During Ellis Park’s 31-day day race meet July 2-Sept. 5, the Henderson, Ky. track saw declines in all-source handle that were in line with the overall decrease in 2011 U.S. betting on Thoroughbred racing.
Ellis Park ended its meet with total all-source handle of $39,192,567, compared to the $43,754,453 for last year’s 27-day meet, which reflects 10.4% decline. According to reports, overall betting on U.S. Thoroughbred horse racing decreased 12.3% in August.
In spite of the downturn in Ellis Park's numbers, a solid show of support from area fans contributed to good on-track activity. The daily on-track attendance average was down only 1.7%, from 3,676 in 2010 to 3,611 this year. The daily on-track handle averaged $190,979, compared $220,110 in 2010, a decrease of 13.24%.
Track officials said the average number of starters per race decreased from 9.6 in 2010 to eight in 2011 primarily due to overlapping race dates and racino-enhanced purses in surrounding states.
“We are afraid that Ellis Park and other Kentucky tracks are going to suffer (due to these decreasing numbers) when trying to compete with our racino-enhanced competitors,” said Ellis Park owner Ron Geary.
Simulcasting by Ellis Park patrons on out-of-state races during the live meet was $498,000, and increase of 17.8% from the previous year.
Racing stars for the meet included trainer Buff Bradley, who saddled 11 winners. There was a tie for leading owner between Mike Durham, William R. Dorminy, G. Watts Humphrey Jr., and St. George Farm Racing with four wins each. Jockey Calvin Borel won the riding title by booting home 32 winners for the meet. Apprentice Roberto Morales was the leading “bug boy” with a total of 26 wins for the season.
Because of the alternative gaming offered at tracks in many surrounding states, the future of Ellis Park is still uncertain, officials said.
However, the possible near term availability of Instant Racing machines has given the track hope of survival. Kentucky Downs, a track located near the Tennessee border officially became the first racetrack in the state to operate expanded pari-mutuel wagering in the form of Instant Racing machines Sept. 1.
Ellis Park plans to submit an application on Sept. 8 for live racing in the summer of 2012. The 2012 simulcasting dates and live race dates are subject to approval by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.