Courtesy Oaklawn Park

Purses Up at Oaklawn; Total Handle Declines

Business gains were reported by Oaklawn Park for its 2011 meet.

Oaklawn Park reported increases in attendance, pari-mutuel handle, and purses for its 2011 meet, which was impacted early on by weather-related cancellations.

Oaklawn was scheduled for 56 racing days in 2011 but ultimately raced 49 after eight cancellations and the addition of a program April 13. The Hot Springs, Ark., track was scheduled for 54 days in 2010 but lost three full cards and one partial card due to weather.

Average daily ontrack handle increased just more than 1% to $825,341 in 2011 from $816,570, and average daily attendance grew 3% to 11,649 from 11,346 in large part because of large crowds for Presidents’ Day (25,237), Rebel Stakes (gr. II) day (34,968) and Arkansas Derby (gr. I) day (62,364), Oaklawn reported. Total attendance for the season was 570,821.

Because of the eight cancellations total handle declined. All-sources handle per day on Oaklawn races averaged $3,094,711, down 3% from $3,199,172 in 2010.

Average daily handle on racing in the building—on live racing and full-card simulcasts—was about even: $1,039,573 this year versus $1,047,586 last year.

“Considering the challenges we faced at the beginning, we are extremely pleased with the results of our live meet,” Oaklawn assistant general manager of racing David Longinotti said in a statement. “The national trend has tracks averaging 10% declines or greater, and we were well below that. We are also among a handful of tracks that can boast regular crowds of 20,000-plus fans.

“As a matter of fact, our attendance on Arkansas Derby day and Rebel day rank as the two largest ontrack crowds to attend a racing day in the nation up to this point. That’s something that makes us extremely proud.”

Purses for the meet totaled $15,794,450, up from $15,587,160 in 2010 despite fewer racing days, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Purses averaged $322,336, up 5.46% from $305,631 in 2010, according to TJCIS.

Purses were increased three times in 2011, and the track implemented an end-of-season purse bonus program.

Oaklawn is scheduled to resume live racing Jan. 13, 2012, for a 56-day meet.