River Downs Reports Gains in Ontrack Handle

River Downs Reports Gains in Ontrack Handle
Photo: Courtesy River Downs
River Downs

River Downs, where the start of the 2011 race meet was delayed because of Ohio River flooding, reported gains in live handle and daily average purses.

The Ohio racetrack purchased by Pinnacle Entertainment earlier this year raced 82 days, down from 104 in 2010. Because of flood-related conditions the meet didn’t begin until after the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)—one of the track’s biggest days for ontrack business.

Officials said total live handle was up 3.5%--19% per day—but the actual handle number wasn’t reported. River Downs raced 14 fewer days this year.

Because of the lost days total purses dropped to $3.77 million in 2011 from $3.91 million in 2010, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. Average daily purses, however, increased 22.2% to $45,984 from $37,629, according to TJCIS.

River Downs this year offered a $300 purse bonus for each race in which seven or more horses left the paddock. Average field size of 7.02 horses per race remained unchanged from last year.

In order to preserve overnight purses River Downs this year bagged its two major stakes, the Budweiser Select Cradle Stakes and the Bassinet Stakes.

“We did our best to ensure that our fans had a good experience, and as our guests we kept our eyes and ears open to their input,” River Downs general manager Kevin Kaufman said in a statement. “Many requested reduced wagering prices on trifectas and pick threes, so we switched to a 50-cent minimum. For our clubhouse regulars we waived any parking fee and installed over 50 new flat screen televisions and a new race review kiosk.

“We pushed back Friday post time to 3 p.m. and offered $1 beer and hot dogs, and we carded more turf racing than any time in recent memory.”

In keeping with a trend that began in Ohio years ago, total on-site handle on live and simulcast races from Jan. 1-Sept. 10 is down 12% to $28.1 million at River Downs, according to the Ohio State Racing Commission. Average daily handle of $137,234, however, is unchanged from the average of 2010 because the track has been open 28 fewer days this year.

On the racetrack Perry Ouzts won 124 races to top the jockey standings, while Joe Woodard won the training title again 64 wins. Woodard trains for Billy, Donna, and Justin Hays, who again won the leading owner title with 59 victories.

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