Field Size an Issue at Delaware

Handle and field size dropped but purses increased at Delaware Park in 2008.

Delaware Park, one of Thoroughbred racing’s pioneers in terms of combining racing and video gaming, ended its 2007 meet Nov. 4 with declines in total handle and field size, though purses paid increased about $1 million.

Total handle on the live product for the 135-day meet that began April 22 was $212,779,754, track officials said in a release. The figure is down 6.82% from 2006, when the meet spanned 136 days.

Field size averaged 6.75 horses per race, down from 6.97 last year. Officials said scratches and fewer live races (1,113 this year compared with 1,179 last year) contributed to the numbers.

“We believe there are an insufficient number of horses in the Mid-Atlantic area to support the number of live race days throughout the region,” Delaware Park chief operating officer Bill Fasy said in a statement. “Looking ahead to 2008, this situation will only become more challenging, as Pennsylvania and New Jersey tracks increase their number of live racing days.”

From Jan. 1-Nov. 8 in the Mid-Atlantic region, Colonial Downs in Virginia leads the way with 9.09 horses per race for 41 racing days, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Charles Town Races & Slots in West Virginia is next with 8.47 horses per race through 193 days, followed by Pimlico Race Course in Maryland (8.11 for 31 days), Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack in Pennsylvania (7.93 for 168 days), Penn National Race Course in Pennsylvania (7.93 for 155 days), Laurel Park  in Maryland (7.86 for 118 days), Monmouth Park in New Jersey (7.48 for 79 days), Meadowlands in New Jersey (7.27 for 38 days), Delaware Park, and the Maryland State Fair at Timonium (6.18 for seven days).

Revenue from video lottery terminals at Delaware Park helps fund purses, which this year totaled $35.1 million for Thoroughbreds, up from $34.1 million last year, according to TJCIS. Average daily purses this year were $260,039, up from $250,309 last year.

Delaware Park this year installed a giant infield video monitor and an upscale VIP room, renovated the third-floor clubhouse to include three video walls, and made backstretch improvements.