Anne M. Eberhardt

No Down Time at Turfway Park in February

The Kentucky track will race four optional days granted by the racing commission.

Turfway Park has decided to race four additional days in February, meaning there will be continuity for the duration of its winter/spring meet.

Turfway was scheduled to race only the first two weekends (Fridays and Saturdays) in February, and then be dark until March 1. The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission gave the Florence, Ky. oval the option to add four days (Feb. 15-16 and Feb. 22-23).

"Our decision to race these dates was influenced by our continued strong field size, the response to our Friday night events, and the horsemen's preference to maintain the continuity of racing rather than take the two-week break," Turfway general manager Chip Bach said in a statement Jan. 23.

Through the first 10 days of the meet, 100 races were run with average field size of 9.44 horses per race, up from 8.74 during the same period in January 2012, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Purses have averaged $132,813 this year, up 21% from $109,699 for the same period last year.

Field size during the 21-day holiday meet in late November and December 2012 averaged 8.74 horses per race with a four-day racing week and seven consecutive programs between Christmas and New Year's Day.

When reached later, Bach said pari-mutuel handle has "grown somewhat" in January, but it's tough to get a read on things after only a few weeks. He said Turfway wants to put out a consistent product with large fields and offer value to the bettor.

"So far, so good," Bach said. "We didn't expect to see a dramatic increase right off the bat. This is something we'll have to do over time."

Turfway reduced live racing dates this year, in part because it surrendered its September meet to Churchill Downs under urging from the KHRC. As part of the plan, Turfway raised purses effective Jan. 1.

The decision to run the four additional dates in February is supported by the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

In March, Turfway is scheduled to race only Fridays and Saturdays and Thursday, March 21. Sundays will be optional, but no decision has been made on those dates, officials said.