No Soft Economy at Ellis Park, Handle and Attendance Rise

Ellis Park fought off the chilling effects of escalating gasoline prices and a sluggish economy to post gains in attendance and wagering.

Total handle at the Henderson, Ky., racetrack increased 5.5% from last year to $125,608,889, or an average of $3,063,631 per day for the 41-day meet. On-track handle improved nearly 1% from last year to $16,835,711, which is an average of $410,627 per day.
Average daily attendance increased a slight 0.34% to 2,927 and total attendance reached 120,008.

"We are extremely pleased with the support by racing fans in the Tri-State and across the nation for the Ellis Park meet," said Paul Kuerzi, vice president and general manager of Ellis Park. "Despite the rising costs of utilities and gasoline and a sluggish economy, fans in the Tri-State turned out to support our product and helped us improve on the impressive wagering and attendance totals from our 2000 meet."

Race purses paid totaled $7,730,375, a decline of less than one half of one percent from 2000. Daily purses during the meet averaged $188,546. Strong wagering on Ellis Park races, however, allowed track officials to raise purses twice during the meet. Overnight purses were raised by 5 percent in early August and by an additional 9 percent two weeks later.

"Support by the horsemen has been tremendous," Kuerzi said. "The average number of starters per race has gone up and would have been higher had we not experienced a very rainy season. We lost seven days of grass racing in a 41-day meet and still raised our average from last year."

The average number of horses starting at Ellis Park rose to 9.03, up from 8.80 in 2000. The larger fields probably helped Ellis' off-track handle, which rose 6.2% from last year to $108,773,178. Average daily off-track handle was $2,653,004.

"The wagering totals from this year's meet will make Ellis Park one of the year's success stories in American racing," said Alex Waldrop, president of Churchill Downs and senior vice president of CDI's Kentucky operations. "The bar of success was placed very high after last year's strong meet, but the Ellis Park team found a way to improve on that performance."

Veteran conditioner Bernard Flint earned his ninth Ellis Park training title with a victory on the final day of the meet that snapped a three-way tie for training honors. Flint, who ended the meet with 13 wins, has won seven titles outright and tied for two more.

Jockey Jon Court earned his fourth consecutive riding crown with 56 wins, 10 more than runner-up Calvin Borel. With his latest title, Court is now tied for the lead in career riding titles at Ellis Park. Axel DaSilva was the meet's leading apprentice rider as he won 42 races, four more than fellow apprentice Orlando Mojica.

Gary Patrick, whose horses scored 11 wins, easily won the leading owner title.