Attendance, Wagering Down at Lone Star Park

Attendance, Wagering Down at Lone Star Park
Photo: Lone Star Park

(Edited Lone Star Park release)

Lone Star Park ended its 2009 spring Thoroughbred meet, which was run from April 9 through July 26, with decreases in both attendance and handle.

Average daily attendance decreased by 7.7% to 6,883 in 2009 compared with 7,460 last year. Overall, 447,426 people attended the meet, 37,453 fewer than the 484,879 a year ago.

All-sources wagering slipped 12.8% from $146.3 million last year to $127.5 million in 2009. On track, wagering on live racing was $20.8 million down from last year’s $26.3 million, while handle on imported simulcast racing decreased by 14.4% from $40.3 million to $34.5 million.

Wagering on Lone Star Park live races off track was $72.1 million, a 9.4% drop from last year’s $79.6 million.

"These are obviously disappointing results," said Lone Star Park president and general manager Drew Shubeck. "The biggest reason for the decreases in both attendance and handle is the global economic downturn that has negatively impacted the local Dallas/Ft. Worth economy. Our racing fans didn’t come out as often and wagered less money when they were here.

"In addition, two major challenges to racing at Lone Star Park, the purse structure and a lack of a level playing field, continue to have a significant negative impact on our business," added Shubeck. "Higher purses in the surrounding states continue to draw horsemen and their better horses out of Texas, which impairs our quality of racing. As well, illegal internet wagering platforms are coming into our market attracting wagering dollars resulting in a reduction in the%age of contributions to our purses and reducing our live on-track attendance.

"While we are disappointed with our results, we would like to thank our dedicated and loyal horsemen and employees who continue to create winning experiences for our customers as evidenced by our big event days, which indicate that our product offering is still an attractive entertainment value in a very competitive market even with the current economic conditions," concluded Shubeck.

On the track, there were a total of 5,387 runners in 616 races during the 65-day, 2009 Lone Star Park meet for an average field size of 8.7 per race, a decrease of 0.4 from last year’s average of 9.1 when 5,776 starters ran in 632 races.

Newcomer Chris Landeros, who turned 21 on July 12, battled all-time Lone Star Park leading jockey Cliff Berry, who has three previous riding titles (2008, 2006 and 2005), into the last week of the meet before pulling away to win the title with 97 victories, nine more than Berry’s 88. Lone Star Park’s all-time stakes winning jockey Eddie Martin, Jr. was third with 57 wins.

Lone Star Park’s all-time training leader Steve Asmussen shattered the previous record of 98 wins in a single season set by Cole Norman in 2003 with 117 trips to the winner’s circle to win his 11th training title. His record-breaking 99th victory came on July 11 with Big Texas Daddy in the $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes (Staunch Avenger Division). Bret Calhoun was the runner up with 59 wins and Danny Pish finished third with 51.

The owner’s race was won by Tom Durant, who previously won the award in 2008 and in 2005 and tied for leading owner during the 2004 Fall meet, with 26 wins, more than twice as many as his nearest rival. The battle for second came down to the last week with the duo of Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s 12 victories edging Nelson Bunker Hunt, and Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, who each finished tied for third with 11 wins.

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