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Calder Sees Rise In Handle

After three straight years of declining handle, Calder sees 3.5% increase in 2011.

All-sources handle rose about 3.5% at Calder Casino & Race Course during its seven-month season that ended Dec. 2, according to John Marshall, the track’s vice president and general manager of racing. The increase was the first after three consecutive years of declines.

That increase was for the combined Calder Meet and Tropical Meet at the Miami Gardens, Fla., track.
Marshall provided handle percentages but not numbers. Churchill Downs Inc., Calder’s parent, releases handle numbers only in its quarterly and annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Marshall did not provide percentage changes on live handle, simulcast, and other components.

An earlier Blood-Horse review of Equibase charts for September 2011 showed Calder averaging about $1.9  million in daily all-sources handle for the month.  Calder had only one of its multiple stakes Saturdays that month—the Festival Preview on Sept. 17.

One reason for this year’s increase was that, unlike in 2010, Monmouth Park’s weekends-only meet was not a novelty that took some bettors away from Calder and other tracks, Marshall said.

“We regained some of our market share this year and we expect to have another gain in 2012,”  he said.
Calder’s handle had declined in 2008, 2009, and 2010.  The track felt the effects of a 2008 contract dispute with the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the economic downturn.

“We would have been up even more this year if not for the rainy weather, especially in October, that cut into our turf racing,” Marshall said. 

Calder moved 198 races off the turf this year, compared with 150 in 2010.

“We met our expectations, and if it had not been for October we would have exceeded our expectations,” Marshall said.

Marshall also said that wagering on signals Calder imports and on the export of those signals to other Florida pari-mutuels declined in 2011 compared with 2010.  He did not provide percentages, but said the declines were slightly more than Calder expected.

“A major reason was that we imported 842 fewer races than last year,” Marshall said. “That is the result of tracks reducing their numbers of days or numbers of races per day.”

Since June 2, Calder had a target of $182,750 for average daily overnight purses including overnight stakes. Calder met the target, Marshall said.

Calder ended its racing season with a slight overpayment in the purse account.  But Marshall said the account will have an underpayment when Calder resumes racing April 9.

During its non-racing months, Calder will bring in money for race purses from its revenues from simulcasting and from slot machines at its casino.

Calder has traditionally ended its season in early January.  It moved its closing up a month this year, following an exchange of dates with neighboring Gulfstream Park.

To avoid a head-to-head December conflict with Gulfstream, Calder relinquished the December 2011 dates and in return gained two April weeks when Gulfstream had been racing.

Starting in 2013, Calder might want to tweak the arrangement and add the first week of April, Marshall said.
By that time each year, many trainers are shipping horses to northern states.  But for 2012, Calder is already planning two turf stakes that Marshall hopes will attract some top 3-year-olds from full-year and part-year southeast Florida trainers.

This year, Calder did not run the Calder Derby for 3-year-old males or the Calder Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.
Early plans call for both to return in 2012  at 1 1/8 miles.  The Calder Derby would be run April 14 with a $200,000 purse.  The Calder Oaks would go April 28 with a $100,000 purse.

Tropical Meet Recap

Luis Saez was the leading rider, with  66 winners, in the 45-day Tropical Meet that ended Dec, 2.   Daniel Centeno was next with 29, followed by Fernando Jara with 27.

The leading trainer of the Tropical Meet was Antonio Sano with 18 victories.  Steve Dwoskin and Nick Canani each sent out 16 winners to tie for second in the trainer standings, while Jose Pinchin, Jose Garoffalo, and Eddie Plesa Jr. came next, each with 12 winners in another very competitive Tropical trainers’ race.

The Tropical Meet leading owner’s trophy went to Frank Calabrese, whose horses won 19 races.  Steve Dwoskin and Starship Stables tied for second place in the owner standings with 10 winners each; Jose Pinchin came in fourth with seven winners at the meet.