Since putting a new marketing plan in place for its Instant Racing games, Ellis Park has seen improvement in the business. The Henderson, Ky., racetrack registered record monthly handle for its Instant Racing games in May as bettors wagered $3,024,776 during the month.
Instant Racing games look like video lottery terminals but because they base their payoffs on a pari-mutuel system tied to historical race results, they have been allowed in Kentucky.
Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs are the only two Thoroughbred tracks in Kentucky to currently offer the games. With more competition from Indiana casinos, Ellis Park has not fared as well as Kentucky Downs, which reported $28.8 million in May handle.
But Ellis Park director of operations Bob Jackson noted the May handle on historical racing at the track generated an extra $10,000 for purses compared with May 2013, and that June wagering is 51% ahead of May 2014 handle.
Since the machines became operational at Ellis Park Aug. 31, 2012, they have handled $49.18 million and have generated $438,107 for purses. So far this year, $13 million has been wagered through the machines at Ellis Park.
Jackson said some changes in marketing strategies, subtle design changes in the room, and the removal of some low-performing machines that were replaced with machines that have attracted more interest. have sparked the improved numbers. The track is on pace for a record June as well.
At both tracks this year, nearly $148 million has been wagered through Instant Racing machines. The handle has generated $1.26 million for purses. The results were discussed at the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission meeting June 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park.
In other KHRC news:
• Trainer and racing commissioner D. Wayne Lukas said the state should consider requiring tracks to add warning lights to rails. The lights flash as a warning when there is a loose horse during morning training hours.
Lukas said he has seen riders injured at tracks because sirens meant to alert of danger are not heard because of wind, noise, and headgear.
Lukas noted that the rail at Saratoga Race Course has lights every 10 yards or so that instantly flash when an alarm is sounded for a loose horse or fallen rider. He said it provides better warning. The New York Racing Association has approved the system for all of its tracks.
The KHRC Safety Committee will consider the idea of requiring tracks and training centers to install similar systems.
• Chief state steward Barbara Borden reported that trainer Arnulfo Rangel has been fined $500 and suspended 15 days for a Minoxidil positive. The drug, considered a Class B substance, was found in Hearts Wild, who also is owned by Rangel, after he won a $5,000 claiming race March 30 at Turfway Park. Hearts Wild was disqualified to last and purse money was forfeited.
Used to encourage hair growth in humans, Minoxidil is believed to accelerate the cardiovascular system in horses.
• Kentucky Downs representatives outlined a new pari-mutuel wager for the track's September meet that would be based on the performance of jockeys each day in the final seven races on the card. The KHRC opted to take one month to consider the new wager.
• Before the KHRC meeting, its rules committee met for two hours but took no action. The rules committee is updating penalties to match model rules approved by the Association of Racing Commissioners International.