders' Cup World Championships on Nov. 4, the first time the track hosted U.S. racing's richest day since 2000 – and since the sweeping $121 million renovation of the home of the Kentucky Derby was completed in 2005. Total wagering on the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs from outlets around the world was a whopping $140.3 million, 13.2% higher than the previous all-sources record of $123.9 million set in 2005 at Belmont Park. Patrons at Churchill Downs wagered a record $18.3 million on the 10-race card, besting the previous record of $16.3 million set at Santa Anita Park in 2003. Additionally, Churchill Downs can now take credit for the top five Breeders' Cup attendance totals, with this year's crowd of 75,132 registering as the third highest in Breeders' Cup history.The 2006 fall meet saw first-time winners in all three of the categories that matched human competitors. Scott Blasi earned the first "leading trainer" title of his career as he saddled winners of 17 races. Blasi, a 33-year-old native of Caney, Kan., has been an assistant for 11 years to three-time Churchill Downs training leader Steve Asmussen. Blasi is operating Asmussen's stable while the latter serves a suspension. Todd Pletcher won three races on the meet's final day to edge Steve Flint 10-9 for second place.The battle for leading jockey of the meet went down to the final few races. Veteran Calvin Borel opened a huge early lead in the first two weeks of the meet, but saw Shaun Bridgmohan, the first-call rider for Blasi, draw gradually closer. Borel still held a four-win advantage when he suffered a broken right wrist in a Thanksgiving Day riding mishap that ended his meet. Bridgmohan finally caught Borel with a victory aboard Ciao in the $65,000 Caressing Handicap with two races remaining in the meet, but failed to win either of the final two races on closing day and ended in a 23-23 tie with Borel for top honors. It was the first "leading rider" crown at Churchill Downs for Bridgmohan, while Borel added his 2006 title to a fall meet trophy he had earned in 1999.Richard, Elaine, and Bert Klein earned their first "leading owner" title during the fall meet, with nine wins. Gus Goldsmith finished second with six victories, and Oxbow Racing LLC and Joseph Novogratz were next with four wins apiece.