Ellis Park Handle Soars in Opening Days

Ellis Park Handle Soars in Opening Days
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Handle jumped more than 50% in the first three days of the Ellis Park meet, which started a week late due to a disagreement over revenue sharing.

Total handle for the first three days of the meet, not including separate pool wagering, totaled $6,787,906, which was 56% higher over the $4,352,712 recorded last year, according to The Jockey Club Information Services. Ellis Park, which opened last year on the Fourth of July with a Wednesday through Friday kick-off, started a week after its scheduled launch when an agreement was reached with horsemen over revenue sharing of wagers placed through advance deposit wagering outlets.

"I’m absolutely encouraged," said Ellis Park owner Ron Geary July 14 while acknowledging the handle analysis is not an "apples to apples" comparison. "But like I tell my various leadership teams over the years, three days does not a trend make. I am so glad that the three days were very, very good. We are executing on our plan and showing a lot of good signs. But we still have the rest of the meet."

Geary said agreeing to the horsemen's revenue plan required commitment from both sides. He said he wants Ellis Park races to have an average field size of about 8.3 this year, following norms of 7.8 and 7.3 in the last two years. The average field size in the opening three days was 8.6.

"The deal that was pounded out in a highly-dramatic way,  which on my part was a commitment to help purse funds with the ADW fees, was to also encourage strongly the Kentucky and area horsemen to ship horses in," he said. "We want to all have an outstanding meet as far as number of horses per race. Everyone has committed to that and have shown up in a big way."

The Henderson, Ky., track last year had its ADW options limited to those offered by TrackNet Media Group, the content venture operated jointly by Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp, which operate the Twinspires.com and XpressBet.com platforms. This year’s ADW agreement with Kentucky horsemen, which included a 6% revenue share going to purses, additionally allowed for a wider distribution to such online and telephone account giants such as TVG and Youbet.com, among others.

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which has joined like-kind groups nationwide in limiting signal distribution from tracks over revenue disputes, vowed to withhold consent unless their proposal was accepted. In a whirl-wind series of events, Ellis Park first responded by announcing it would close the historic track, before reversing course a day later by saying it had accepted the agreement’s demands for a higher revenue share.

Average daily purses for the opening three days were $150,175, up 39.4% over last year.

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