Turfway Park is having a tough time making up for programs canceled because of the weather during the current winter/spring meet.
On Feb. 27, officials announced that a special Monday program March 2 has been scrapped because of a lack of entries. On Feb. 26, the Turfway racing office held open the entry box overnight for the March 1 program to ensure enough entries for nine races.
Turfway scheduled three consecutive Monday programs—March 2, 9, and 16—to make up for days lost to weather and surface conditions. That makes for six-day racing weeks (Wednesdays through Mondays) at a time when the horse population is light.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Turfway president Bob Elliston said in a statement, “and we missed the mark in terms of the horse population that would be available to fill additional race days. Horses that otherwise would prefer to run in Kentucky, and traditionally did so, are instead racing in jurisdictions where purses are enhanced with revenue from alternative gaming.
“Kentucky has not been permitted to level the playing field, and we are beginning to feel the effects of the competitive advantage other states have over us, tradition or not.”
During a Feb. 20 meeting at Turfway, Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association representatives reported the purse account is comparable to the one from the same period in 2008, but “dwindling entries” could put “too much strain on the horse population.” A committee agreed to give it a shot since the days already were in the condition book.
Turfway and other Kentucky tracks are lobbying for legislation that would authorize racetrack video lottery terminals to produce revenue for purses and breed development. The bill has cleared one committee in the House of Representatives but may not be addressed until a special legislative session expected to be called this summer, officials said.
A commemorative poster giveaway and autograph signing by Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys Chris McCarron and Mike Manganello scheduled for March 2 will be rescheduled, with details to follow. As of this time, the programs of March 9 and 16 remain on the schedule, officials said.
The Feb. 28 program features the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes for 3-year-olds. It’s the final local prep for the $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) March 21.
Traditionally, Turfway has fewer horses in the entry box from mid-January through the end of February, and an increase as stock ships north in March. Track officials believe growing competition from other states is keeping even more horses away from Kentucky for longer periods.