Churchill Spring Meet Purses, Fields Decline

Churchill Spring Meet Purses, Fields Decline
Photo: Skip Dickstein
164,906 watched California Chrome win the 2014 Kentucky Derby.
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Churchill Downs closed its 38-day spring meeting June 29, with average field size showing a decline and average daily purses decreasing slightly from the same meet in 2013.
 
Purses averaged $532,903 during the meet, compared with $534,942 at the spring meet in 2013. With 24 fewer races run this year, total purses paid stood at $20,250,300, compared with total purses of $20,327,798 paid a year earlier.
 
There was concern over the declining size of daily racing fields during the April 26-June 29 racing session. The average field in the 372 races conducted was 7.29 horses, a decline from an average of 7.78 horses-per-race during the same meet in 2013, which also consisted of 38 racing days. 
 
The decline in the horse population and competition for available horses, especially those in mid-to-lower level claiming races, prompted Churchill Downs to run 372 races during the spring meet, compared to 396 races run during the spring of 2013.
 
"The smaller field sizes are the results of a combination of factors that include years of substantial decline in the North American foal crop and increased regional competition for horses from racetracks in Indiana and Ohio with purses fed by casino revenues," Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery said. 
 
"Churchill Downs race purses have remained basically flat in recent years. We deeply appreciate the efforts of owners and trainers who have supported us during this meet. We have a talented and dedicated team in our racing office and our entire team is working on ways to improve those field size numbers in our upcoming September and fall racing meets and further down the road."
 
Churchill Downs Inc. does not publicly report attendance and wagering numbers for the tracks it owns, except for special days. For Churchill Downs, those special days include the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and the night racing cards held during the meet. 
 
Perfect weather on the first Saturday in May helped attract 164,906 Derby patrons—the second largest crowd in history. On-track wagering on the Derby race totaled $11.9 million, an increase of 4% from the 2013 total. On-track wagering on the Derby program of $23.4 million was an 11% increase from 2013. Wagering from all-sources on the Kentucky Derby race card totaled $186.6 million, an increase of 1% over the 2013 total of $184.6 million.
 
One day earlier 113,071 fans—the third-largest attendance in the history of the event—gathered for the Oaks. Wagering from all sources ranked as the second-highest all time on both the full 12-race Kentucky Oaks Day card and on the Kentucky Oaks race. All-sources wagering on the entire card totaled $43.2 million, a decrease of 5.7% from the 2013 total of $45.8 million. All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Oaks race dropped 1.9% to $14.1 million from 2013's record $14.4 million. On-track wagering on the Oaks Day race card was the fourth-highest of all-time, coming in at $11.8 million, a 3% decrease from 2013's near-record $12.2 million. On-track wagering on the Oaks race decreased 3% to $3 million from 2013's record $3.1 million.

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