by Greg Reinhart, HANA member
Located in Florence, Ky., is Turfway Park, which checked in at number 10 in the Horseplayers Association of North America’s (HANA) rankings of the 65 tracks in North America. Turfway offers a winter-spring meet, which runs from January through April. A fall meet is held in September and October, and a holiday meet is run in November and December. Turfway has a one-mile Polytrack oval, which was the first of its kind in North America, but no turf course.
Turfway Park’s wagering menu includes win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, daily double, pick-3, pick-4, and pick-6 wagering. Takeout is 17.5% on win, place, and show wagering, while a flat 22% takeout across the board on the exotics, which led to the "C" takeout rating from HANA. Turfway offers 10-cent superfecta wagering on nearly all their daily races, and offers two pick-4s.
"I have found that dime supers hit home with every level of player," said Turfway player development manager Wolfgang Kratzenberg. "New players and casual fans can take a shot for a small investment that has a possibility of a large return. Many of the new players or our Friday night crowd will split the cost of the ticket with their group of friends. For example, they will box five horses in the dime super for $12. Considering our dime super payout averages, that is a great investment.
"Seasoned players like it because they can go ‘deeper’ in a race for a smaller investment. Some of our high-end players quit playing the dollar supers and only play dimes. They feel they have an advantage in the pool if they put $120 into a large field dime super. Most of the high-end players realize the advantage of a larger bankroll lies in covering the combinations that the majority of the betting public cannot. The dime super has leveled the playing field for players who are sharp handicappers but don’t have the advantage of a large starting bankroll."
Turfway not only has recognized the need for new bettors, but also takes care of experienced handicappers with several noteworthy programs.
"Since 2000 we have offered FasTrack Rewards, a loyalty program with varying levels based on play," said Turfway Park president Bob Elliston. "One component of FasTrack is our ‘Turfway’s Got Your Back’ program. If a player uses his/her card, we can track uncashed winning tickets. Instead of leaving the ticket uncashed, we periodically research the list and surprise a player with a check.
"To encourage simulcast and on-track players to play Turfway, we emphasize the value of our payoffs, which we track over time," he continued. "We also supply as much information as possible to our experienced players. Most of this information is available in the program and on our Web site."
Turfway’s feed is also readily accessible, which makes it very popular with bettors, and they have seen a major benefit from their relationship with the TVG Network.
"Following the conclusion of this current race meet in April, our 10-year exclusive contract with TVG will mature," Elliston said. "The contract has been beneficial in terms of signal distribution and development of Turfway fans in new markets. Additionally, our simulcast fee, coupled with a strong source market fee, has provided significant support for the track and our purse fund.
"As this contract originated in a different landscape, with TVG effectively the only television/ADW distributor at the time, we will evaluate our options to ensure our signal is available to the maximum number of potential handicappers, while returning an appropriate level of support to the track and our horsemen."
Another strong feature of Turfway Park is its large average field size of 8.8, which was in the upper tier of the tracks that were rated by HANA.
"The racing department tries to offer a balance of quality and quantity," said assistant race secretary Tyler Picklesimer. "It is important to afford owners and trainers the opportunity to run their better horses in overnight races as well as stakes. If you do not give the owners the opportunity to run, they will take the better horses, as well as others, to race elsewhere. That being said, the racing department also appreciates the betting public’s appetite for larger fields.
"Over the years we have worked hard to build upon the relationships we have with our horsemen and every year we reach out to other jurisdictions trying to attract new horsemen to the region," he continued. "The racing department at any track walks a fine line between customer service and regulator. Our racing secretary [Rick Leigh] is very committed to both."
Efforts to get slot machines at racetracks in the Bluegrass State have not yet been successful, so officials at Turfway have come up with some other ideas to get people to come to the track.
"Our approach has several prongs," Kratzenberg said. One ongoing promotion is ‘Dollar Friday.’ Every Friday during live racing, we offer $1 drafts, $1 hot dogs, $1 bets, a local band, games and prizes "The games connect to racing in some way, so those who come for the dollar deals get involved in the races. The bands begin to play between the last couple of races so their fans also are exposed to the races.
"Our stance is that people can get deals on beer and food in many places, but they get racing only here. The combination is a strong draw. We experimented with Dollar Friday during an ITW session and did not have the same response; while the deals help draw the crowd, live racing is the key that makes a night out at Turfway different from a night out anywhere else. "
Turfway has also connected with fans through social networking sites and through the traditional media.
"Every other week we post coupons on MySpace and Facebook and have seen our friend list increase," Kratzenberg said. "We also have very recently started a discussion about racing on Facebook
Turfway Park received an overall score of 2.22 from HANA to get the number 10 spot on the rankings board.
(Editor’s note: The views and rating system are expressly those of the bettors' advocacy group Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA), and not affiliated with Blood-Horse Publications)