Turfway Park ended its 2009 fall meet, which marked the track’s 50th anniversary, with a double-digit decline in on-track handle but a much smaller decrease in all-sources handle.
On-track handle declined 16% to $2,217,429, compared to $2,642,594 last fall. The drop likely in part reflects the economic climate in Northern Kentucky, where the unemployment rate hovers around 10%, nearly twice the rate last year.
Wagering on Turfway races from all sources dropped 6.3% to $39,928,281, compared to $42,596,033 last fall.
While straight handle numbers declined, track president Robert N. Elliston noted that numbers cannot tell the whole story, given modern complexities of the racing business.
“Simple comparisons are not necessarily indicative of revenues to the track and to horsemen,” said Elliston. “For example, handle from ADWs was nearly flat for the race meet—not bad for the present economy—but revenue from those sources was up more than 50 percent because we were able to renegotiate contracts.”
The track presented 220 races during the fall meet this year. Last fall a windstorm forced the track to cancel part of one card, resulting in a net 214 races for the meet.
Daily purses averaged $128,001 this fall compared to $154,691 during the fall meet last year. To help support daily purses, the Northern Kentucky track this year eliminated four stakes from its fall schedule and cut the purse for the Kentucky Cup Classic from $350,000 to $200,000.
“It’s disappointing to cut stakes from your schedule,” said Elliston, “but in the current climate it was necessary in order to support our horsemen who are here day in and day out. We appreciate their willingness to work with us as we get through a difficult time not just for racing but also for the economy as a whole.”
Like last fall, field size this fall averaged 8.5 horses per race, a number bolstered in the final two weeks by the quarantine of Hoosier Park. During the opening 10 days of the meet, field size averaged 7.8; during the remaining 12 days field size averaged 9.2.
Archives are not complete for all 50 years of the track’s operation and a track record therefore cannot be confirmed, but the 18 wins posted by Billy Hays from 59 starters are the most by an owner during a fall meet since Overbook Farm earned six wins in 1999. Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Kentucky’s perennial leading owners, finished second for the 2009 fall meet with 12 wins. Several others were far behind with two wins each.
On the strength of Hays’s stable, trainer Joe Woodard earned his first Turfway training title with 19 wins from 64 starters, a 30% win rate and 64% in-the-money performance. Mike Maker was second with 16 wins, while Ken McPeek and Bill Connelly tied for third place with seven wins each.
Leandro Gonçalves earned his first leading rider title at any track with 33 wins from 157 mounts. Miguel Mena was second with 22 wins, while Yuri Yuranga, often riding for the hot Hays-Woodard team, was third with 19 wins.