Handle Declines on Kentucky Oaks Card

Handle Declines on Kentucky Oaks Card
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt

Perhaps feeling the effects of an ongoing dispute with horsemen over signal distribution, handle on the May 2 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) program was down about 7%, according to numbers released by the track.

Total handle on the 11-race Oaks card, which was run in periods of heavy rain, was $31,231,991, down 6.97% from the $33,570,510 wagered last year.

On-track wagering on the entire Kentucky Oaks card was $11,217,756, a decrease of 8.3% from the $12,234,128 wagered at Churchill Downs during the previous year. Off-track wagering on the Kentucky Oaks card was $18,142,336, a 4.9% decrease over the 2007 figure of $19,086,056.

“(The Kentucky Oaks card) started out spectacularly, with an early arriving crowd and strong wagering right up until the time it started pouring,” said Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton in a news release. “The constant rain drove our guests under cover, and wagering began to decline after a seven-horse race scratched down to just five entries.

"Lower off-track wagering also contributed to today’s declines, as race fans in major South Florida markets were unable to wager on Churchill Downs’ races, including the Kentucky Oaks, due to an ongoing dispute with Florida horsemen," he continued." Additionally, Kentucky horsemen did not permit any wagering on the Oaks undercard via two national advanced-deposit wagering companies, TwinSpires.com and Xpressbet.com, and that also contributed to lower off-track handle.”

The track is mired in a well-documented stalemate with Kentucky horsemen over revenue-sharing from wagers placed through advance deposit wagering companies, which process bets for its customers via telephone and Internet platforms. Among the entities that could not carry the bulk of the Oaks card were the multiple platforms of Twinspires.com, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., and XpressBet.com, which is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp.

A previous agreement made with Kentucky horsemen allowed Twinspires.com and XpressBet.com to take wagers on the Oaks itself. The same allowance is made for the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT).

Total wagering from all sources on the Kentucky Oaks race, was $9,138,950, a 9.6% decrease over the $10,112,064 wagered on the Kentucky Oaks in 2007. On-track wagering on the Kentucky Oaks race totaled $2,540,831 a 14.4% decrease over the $2,968,635 wagered one year ago. Off-track wagering on the Oaks race was $6,032,223, a 6.4% decrease over the 2007 off-track total of $7,143,429.

TVG and Youbet.com also did not carry the Oaks card, but were shut out last year as well. Several of what are described by those in the negotiations as regional ADWs were able to take bets on the Oaks card, as well as some offshore rebate outlets.

The Churchill handle could have also been affected by an impasse on negotiations between horsemen and Calder Race Course, which is also owned by CDI. In addition to ADW restrictions, Calder was not allowed to import the Churchill Downs signal for simulcasting purposes. It was reported that Gulfstream Park also may not have had access to the Churchill Downs simulcast signal, as it normally imports it from Calder.

Attendance at Churchill Downs for the Oaks card was announced at 100,046, just 29 less than the 100,075 the track announced for the 2007 program.

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