Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

Anne M. Eberhardt

Handle, Purses Decline at Churchill Meet

Wagering fell 16.15% and purses declined 13.5% during 12-day meet.

The second September meet at Churchill Downs since it began hosting the dates previously held by Turfway Park produced a 16.15% decline in wagering and a 13.5% drop in purses.

According to numbers provided the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Churchill pari-mutuel handle totaled $38,810,285, compared with $46,285,927 for the same number of days in 2013. In a day-to-day comparison between the two years, handle fell on 11 of the days this year and increased one day.

Churchill Downs Inc.-owned tracks do not release wagering or attendance figures, but report handle to regulators in the respective states in which they operate.

According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, purses totaled $3,864,378 this year for a daily average of $322,032; last year, purses averaged $372,646 from a total $4,471,748. Average field size dropped from 8.04 per race a year ago to 7.70 this year.

"We have a pair of September meets behind us and Churchill Downs remains optimistic that this new racing and entertainment product can be successful," Churchill Downs racetrack president Kevin Flanery said in a release. "We faced many of the same challenges during this meet that impacted our spring meet, including our ongoing concerns about field sizes. Unfortunately, the starters per race was down this year, which is a result of the declining foal crops and increased competition for available horses from other tracks in our region and beyond.

"The positive news is that the Louisville market is becoming more aware of our September meet and the possibilities it holds for Kentucky horsemen during a beautiful time of year. We look forward to working with the racing commission and the horsemen to address the issue of field sizes so that we can continue to provide this promising product."

Churchill has applied for a 12-day September meet again in 2015. The September meet coincides with the all-turf meet conducted at Kentucky Downs, which reported record handle for its five-day meet, average daily purses of $948,905, and field sizes that averaged in excess of 10 horses per race.

Kentucky Downs requested two additional dates for 2015, with three Saturday cards that would overlap Churchill's live racing cards. Kentucky Downs, which has year-round electronic historic race gaming that helps fund purses, has requested 12 "host days" for September 2015. Churchill is seeking host status from Sept. 8-30. The host track retains a larger share of simulcast revenue.

The KHRC's dates committee is scheduled to meet Sept. 30 to consider the requests.