Continued declines in handle and the lowest purse structure in decades have led River Downs to cut the purses of its two premier stakes for 2-year-olds by 50%.
The purse for the Budweiser Select Cradle Stakes, originally set at $200,000, is now $100,000. The purse for the Bassinet Stakes, a companion race for fillies, will drop from $100,000 to $50,000.
It’s the latest purse reduction at Ohio racetracks being squeezed by neighboring states with racetrack gaming.
“It is a regrettable move, but one we needed to make to protect the integrity of our daily purses for the local horsemen,” River Downs general manager Jack Hanessian said in a statement. “It is a trend that has been taking place on a nationwide basis, and we hope the quality of the fields that we attract annually will not be affected as we are coming off some banner years (for the Cradle and Bassinet).”
Through 74 days of its 2010 meet, River Downs has paid an average of $36,626 in purses (a total of $2.7 million), according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. That figure is the lowest in decades at the track near Cincinnati.
Pari-mutuel handle at Ohio tracks has steadily decreased for more than 10 years, but average field size of 6.97 this season has further damaged the River Downs product. From Jan. 1-July 26 at River Downs, handle on live races and simulcasts totaled $25.5 million, down 14.8% from last year, according to Ohio State Racing Commission figures.
Overall, on-site handle at Ohio’s three Thoroughbred tracks is down 14.2% from 2009.
Earlier this year River Downs management attempted to reduce live racing dates to boost purses, but the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association balked. Horsemen opted to have more racing opportunities for less money.
The purse for the Sept. 6 Cradle Stakes, the longest-running sponsored stakes in the United States, is the lowest since 1982. In 1984, the race was won by Spend a Buck, who won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) the following year. The Cradle purse has been $200,000 since 1986.
The Sept. 4 Bassinet, launched in 1983, began with a $25,000 purse that rose to $150,000. The purse has been $100,000 since 1996. The 2000 Bassinet produced the 2-year-old champion filly Caressing.
Two allowance preps for the Cradle and Bassinet will be offered as scheduled in August, but the purses have dropped from $25,000 to $20,000, River Downs officials said July 27.