In spite of ongoing construction that prohibited the use of most of the track's Clubhouse and wintry weather on the meet's final weekend, Churchill Downs reported gains in on-track attendance and wagering and set another record for total wagering during its 27-day "Fall Festival Of Racing" that drew to a close on Nov. 29. Since the 27-day meet consisted of three fewer racing days than last year's 30-day fall session, results of the two meets are compared through daily averages in attendance and wagering. On-track wagering and attendance figures reflect the combined results from Churchill Downs and its Trackside Louisville Off-Track Betting facility, which remained open for the first time during a Churchill Downs meet because of the continuing $121 million renovation at the historic track. Daily on-track attendance during the 27-day session averaged 6,755, an increase of less than 1% from the 2002 average of 6,735. On-track wagering averaged $1,015,301 per day, a gain of nearly 5% over the daily average of $970,168 during the same meet one year earlier. About 81% of the average daily attendance and 69% of average daily wagering was recorded at Churchill Downs. An average crowd of 5,472 attended the racing programs at Churchill Downs while the daily crowd at Trackside OTB averaged 1,283. Average wagering totaled $700,024 each day at Churchill Downs while the average daily betting at Trackside was $315,277. The daily average for total wagering on Churchill Downs' races soared to a record $7,993,598 – a jump of nearly 18% from the daily average of $6,791,591 during the same session in 2002. The average number of horses per race during the fall meet was 9.67, an increase from the average field of 9.25 horses in the same meet in 2002. "The results of our 'Fall Festival Of Racing' are remarkable when one considers the construction-related changes to our facility and some very tough weather over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, racing days that are traditionally our best of the fall," said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs. "While we are very pleased with the gains made during a challenging meet, we acknowledge that the results are but a small step forward in a market that is increasingly competitive. This fall's on-track attendance and wagering reflected increases over a Fall Meet in 2002 that was one of our most difficult in many years. On-track wagering in the fall at Churchill Downs has declined by nearly 28% and attendance is off over 23% since the introduction of expanded gaming in our market in late 1998. Our renovation project is a large part of our effort to counter that competition, but it remains a very challenging task. To that end, Churchill Downs will continue to pursue alternative gaming to strengthen our position in the marketplace and continue to ensure the viability of Kentucky's number one agribusiness."
Race purses during the meet totaled $11,448,460, an increase of 1% from 2002. Daily purses averaged $424,017, an increase of nearly 12% from the 2002 fall average of $378,609.