Although overall wagering rose to a record level and on-track attendance improved, on-track betting at Churchill Downs continued its downward trend during the 24-day fall meet that ended Saturday.
Boosted by growth in out-of-state simulcast outlets, Churchill's total wagering of $174,781,741 exceeded the previous record of $160.58 million set during the same meet one year ago.
Average daily total rose 4% to $7,282,573 per day, compared with a daily average of $6,981,938 in 2000. (For comparison purposes, Churchill's numbers from 2000 do not include Breeders' Cup Championship Day).
Churchill attributed favorable weather throughout most of the meet, a strong promotion schedule, and an attractive racing program for an 8% gain in on-track attendance, with averaged 8,494 per day. Total attendance for the meet was 203,858, an increase of 13% over the 23-day meet in 2000.
Average daily on-track betting (including whole card simulcasts from other tracks) dropped by more than 10% to $1,167,394, compared with $1,300,763 for the 2000 fall meet.
"We entered our Fall Meet with uncertainty because of world events and a slumping economy, so there is no doubt that the meet was a great success and its results are very encouraging," said Alex Waldrop, president of Churchill Downs. "Attendance was up, and that reflects well on our continued efforts to attract new fans and strengthen the bond with our loyal, longtime fans by improving our customer service and our racing product.
"The decrease in on-track wagering is a concern, with continued growth of competition in our market and a slumping economy being significant factors in the erosion of that area of our business," Waldrop continued. "But the biggest success story of the meet is the strength of our racing program, which is underscored by continued strong growth in simulcast wagering on our races across North America. The strength of that segment of our business underscores the importance of finding ways to grow our purses and continue to attract large fields of the nation's best horses to race at Churchill Downs."
Churchill reported that the on-track wagering decline continued a downward trend that coincided with the advent of competition from riverboat casinos in nearby states.
Purses paid during the fall meet rose 1% to total $9,719,015 and average daily race purses also were up 1% to $404,959.
With 32 wins, Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day earned another riding title during the Fall Meet, securing his 31st Churchill Downs riding crown with 32 wins. Steve Asmussen was leading trainer with 13 winners and Ken and Sarah Ramsey of Nicholasville, Ky. won their fourth consecutive title as leading owner as horses carrying their red-and-white silks won nine races. The Ramseys are now tied with Jim Devaney for the most consecutive leading owner titles at Churchill Downs.