Delaware Park Latest Track to Shave Dates

Delaware Park and the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association have agreed to shave seven days from the track’s 2009 racing schedule because of a decline in revenue from video lottery terminals. The change must be approved by the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission.

The move comes despite what track officials call a “successful meet” given industry downturns.

Delaware Park will end its meet Oct. 26 rather than Nov. 7, the second day of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The meet was scheduled for 116 live racing days, a reduction of 20 days from last year.

“We have had a very successful live racing meet to date,” Delaware Park senior vice president Mike Vild said in a statement. “We have better quality horses and larger fields than in previous years, and our customers are wagering more, even though nationally, handle results are down at most other racetracks.”

Pari-mutuel handle figures weren’t released by the track.

According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, field size has averaged 7.67 horses per race through 83 days of racing at Delaware Park, compared with 6.87 for 136 days in 2008.

Purses have averaged $237,593 per program so far this year versus $241,072 for the 2008 meet, according to TJCIS.

Track officials said subsidies from VLTs have declined. Earlier this year, the state legislature reduced the share of VLT revenue to purses from 10% to 9%, and VLT play has decreased because of the economy and competition from neighboring states, officials said.

“With a smaller pool for purses, we were forced to ask for the reduction in the number of live racing dates to keep our daily purse structure intact,” Vild said.

On Sept. 10, Delaware Park launched parlay sports betting. Horsemen will get 9.6% of that revenue for purses.

Delaware Park is one of a growing number of Thoroughbred racetracks to cut dates either before or during meets this year because of a shortage of purse money or horses.

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