Average fields of just over eight horses per race might be enough for right now, but Gulfstream Park has the potential for fields larger than that during future summer meets, officials said.
Gulfstream Park will offer horsemen a $250 starter bonus tied to field size beginning July 1.
The West Virginia Racing Commission has begun a 10-day comment period on a request by Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort to reduce its 2015 meet to 160 days from 210.
Average field size at Gulfstream Park for its Dec. 6, 2014-April 5 race meet grew 13.1% from 8.4 to 9.5 horses per race, while average daily all-sources pari-mutuel handle slipped 1.7% but was still a solid $8.1 million.
Kentucky Downs, which holds a short all-turf meet in September, has topped the 2015 Horseplayers Association of North America Racetrack Rankings.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races has been approved to shave 27 racing programs from its 2015 schedule.
Gulfstream Park will open its 2015 spring/summer racing season April 8 with an eight-race card topped by a $46,000 allowance optional claimer that includes the Todd Pletcher-trained stakes runner Vinceremos.
Turfway Park recorded increases in all-sources and average daily pari-mutuel handle during its recently concluded 2015 winter/spring meet. Field size and purses also showed gains during the 2015 meet.
With field size an issue as winter turns to spring, two racetracks located about 45 minutes apart are reinforcing policies designed to keep horses on the grounds.
The people and horses who make Kentucky home for the winter racing season continued to make a good go of it, and this year has been particularly positive from a business standpoint.
The Muckleshoot Tribe March 13 received unanimous approval from the Washington Horse Racing Commission to operate Emerald Downs, the state's premier Thoroughbred racetrack.
All-sources pari-mutuel handle is up 10.3% year-to-date at Tampa Bay Downs, which puts the Florida racetrack on course to average more than $4 million per day and finish with its highest wagering total since the 2010-11 meet.
Aided by cancellations and healthy purse accounts, Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and Turfway Park in Kentucky have increased overnight purses.
Turfway Park will increase purses effective Jan. 30 with a slight across-the-board bump and an extra race per week, officials said.
The Maryland Jockey Club reported a decrease in pari-mutuel handle on live racing at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course in 2014, but total and average purses were up from 2013.
Pari-mutuel handle on U.S. races declined 2.84% in 2014, marking the seventh time in eight years that fewer dollars have been wagered.
Despite racing two fewer programs during its 2014 holiday meet, Turfway Park registered a 21.45% increase in total pari-mutuel handle compared with the comparable meet in 2013.
Gulfstream Park said Jan. 1 its total pari-mutuel handle on live racing in 2014 was a record $1.2 billion for one year.
Hawthorne Race Course reported increases in average daily pari-mutuel handle for its 2014 fall/winter meet, which ended Dec. 31.
Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course ended its inaugural meet Dec. 30 with record total pari-mutuel handle of $1,102,566.
As 2014 came to a close, fewer than 25 racetracks were able to field more than eight horses per races, according to a review of statistics. And the top two tracks on the list each raced only five programs.
As U.S. racing faces the challenge of shaping race days and meets and maintaining field sizes at a time when foal crops are shrinking, experts said tracks and horsemen need to remember to keep the customer in the equation.
Panel discusses field-size challenges and possible solutions on the first morning of the 2014 University of Arizona Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming Dec. 9 in Tucson, Ariz.
Officials at Turfway Park, which begins its four-month run of live racing Dec. 1, are hoping response at the entry box for the first two programs continues through December and into next year.
Delaware Park officials reported a decline in pari-mutuel handle for the 2014 racing season that ended Oct. 22 but said they will continue to explore ways to strengthen the product in a gambling-congested Mid-Atlantic region.
- By Tom LaMarra
A look at Crown Queen, Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, and field size. read blog
The opening weekend at Keeneland, which marked a return to a dirt racing main track for the first time since the spring of 2006, saw steady attendance and on-track wagering but total handle declined 5.7%.
While it already has faced many hurdles, if the declining North American foal crop is not turned around soon, North American racing will require creative solutions from racetracks and horsemen or face further contraction.
Monmouth Park reported increases in on-track and export pari-mutuel handle, as well as attendance, for its 57-day meet that ended Sept. 28.
Kentucky Downs closed out its highly successful 2014 live racing season Wednesday, Sept. 24, and the track established new records for wagering handle and starters per race during the five race-date season.
Delaware Park and the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association signed a one-year extension to their current agreement, which was scheduled to run through 2015.
A horseplayers group believes its boycott negatively impacted handle at the Churchill Downs spring meet where the total money wagered decreased by more than $48 million.
Growth in out-of-state wagering on its product helped Pimlico Race Course record an increase in average daily pari-mutuel handle for the 2014 spring meet.
The horsemen's group at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort has signed off on a plan to reduce racing days and the number of races at the West Virginia track later this year.
Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort has asked the West Virginia Racing Commission for permission to drop 11 live racing programs in December and reduce the number of races it is scheduled to run in October and November.
The Churchill Downs fall meet saw a double-digit percentage decline in average daily wagering at this year's 25-day stand that wrapped Saturday, Nov. 30.
Despite 12 fewer live racing days, all-sources pari-mutuel handle during the Delaware Park meet was only down about $1.5 million, while average daily handle increased 13.2%.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races received approval Oct. 22 to cut three live racing programs from its November schedule because of field size and purse concerns.
- By Tom LaMarra
By 2016 the number of starters in Thoroughbred races is projected to be about 39% less than it was in 2003 based on Equibase statistics discussed Oct. 8 during the International Simulcast Conference in Lexington.
Atlantic City Race Course ended its six-day all turf meet May 1 with total pari-mutuel handle in excess of $1 million for a seven-race program.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races set another pari-mutuel handle record in April when it reported average daily handle of $1,367,336, up 1% from the same month in 2012.
Though total pari-mutuel handle during the recent winter/spring meet at Turfway Park fell almost 30% from the same meet in 2012, average daily handle was down 4% because of 11 fewer live racing days.
The Maryland Jockey Club has put horsemen on notice regarding the shipping of horses to race at other tracks in the region.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course reported a 19.4% increase in all-sources pari-mutuel handle for 197 live racing days in 2012. Meanwhile, total purses jumped 11.6%.
Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races reported that, for the first time in the track's 79 years of operation, average daily pari-mutuel handle topped the $1 million mark.
Turfway Park is following through with its plan to increase purses across the board when its winter/spring meet begins Jan. 1, 2013. The new condition book at the Kentucky racetrack reflects increases of 13% to about 35%.
That Turfway Park is struggling to fill live racing programs for its 16-day meet is no surprise to horsemen, who believe a "perfect storm" developed in September.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course reported double-digit increases in pari-mutuel handle on and off track for the fourth consecutive month in June.
Presque Isle Downs & Casino now has 668 stalls after building two 48-stall barns in advance of its 2012 meet, officials said April 17.
Keeneland will begin its spring meet April 6 with full fields and quiet optimism in what has become a very competitive Thoroughbred racing environment in terms of purse money and horse population.
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