Churchill Downs On-Track Averages Gain; Overall Handle Declines

Churchill Downs concluded its 2007 spring meet Sunday, July 8, with gains in average daily on-track wagering and attendance while experiencing a decline in off-track and all-sources wagering over the 52-day racing season.

(Edited Churchill Downs release)

Churchill Downs concluded its 2007 spring meet Sunday, July 8, with gains in average daily on-track wagering and attendance while experiencing a decline in off-track and all-sources wagering over the 52-day racing season that began April 28. Since the meet included five fewer days of live racing than the 2006 spring season, daily averages in wagering and attendance are used for year-over-year comparisons.

Average daily attendance during the 2007 spring meet grew 5.48% to 12,994, compared to 12,319 during the 2006 spring season. Total attendance for 2007’s 52-day meeting was 675,710 versus a total attendance of 702,175 over 57 days in 2006, a decline of 3.77%.

Average daily on-track wagering, which includes wagering by on-track customers on Churchill Downs’ live races and simulcast races imported by the track, was $1.86 million, up 6.29% from average daily on-track wagering of $1.75 million during the 57-day spring meet in 2006.  Average daily wagering from all sources -- which includes on-track wagering, plus wagers made at racetracks, simulcast outlets and through account-wagering services around the world -- was $11.11 million, down 2.97% from the average daily all sources total of $11.45 million one year ago. Average daily off-track wagering was down 4.64% to $9.25 million in 2007 from the $9.70 million wagered in 2006.

“Churchill Downs has traditionally reported wagering and attendance numbers at the end of race meets, but it is important to understand that we manage our business based on revenue and profitability,” said president Steve Sexton. “We will provide information on those metrics when Churchill Downs Incorporated reports its 2007 second-quarter earnings in early August.”

Total on-track wagering during the 2007 spring meet declined 3.11% to $96.65 million, compared to the $99.75 million wagered during the 2006 spring meet that featured five extra days of live racing. Total off-track and all-sources wagering also declined, down 12.97% and 11.46%, respectively, with off-track wagering totaling $481.13 million in 2007 versus $552.84 million a year ago, and all-sources wagering totaling $577.78 million this season, compared to $652.59 million wagered during the longer 2006 spring meet.     

“Our entire team is very pleased with the on-track results from Churchill Downs’ 2007 spring meet,” Sexton said. “Despite the soggy start, we enjoyed another solid Kentucky Oaks and Derby weekend, with new wagering records set on our Kentucky Oaks Day race card and the second-highest all-sources wagering on the Kentucky Derby Day race card. Over those two days, we entertained 256,710 fans on-track, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England and her husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, and added new elements to our storied event, such as the nationally televised Kentucky Derby Red Carpet Show, that carried another compelling aspect of the Derby experience into millions of U.S. households.

“The dip in off-track wagering was due to a number of factors, including softness in key simulcast markets, horsemen’s decision not to allow our simulcast signal into wagering outlets managed by the Choctaw Nation, and the fact that two account-wagering services and an affiliated wagering outlet that offers rebates were not taking bets on Churchill Downs races this spring. Nonetheless, we expect revenues from the account-wagering services that are accepting wagers on Churchill Downs races to equal those we received a year ago due to higher host fees, and that’s what matters to horsemen’s purses and our bottom line."

Average field size for the 2007 spring meet was unchanged year-to-year at 8.14 starters per race. Total purses paid during the 52-day meet were $25.28 million, compared to $27.55 million paid over the previous 57-day meeting. With five fewer days of racing in 2007, average daily purses rose 0.59% to $486,205, compared to the daily average of $483,343 in 2006.

Julien Leparoux collected his second consecutive spring meet riding crown. The 23-year-old native of Chantilly, France, who earned a 2006 Eclipse Award as leading apprentice jockey, pulled away in the meet’s final two weeks to finish with 70 victories. Rafael Bejarano finished second in the leading jockey race with 56 wins, while Shaun Bridgmohan closed strongly to edge Robby Albarado for third by a margin of 52-50. Alonso Quinonez was the meet’s top apprentice jockey with 24 victories.

Steve Asmussen enjoyed one of the most spectacular meets in Churchill Downs history as he collected his fourth “leading trainer” crown and established a record for total victories in the spring meet. Asmussen ended the meet with 46 victories in the 52-day session, which erased the previous record of 43 set a year earlier by Dale Romans in a 57-day meet.  Asmussen earned his second spring meet training crown and his win total included three stakes victories.