Turfway Park

Turfway Park

Pat Lang

Totals Down, Averages Up for Turfway Meet

Turfway's total handle was down, but average handle was up during its recent meet.

A reduction in live racing dates during the Turfway Park winter/spring meet resulted in an expected drop in total handle, but daily averages increased from the 2009 meet.

Turfway raced 45 days this year (three- or four-day weeks) versus 62 last year (five-day race weeks). All-sources handle for 2010 was $91,981,598, down 19.5% from $113,649,793, while on-track handle totaled $5,311,571, down 24.3% from $7,020,016.

Average daily on-track handle on live races, however, increased 4.2%, to $118,035 from $113,226, while average daily all-sources handle was up 11.5% to $2,044,036 from $1,833,061 in 2009.

The number of races offered was 435, down 29.7% from 619 last year.

Turfway reduced racing dates this year in an effort to maintain purses and field size in the face of increasing competition for horses from racetracks with gaming in other states.

“This year’s winter/spring meet was really an experiment, and we will continue to analyze the results against our expectations,” Turfway president Bob Elliston said in a statement. “While we are pleased to see average daily increases in on-track wagering and support from out-of-state outlets, the competitive landscape we’re up against and the fact that we’re not permitted to meet that competition head-on continues to make it difficult to invest in our business.”

Total purses dropped, but average purses increased during the meet. Purses totaled $5,754,751, down 25.8% from $7,751,083 last year. Average daily purses came in at $127,883, up 2.3% from $125,017 in 2009.

Track officials had hoped to increase purses given the reduction in race days, but it didn’t pan out. Pari-mutuel handle didn’t spike, and Turfway and horsemen lost in-state revenue when Ellis Park in western Kentucky decided to close for full-card simulcasts during the entire Turfway meet.

Turfway, like other Kentucky tracks, gets 50% of all wagering revenue made in the state during its meet. The amount is then split with horsemen.

A 12.6% increase in field size—from 7.9 horses per race last year to 8.9 this year—helped prevent more serious handle declines. Turfway had to rely heavily on lower-level claiming races, a product of its inability to fill better fields because of a declining purse pool and horsemen leaving Kentucky to race in other states with higher purses.

According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, field size in March, when a fourth day of racing was added, averaged 7.7 horses per race. It's probable Turfway wouldn't have been able to sustain five-day race weeks this season in terms of horse population.

On the racing side, the leading owner, trainer, and jockey were all connected. Leading owner was the threesome of Billy, Donna, and Justin Hays with 24 wins. Their trainer is Joe Woodard, who won the training title with 26 wins. Leading jockey Rex Stokes III, who earned his first local title, won 49 races, many of them for Woodard.