Turfway Park ended its 2009 winter/spring meet with double-digit declines in handle and purses paid, and a significant drop in field size compared to the same period in 2008. The 2009 meet began Jan. 1 and ended April 2.
On-track wagering on Turfway races fell 11.2% to $7,020,016 for the meet. All-sources wagering on Turfway races dropped 24.6% to $113,649,793, driven by a 26.1% decline in wagering by out-of-state players.
Average daily purses dropped from $145,614 to $125,017.
Average field size declined from 8.3 starters per race to 7.9, a tally boosted by strong field size in January. Taken month-by-month during the meet, average field size was 9.0 in January, 8.0 in February, and 7.1 in March.
“The declines this winter clearly demonstrate the importance field size plays in the minds of horseplayers across the country,” said Turfway Park president Robert Elliston. “Given the economy, people are choosing to spend their money on products that offer the best return on investment, no matter what those products may be. Our customers are no different. In the past, the Kentucky circuit enjoyed the advantage of a strong horse population that produced value-oriented racing. Because they are able to supplement purses with revenue from alternative gaming, our competition has significantly, even dangerously, eroded that advantage. Kentucky has not been allowed to answer that challenge.”
On-track wagering on all available product—that is, on Turfway’s races and other tracks’ races simulcast into Turfway—was down as well, but significantly less so than on Turfway’s races alone.
“The fact that total on-track wagering fell by only 4.5 percent illustrates that players are seeking out races that offer good value for their dollar,” Elliston continued. “Even more stark is the difference between on-track wagering on our races—the 11.2 percent drop—and wagering only on races from other tracks. Wagering by Turfway patrons on races from other tracks dipped 0.3 percent this meet compared to last year’s winter meet. That minute decline confirms that if we’re talking about the things we can control—customer service, friendliness, food and beverage, the experience of being at the track—our staff does an outstanding job. The difficulty comes from what we cannot control.”
As originally scheduled, this year’s winter/spring meet was to include 67 racing days, two fewer than last year. Accounting for cancellations and leap year, however, racing was conducted 62 days both years. The track canceled seven full cards during the 2009 meet, including an originally scheduled Monday card lost to lack of entries. Not included in the seven are two Monday cards added to recover days lost to weather but later canceled due to lack of entries. The track also canceled one partial card.
Despite sustaining a season-ending ankle injury nine days before the close of the meet, jockey Victor Lebron earned his second Turfway riding title with 95 wins from 397 mounts and purse earnings of $1,039,055. Leandro Gonçalves cut into Lebron’s lead in the latter’s absence but remained in second place with 90 wins from 436 mounts. Orlando Mojica was third with 50 wins from 354 mounts.
Buoyed by the deep stable of major clients Ken and Sarah Ramsey, trainer Mike Maker topped the Turfway standings for the fifth consecutive meet. Maker saddled 30 winners from 69 starters, an astonishing 43% win rate, and finished second or third with another 20 horses to post a 72% in-the-money performance. Second was Burton Sipp with 13 winners from 84 starters. Joe Woodard, Wayne Mogge, and Larry Holt tied for third with 12 winners each.
Billy Hays won the winter/spring meet’s leading owner title with 20 wins from 86 starters. The Ramseys finished second with 14 wins from 33 starters, while Bridget Sipp was third with 13 wins from 84 starters.
Jockey Billy Troilo, 48, retired at the close of racing April 2, the last day of the meet. A veteran of the Ohio and Kentucky circuits and perennially among the leaders at Turfway, Troilo completed his career with 2,515 wins, 79 stakes victories, and purse earnings topping $27.5 million.