As 2014 came to a close, fewer than 25 racetracks were able to field more than eight horses per races, according to a review of statistics. And the top two tracks on the list each raced only five programs.
As U.S. racing faces the challenge of shaping race days and meets and maintaining field sizes at a time when foal crops are shrinking, experts said tracks and horsemen need to remember to keep the customer in the equation.
Panel discusses field-size challenges and possible solutions on the first morning of the 2014 University of Arizona Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming Dec. 9 in Tucson, Ariz.
Officials at Turfway Park, which begins its four-month run of live racing Dec. 1, are hoping response at the entry box for the first two programs continues through December and into next year.
Delaware Park officials reported a decline in pari-mutuel handle for the 2014 racing season that ended Oct. 22 but said they will continue to explore ways to strengthen the product in a gambling-congested Mid-Atlantic region.
- By Tom LaMarra
A look at Crown Queen, Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, and field size. read blog
The opening weekend at Keeneland, which marked a return to a dirt racing main track for the first time since the spring of 2006, saw steady attendance and on-track wagering but total handle declined 5.7%.
While it already has faced many hurdles, if the declining North American foal crop is not turned around soon, North American racing will require creative solutions from racetracks and horsemen or face further contraction.
Monmouth Park reported increases in on-track and export pari-mutuel handle, as well as attendance, for its 57-day meet that ended Sept. 28.
Kentucky Downs closed out its highly successful 2014 live racing season Wednesday, Sept. 24, and the track established new records for wagering handle and starters per race during the five race-date season.
Delaware Park and the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association signed a one-year extension to their current agreement, which was scheduled to run through 2015.
A horseplayers group believes its boycott negatively impacted handle at the Churchill Downs spring meet where the total money wagered decreased by more than $48 million.
Growth in out-of-state wagering on its product helped Pimlico Race Course record an increase in average daily pari-mutuel handle for the 2014 spring meet.
The horsemen's group at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort has signed off on a plan to reduce racing days and the number of races at the West Virginia track later this year.
Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort has asked the West Virginia Racing Commission for permission to drop 11 live racing programs in December and reduce the number of races it is scheduled to run in October and November.
The Churchill Downs fall meet saw a double-digit percentage decline in average daily wagering at this year's 25-day stand that wrapped Saturday, Nov. 30.
Despite 12 fewer live racing days, all-sources pari-mutuel handle during the Delaware Park meet was only down about $1.5 million, while average daily handle increased 13.2%.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races received approval Oct. 22 to cut three live racing programs from its November schedule because of field size and purse concerns.
- By Tom LaMarra
By 2016 the number of starters in Thoroughbred races is projected to be about 39% less than it was in 2003 based on Equibase statistics discussed Oct. 8 during the International Simulcast Conference in Lexington.
Atlantic City Race Course ended its six-day all turf meet May 1 with total pari-mutuel handle in excess of $1 million for a seven-race program.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races set another pari-mutuel handle record in April when it reported average daily handle of $1,367,336, up 1% from the same month in 2012.
Though total pari-mutuel handle during the recent winter/spring meet at Turfway Park fell almost 30% from the same meet in 2012, average daily handle was down 4% because of 11 fewer live racing days.
The Maryland Jockey Club has put horsemen on notice regarding the shipping of horses to race at other tracks in the region.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course reported a 19.4% increase in all-sources pari-mutuel handle for 197 live racing days in 2012. Meanwhile, total purses jumped 11.6%.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races reported that, for the first time in the track's 79 years of operation, average daily pari-mutuel handle topped the $1 million mark.
Turfway Park is following through with its plan to increase purses across the board when its winter/spring meet begins Jan. 1, 2013. The new condition book at the Kentucky racetrack reflects increases of 13% to about 35%.
That Turfway Park is struggling to fill live racing programs for its 16-day meet is no surprise to horsemen, who believe a "perfect storm" developed in September.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course reported double-digit increases in pari-mutuel handle on and off track for the fourth consecutive month in June.
Presque Isle Downs & Casino now has 668 stalls after building two 48-stall barns in advance of its 2012 meet, officials said April 17.
Keeneland will begin its spring meet April 6 with full fields and quiet optimism in what has become a very competitive Thoroughbred racing environment in terms of purse money and horse population.
All-sources pari-mutuel handle on Turfway Park races during its winter/spring meet dropped 11.2%, while ontrack handle on live racing was down 16.5%, track officials said April 2.
Sam Houston Race Park reported a 35% increase in live pari-mutuel handle and a 40% jump in attendance for its 31-day Thoroughbred meet, which ended March 12.
Hawthorne Race Course will offer bonus money for larger fields during its spring meet, track officials announced Dec. 26.
Gulfstream Park reported average daily all-sources pari-mutuel handle of about $6.6 million during its first 10 race days in December, surpassing management's expectations for its first December racing in several decades.
The Southern California track also reported its average daily handle up 9.5% but complete figures are not yet available for the 26-day Autumn meet.
Business at Monmouth Park this year expectedly dropped after what appears to be a one-time "Elite Meet" last year, but average daily figures were still much higher than those recorded for the comparable 2009 meet.
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Delaware Park, which just began its 2011 meet April 30, has canceled live racing for May 10 because of a lack of entries.
Whether gross or average figures are used, pari-mutuel handle for the Santa Anita Park winter/spring was down, according to information compiled from various sources.
Turfway Park reported across-the-board increases in pari-mutuel handle for its 2011 winter/spring meet in the face of national figures that show total handle on United States racing is down 8.5% for the same period.
- By Tom LaMarra
The Horseplayers Association of North America is calling for reversal of a pari-mutuel takeout increase in California as well as creation of a gambling board that would advise the California Horse Racing Board.
Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino reported strong gains in business for the first five days of its 2011 meet, which began Jan. 5. Handle thus far is up 17.2% in total.
Faced with making a decision brought about by the battering of the Kentucky horse racing industry, Turfway Park has opted to cut some overnight purses in order to maintain a weekly stakes schedule.
Total handle -- including money wagered through a non-pari-mutuel betting exchange -- on the 2010 Breeders' Cup World Championships could approach $200 million, according to figures released by Breeders' Cup.
Racing secretaries from around the country have begun meeting to address common issues.
A greatly scaled-down meet offered fewer opportunities for horsemen but generated on-site gains at Retama Park, which wrapped up its live meet Oct. 23.
Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Indiana reported strong across-the-board gains for its 2010 meet that ended Oct. 24.
Remington Park in Oklahoma reported strong gains in pari-mutuel handle for the first 20 days of its 66-day Thoroughbred meet.
Another experimental year continues in Kentucky as Ellis Park wraps up its summer meet and Turfway Park prepares for a scaled-down session with only one stakes.
The first day of the Monmouth Park experiment can be considered a success as far as the entry box goes, as 148 horses were entered in 13 races with purses totaling $812,000.
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