Polytrack Leads to More Races, Increased Handle at Turfway

The first meet with a Polytrack surface proved not only to produce solid footing but also solid financial figures.

Turfway Park, which was the first track in North America to run over the synthetic surface, showed substantial gains in handle, both on- and off-track.

The bottom line was no canceled days due to weather translated to considerably more races being run, which translated to increased handle. In 2005, there were 591 races over the course of the 14-week meet. In 2006, the track ran 688 races during the same period.

A release from the Northern Kentucky track said the handle during Turfway's meet that began Jan. 1 and ended April 6 was up 61.8% to $198,343,642. Out-of-state handle was up 69.4% while on-track handle showed a 19.5% increase.

The increased handle resulted in increased purses, which rose 16.3%.

In the 2005 Winter/Spring meet, the track was forced to cancel all or part of 11 days of racing, most due to unsafe track conditions. In the just-completed meet, no races were canceled despite several days of heavy rain and a snowstorm or two. The Polytrack surface was never rated anything but fast.

During the 2005 meet, 14 horses suffered catastrophic breakdowns. During the same meet in 2006, that number was zero. Since the track opened for racing on Sept. 7, 2005, through the close of the 2006 Winter/Spring meet, three horses have suffered catastrophic breakdowns on-track. During the same period in 2004-2005, 24 horses suffered such breakdowns.

Commenting on the meet's numbers, Turfway Park president Robert Elliston said, "We had three main goals for our Polytrack installation: improve safety for the horses and riders; reduce the number of canceled days while providing a consistent racing surface; and produce a competitive, appealing wagering product to our patrons. These numbers demonstrate that we met or exceeded all of those goals.

"We are very grateful that the Turfway Park ownership group -- Keeneland Association and Harrah's Entertainment -- had the courage and foresight to allow us to move forward with this advancement that I believe will benefit racing for decades to come."

Apprentice jockey Julien Leparoux set a new meet record with 167 wins from 529 mounts, a 32% win rate. The previous record for the meet was 150, set by Rafael Bejarano in 2004. The second-leading rider for the 2006 meet was Willie Martinez with 43 wins from 292 mounts.

Gregory Foley took his third straight trainer title with 30 winners from 114 starters. Behind him was Wayne Bearden with 23 winners from 54 starters.

Bearden was the meet's leading owner with 15 winners from 24 starters. Second among owners were Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey with 13 wins from 49 runners.

Top horse for the meet was Indy Energy, trained by Arthur Zeis. From January 7 through April 1, the 7-year-old gelding started seven times, racking up six wins and one third.