Ellis Park director of operations Bob Jackson said in spite of the 13 inches of rain that fell in the Henderson, Ky., area and caused the Kentucky River to flood around the facility a week prior to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the property incurred minimal damage, and simulcast numbers on Derby Day were not significantly affected.
“We never really had any water inside the park itself; we’ve got a levy all the way around it” said Jackson, noting the simulcast attendance on Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) day May 6 was actually up around 3% from last year, while Derby attendance was down approximately 5%.
“Numbers are still being finalized,” he said. “I think (Derby numbers were down) due to people coming out Friday and making their wagers, and then watching (the Derby) on TV.”
While the damage to the track was insignificant, Jackson said there had been a delay on moving horses into the stable area.
“We were actually going to move horses in about a week ago and start training, but with the river coming up like it did and so much seepage inside the park, I’ve had to back that up a little bit,” he explained. “I’m hoping toward the latter part of next week, we’ll be able to open the barn area again.”
Ellis Park's live racing schedule runs from July 2 through Sept. 5, with racing on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. There will be special holiday racing Monday, July 4, and Monday, Sept. 5.
Jackson said the water also blocked two of the three entrances coming into the track, with the only available entry being the one off highway 41. This is the second time the area around Ellis has flooded; the first round occurred around the middle of March.
“We were completely surrounded (in March)…it sat there for a couple weeks, and then it started easing back out of here,” he said. “And then it turned around with all the rain…we had 13 inches in a little over a week. Then the river came back up, and it sat for about three weeks the second time."
Jackson expected to have the official simulcast numbers for Derby and Oaks Day by May 13. “Considering the river and the rains and everything, I was pleased with both our Friday and Saturday handle.”