Turfway Park reported across-the-board increases in pari-mutuel handle for its 2011 winter/spring meet in the face of national figures that show total handle on United States racing is down 8.5% for the same period.
The Northern Kentucky track raced 47 programs from Jan. 1-April 3 this year compared with 41 for the comparable meet in 2010, when there were more weather-related cancellations. This year it experimented with live racing Saturday nights instead of afternoons in an attempt to drive ontrack business.
With 62 more races this year, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems, ontrack handle on live races at Turfway increased 6.3% to $5,647,604. But ontrack handle on all races—live and full-card simulcasts—jumped 13.5% to $15,689,677.
Ontrack handle on full-card simulcasts alone was up 18%, though the figure doesn’t include April 6-7, when Turfway is still the in-state simulcast host before Keeneland opens April 8. As recently as two years ago Turfway offered live racing those two nights before the Keeneland spring meet.
All-sources handle on Turfway races was $95,013,790, up 3.3% from 2010. Track president Bob Elliston said offering more races this year helped that number, but the ontrack gains during the winter months are very encouraging given continued downturns industry-wide.
“I am tremendously excited by these numbers,” Elliston said. “From patrons at our facility, we produced 13.5% more wagering this year than last year, and we still have two days to go. This is particularly strong in comparison to newly released national numbers that show wagering down nearly 8.5% over virtually the same period.”
Elliston said the switch to Saturday night racing will continue to be evaluated, but ontrack handle, as well as food and beverage sales, increased through the meet.
“We continued to get crowds in the afternoon for simulcasting, and in the evening we had more people here betting (Turfway races) and night signals from other tracks,” Elliston said. “This is one track everyone wants to write off for dead, and we’re up 13.5% in ontrack handle. That’s pretty strong.”
According to TJCIS, field size for the 2011 winter/spring meet averaged 8.46 horses per race, down slightly from 8.63 last year. As expected, purses—reduced before the meet to protect against overpayment—were down from an average of $140,344 last year to $124,647 this year.
Billy, Donna, and Justin Hays again won the leading owner title with 18 wins from 59 starters. Ben Creed captured his second Turfway riding title with 62 wins from 318 mounts, while Mike Maker took his seventh local leading trainer title with 35 winners from 100 starts.
Turfway reopens for live racing Sept. 8 with racing scheduled for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons. In the meantime the track is open five or six days a week for full-card simulcasts.