Turfway Park closed its 2005 holiday meet Dec. 31 with increases in virtually every category over the same period in 2004, most of them double-digit improvements. Wagering on Turfway races from all sources rose to $74,332,516, a 37.7% increase over the 2004 Holiday Meet. The increase was fueled by $66,059,019 in out-of-state play, a 41.2% jump over 2004, and on-track wagering of $3,237,724, a 21.8% increase. The track presented 247 races over 24 days in 2005, compared to 225 races over 22 days in 2004. The upsurge in wagering on Turfway races is attributed to fuller, more competitive fields, driven by wide acceptance of the track's new Polytrack surface and the closing of Fair Grounds' stables in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The track also was able to fill more allowance races than in past meets, another factor in increased competitiveness. Average field size for 2005 was 10.4; for 2004 the average was 9.9. Average daily purses increased 6.1% to $141,078, with overall purse money jumping 15.7% to $3,385,870. The track did not release attendance figures. 'We could not be more thrilled with our holiday meet results,' said Turfway Park President Robert N. Elliston. "This was our second meet with Polytrack and all of our customers responded. Horsemen supported the entry box, which resulted in strong, competitive fields. Handicappers on track and across the country responded to our racing product. Strong fields, competing on a fair racing surface, produced outstanding results. In addition to strong handle increases, we continue to be pleased with the positive feedback we are receiving from horsemen regarding the Polytrack surface. The consistency of the surface each race day and the absence of a perceptible bias in running style are chief among horsemen's accolades."The numbers bode well for Turfway, which posted a 4.5% increase in on-track handle on its races across all three 2005 meets. All-sources handle on Turfway races for 2005 fell less than 1%. Jesus Castanon won his first Turfway title with 27 wins from 129 mounts and purses totaling $412,742. Willie Martinez, who holds the most Turfway riding titles with nine, finished second with 26 wins from 140 mounts. Joe Cain finished atop the trainer standings for the first time with eight winners from 35 starters for purses totaling $79,172. Greg Foley went 7-for-41, Bill "Buff" Bradley went 7-for-29, and Rebecca Maker went 7-for-19 to finish in a three-way tie for second. The race for leading owner honors ended in a four-way tie, with Everest Stables Inc., Donamire Farm, AFM Stables Limited, and Jackie Christenson each sending three winners to the gate.
Racing continues at Turfway without interruption with the winter/spring meet, which began Jan. 1 and runs through April 6.