Summer Handle Slides at Ellis Park

(from Ellis Park report)
Weather concerns that ranged from searing heat to torrential rains were a factor in declines in attendance and wagering as Ellis Park concluded its 41-day 2005 meet on Sept. 5.

The 2005 meet saw the track return to a five-day race week after conducting six-day racing weeks in 2004. The track used 2003 figures for comparison purposes, as both years had 41 racing days. On-track wagering for this year's 41-day session totaled $8,012,806, a decrease of 18.1% from 2003 $9,780,749). An average of $195,434 was wagered on-track each day compared to the daily average of $238,555 in 2003.

Average daily total wagering fell during the meet as off-track betting on Ellis Park races continued to decline. Field size and weather were factors in the simulcast market as average daily off-track wagering on Ellis Park races averaged $2,511,986 per day, a drop of 24.7% from the 2003 daily average of $3,333,990. A total of $111,004,246 was wagered on the track's races during the 41-day meet, a 24.2% decline from 2003's $146,474,345.

Total attendance fell to 120,430, a decrease of 2.3% from the 2003 total of 123,237. The meet's average daily attendance dropped slightly to 2,937 from 3,006 in 2003.

The average field for the meet totaled 7.97 horses, lower than the 9.11 average field size in 2003. The drop in field size reflected growing competition for horses from tracks in states where purses have been elevated by slot machines and other alternative gaming revenues. Field size was also negatively affected by weather conditions as races were moved from the turf to the main track, resulting in numerous scratches. Ellis Park lost 33 turf races this year compared with just five in the 54-day session in 2004 and 15 during the 41-day meeting of 2003. Ellis Park reduced overnight purses by 15% after the first three weeks of the meet due to lower-than-anticipated business levels.

Jockey Jesus Castanon earned his first riding title at Ellis Park, collecting 53 wins to finish ahead of leading apprentice Dane Kobiskie, who finished second in the standings with 42 wins. Apprentice Jordan Charkoudian finished with six wins and was the leading female jockey during the meet.

Leading trainer went to Steve Asmussen, who leads the nation in victories and earned his first Ellis Park crown by saddling 19 winners. Veteran trainer Bob Holthus was second in the standings with 14 victories, and 10-time leading trainer Bernie Flint finished third with nine wins.