Turfway Park

Turfway Park

Pat Lang

Turfway Drops Some Stakes to Maintain Purses

The Kentucky racetrack spent more purse money than expected in December.

The ability to fill a greater number of higher-level races in December has led Turfway Park to trim some stakes toward the end of its 2012 winter/spring meet to meet the purse budget.

According to the last two condition books of the meet, four $50,000 stakes—the Wintergreen, Tejano Run, Queen, and Fairway Fun, all for older horses—will be on hiatus this year. In addition, purses for the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes and Rushaway Stakes for 3-year-olds will drop from $100,000 to $75,000 guaranteed.

Turfway had a successful holiday meet in December, with purses paid up 38.5% from the corresponding period in 2010 because of the number of allowance and maiden special weight races that filled. Turfway president Bob Elliston said the track was over budget in December, and pari-mutuel handle since Jan. 1 has been “soft.”

The fact the races filled was good news for horsemen. But the track has little financial wiggle room when it comes to purses paid from pari-mutuel sources only.

The idea was to preserve funds for overnight purses, Elliston said. More Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund money will be used to pay purses for eligible races, so non-eligible horses will run for a bit less money. Claiming races won’t be impacted.

Purses in December averaged $122,354 per day according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Through 13 days in January, the average has dropped to $109,331.

The Kentucky horse industry is awaiting action in the state General Assembly on legislation that would authorize a constitutional amendment on casino gambling, revenue from which would be used to boost racing and breeding.

Turfway moves to a three-day-a-week scheduled in February with racing Friday nights and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) is scheduled for March 24.