Handle, Purses Down at Delaware Park in 2012

The track requested 100 racing days for 2013 but would prefer to race less.

Live and simulcast wagering on races at Delaware Park in 2012 totaled $116,771,915, down 22.08% from $149,862,434 in 2011, according to statistics released by the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission Jan. 17.

After weather- and entry-related cancellations in 2012, Delaware Park raced 94 days versus 101 the previous year and 114 in 2010.

Based on the statistics, pari-mutuel handle on live racing last year averaged $1,242,254 per day. The average in 2011 was $1,483,786.

Import simulcast handle also dropped last year, from $40,335,808 in 2011 to $38,818,032. On-track live handle in 2012 was $7,025,291, down from $8,835,560 in 2011, according to DTRC figures.

Delaware Park began operating video lottery terminals in the mid-1990s, and eventually expanded to a full casino. Total Thoroughbred purses peaked at $40.84 million in 2002, when the daily average was $289,689.

Last year, total Thoroughbred purses were $18.77 million for a daily average payout of $199,733, according to the racing commission.

In an introduction in the annual report, DTRC executive director John Wayne cited an "aggressive promotional campaign" supported by the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association as a bright spot in 2012, as well as the Delaware Handicap attaining grade I status for 2013. But he also noted the "disappointing wagering numbers."

"As you know, Delaware is no longer on an island in which it has an exclusive on gaming," Wayne said. "Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and New York increased their gaming potentials in 2012. Expanded gaming will continue to encroach on the fan base that supports Delaware racetracks."

Wayne said Delaware Park, the only Thoroughbred track in the state, has requested 100 live racing days for this year but is "in negotiations with the Delaware horsemen to approach the General Assembly to amend the code for less days. 'Less being more' during these economic times may be a solution in sustaining a competitive purse program to attract horsemen to race in Delaware and make the exported simulcast signal more attractive to bettors."

The Delaware THA has agreed to fewer live racing days in recent years, but it remains to be seen how far below 100 days a year horsemen are willing to go. Delaware Park used to race in excess of 130 days a year.

Wayne also said Mid-Atlantic racetracks are having talks concerning promotion and implementation of a regional circuit given declining foal crops and a shortage of racehorses. As of early January, however, it appeared the usual meet overlaps would occur in 2013; Parx Racing even did away with its August break, according to its racing calendar.

Through 2012 there were 3,068 horses of racing age enrolled in the Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program, which awards bonuses to owners and certifiers of horses that spent a certain period of time on Delaware farms during their development. Currently, there are 82 Delaware farms enrolled in the program.

Owners and certifiers each received 15% bonuses in 2012, according to the Delaware THA, which oversees the program. There were 318 Delaware Certified starters last year that produced total awards of $846,843, the horsemen's group reported.

Total awards were their highest in 2011 at $1,488,351. The incentive program, which began in 2003, was created because Delaware has no Thoroughbred breeding program.