Oaklawn Park and Turfway Park have announced significant purse increases beginning this week.
Good weather, an increased off-track mutuel handle, and tremendous interest in its Instant Racing System are allowing Oaklawn to raise purses by $1,000 per race, excluding stakes, starting Saturday.
The Hot Springs, Ark., racetrack has attracted an average attendance of 12,000 and $5 million a day in handle during the first 16 days of its 53-day meet. Patrons also have wagered an average more than $100,000 per day on Oaklawn's Instant Racing, a slot machine-styled pari-mutuel racing game.
"We realize that the great start is a wonderful plus for our season," said Oaklawn general manager Eric Jackson. "It doesn't happen every year and that allows us to appreciate this season all the more."
Oaklawn attracted more than 72,000 people during the recent four-day President's Day weekend when no other American racetrack drew as many as 50,000 for the same four days, according to Oaklawn officials.
Favorable weather and larger fields have allowed Turfway Park to increase purses 7% starting with FridayÍs 10-race card. The higher purses will affect all races except stakes.
Rick Leigh, director of racing at Turfway, said a new schedule of nine races on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 races on Fridays and Sundays, and 12 races on Saturday has helped improve field size. The Northern Kentucky racetrack has averaged 8.76 horses per race from Jan. 1 through Feb. 21, compared with an average of 8.58 starters for the same period a year ago, according to records kept by The Jockey Club Information Systems.
"Many races, especially the stakes on Saturdays, have featured large, competitive fields, which are always good for handle," Leigh said.
Turfway Park has paid an average of $136,418 per day in purses since Jan. 1, which is 3% less than was paid by this time last year.