Turfway Hikes Some Purses; Big Gains in Total Handle

Turfway Park has hiked purses for Kentucky-breds in some high-level races, and also reported that numbers for the first nine live racing days of 2004 show business is on the rebound.

The purse hike, of about 20%, is for Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund money in maiden special weight and allowance events. Stakes purses aren't affected. For instance, the purse for an allowance race for "non-winners of two races other than" at six furlongs went from $26,900 to $29,300.

Association purses, or money from the regular purse account, remain at the previous levels. Track president Bob Elliston said the track and horsemen attempt to maintain a "zero balance" in the KTDF purse account, but it had an underpayment.

"It had risen to a level where we felt comfortable to raise (Kentucky-bred purse supplements)," Elliston said.

KTDF money makes up a substantial percentage of purses for maiden special weight and allowance events at all Kentucky tracks. Of the $29,300 purse at Turfway, $13,000 comes from the fund.

Elliston also said on-track handle on Turfway races is up 2% since Jan. 1, out-of-state handle up 21%, and total handle up 17.8%. He cited "competitive fields and great field size" as contributors.

On Jan. 10, when East Coast tracks such as Aqueduct and Laurel Park canceled their programs, total handle on Turfway's 12-race card was more than $4.5 million. (That same day, Tampa Bay Downs in Florida set a handle record of more than $4.7 million.)

In related business, Elliston said the handle on Turfway races at Keeneland is up 40% from the comparable period in 2003.