A greatly scaled-down meet offered fewer opportunities for horsemen but generated on-site gains at Retama Park, which wrapped up its live meet Oct. 23.
The racetrack near San Antonio, Texas, offered just 16 days of Thoroughbred racing this year, down from 59 days in 2009. The reduction was part of an effort by Texas tracks to adjust racing schedules to maximize purses in the face of intense competition for horses and gambling dollars in neighboring states.
Retama Park raced Friday and Saturday nights for 16 days beginning Sept. 3. Track officials said ontrack pari-mutuel handle on live racing averaged $114,891 a night, up 61% from $71,283 per day last year.
With $179,234 (up 16% from 2009) wagered on full-card simulcast on live racing days, total ontrack handle averaged $294,125, up 30% from last year, officials said.
With closing night attendance at more than 6,000, and a Friday 50-cent-night average of 5,155, average daily attendance of 3,702 increased 38% from 2009.
“Our decision to drop Thursday nights and run a Friday and Saturday meet turned out to be the right call,” Retama Park chief executive officer Bryan Brown said in a statement. “Fans responded with enthusiasm, and our horsemen provided an excellent product.”
According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, field size averaged 10.64 horses per race this year, believed to be the highest in the country. (Retama Park carded some 14-horse fields this year.) Over 59 days in 2009, field size averaged 9.34 horses per race.
Larger fields didn’t translate to higher export handle, which averaged $489,381 per program, down 14% from $566,602 last year.
Purses for the 2010 meet averaged $103,781, up 10.3% from $94,972 last year, according to TJCIS.
The 2010 meet offered 140 races, down from 514 last year. Purses totaled $1.66 million this year, way down from $5.55 million in 2009.