Less Equates to More at Delaware Park in 2009

Delaware Park has ended what is considered a positive 2009 meet numbers-wise.

Delaware Park raced 27 fewer days this year but registered increases in total handle and average daily handle, track officials said Oct. 28.

All-sources handle on live racing for the 109-day meet that ended Oct. 26 was $168,977,878, up 1.9% from 2008, when the meet spanned 136 days. Average daily handle on live racing was $1,550,256, up 27.1% from $1,219,394 in 2008.

Officials said revenue per racing day was up 24.6%, though year-over-year racing revenue was unchanged.

Delaware Park is one of the few racetracks to report what could be considered substantial gains this year. Nationally, total handle is down more than 10%.

“We are delighted with the positive results of the 2009 season,” Michael Vild, senior vice president of racing and general counsel at Delaware Park, said in a statement. “Our results this year demonstrate that racing fans in Delaware and all over the country are attracted to the product that we are putting on the track.”

Vild credited executive director of racing John Mooney; racing secretary Pat Pope, who completed his first year in that position at Delaware Park; and horsemen.

With a different-look condition book, average number of starters per race was 7.73, up 11.3% from 6.94 in 2008. Average number of races per day was 9.74, up 8.8% from 8.96 last year.

Those figures include races for Arabian horses. For Thoroughbred racing only, field size averaged 7.66 horses per race, up from 6.87 last year, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.

There were 968 Thoroughbred races this year versus 1,081 in 2008.

Despite a 10% decrease in revenue from video lottery terminals for part of the season, purses held their own. Purses averaged $233,487 per day this year versus $241,072 last year, according to TJCIS.

Earlier this year, the Delaware legislature reduced the share of VLT revenue to purses from 10% to 9%. In addition, VLT play at the Wilmington, Del.-area track is down because of the economy and competition from neighboring states.

Track officials and horsemen agreed to cut the final seven days of the meet to conserve purse money. This year’s meet originally was scheduled to end Nov. 7.

“We expect to use this positive momentum to make Delaware Park racing even better and more exciting in 2010,” Vild said.

John and Carol Porter’s Porter Racing Stable was leading owner with 18 wins. Codey Autry won the training title with 56 wins, one more than Scott Lake, who had won the previous seven titles. David Cohen was leading jockey with 152 victories.