Michael Burns

Significant Increases in Woodbine Handle

The 165-day meet, which concluded Dec. 4, saw a 7.5% rise in all-sources handle.

Woodbine Entertainment Group announced that its 2011 live Thoroughbred racing season saw a significant increase in handle over the previous year.

The 165-day meet, which concluded Dec. 4, saw an all-sources total of $423,210,680 wagered, a 7.5 % overall rise from the $393,506,550 figure recorded from the 167 dates offered last year. It is the third straight year of notable handle growth on the Thoroughbred season, after a 7% rise in 2009 and an 8.9% increase in 2010.
“We have been specifically focused on growing our live racing pools and we are pleased to report significant increases again this year," said Sean Pinsonneault, WEG's CEO. “In 2008, the live Thoroughbred season showed a handle of $337 million. To now announce a $423 million handle figure in 2011 is a testament to the increasing appeal of our product.”
The nearly $30 million increase in betting came from U.S. sources. Wagering on the Woodbine live Thoroughbred meet from U.S. remotes was up 15.6% over last year. This wagering represents a much lower margin than what is earned in WEG's home market area where there was a 3.2% decline in betting for the season. The number of races offered this year was down 2.2% from last year's meet.
“We continue to see strong betting growth on our product in the U.S. market,” Pinsonneault said. “We also saw record-setting handles on three of our highest-profile days.”
The Queen's Plate, Woodbine's signature race, produced a record handle of $8,768,145 for its 152nd edition in 2011. The Ricoh Woodbine Mile ($6,064,189) and Pattison Canadian International ($6,400,112) cards also established handle marks.
Average field size on the season was 8.5 horses per race, down slightly from the 8.7 figure recorded in 2010.
 Overnight and stakes purses, including supplements and nominations fees, paid out in 2011 totaled $82.35 million, or $499,139 per card.
The 2012 Woodbine Thoroughbred season is scheduled for 167 dates, beginning April 6.
On track, Mark Casse set records in both major training categories. It was a fifth straight training title and sixth overall for Casse, who won 119 races, shattering the mark established by the late Frank Passero in 1995 (89 wins). Casse also won more purses in one Woodbine meet than any horseman ever, collecting $6,670,906 eclipsing his own 2007 mark.
Luis Contreras collected his first Woodbine jockey title, recording 212 wins on the meet, falling just short of Mickey Walls' classic 1991 record of 221 wins in a single meet. Contreras did write himself into the record books by earning more purses at Woodbine in one season than any other rider, collecting $11,563,915, edging Todd Kabel's 2003 mark of $11,284,853.
Melnyk Racing Stables led all owners at Woodbine with $1,622,395 in purse earnings.