Friday, April 7, 2006 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . April 7, 2006 . . . When Turfway Park wrapped up its 2005 Fall Meet, the first to be run on the track’s new Polytrack surface, bettors, riders, and trainers consistently sounded a variation on one theme: "Polytrack has been great so far, but let’s see how it handles a Northern Kentucky winter."
The 2006 Winter/Spring Meet closed April 6 with numbers that answer the question. Wagering on Turfway races from all sources—that is, from fans at Turfway as well as bettors at other tracks and off-track betting facilities—rose 61.8 percent to $198,343,642. The all-sources increase was fueled by a remarkable 69.4 percent increase in out-of-state handle as well as a 15 percent increase on play on Turfway races by patrons at Kentucky off-track betting sites.
On-track handle, the amount wagered on Turfway races by fans at Turfway Park, was $9,039,053, an increase of 19.5 percent over the same period in 2005.
Purses for the meet rose 16.3 percent, a direct result of the increased wagering on Turfway’s races.
Much of the increase in handle can be attributed to the consistency of the track regardless of the weather. In the 2005 Winter/Spring Meet, the track was forced to cancel all or part of 11 days of racing, most due to unsafe track conditions. In the just-completed meet, no races were canceled despite several days of heavy rain and a snowstorm or two. Regardless of the weather, the Polytrack surface was never rated anything but fast.
In 2005, the track presented 591 races over the course of the 14-week Winter/Spring Meet. In 2006, the track presented 688 races in the same period. Despite populating nearly 100 more races, Turfway attracted an average 8.3 starters per race, a 1.2 percent increase.
While the increases are welcome news, the most satisfying number of the meet was zero. During the 2005 Winter/Spring Meet, 14 horses suffered catastrophic breakdowns; i.e., on-track injuries that resulted in the death of the horse by euthanasia. During the same meet in 2006, that number was zero. Since the track opened for racing on September 7, 2005, through the close of the 2006 Winter/Spring Meet, three horses have suffered catastrophic breakdowns on-track. During the same period in 2004-2005, 24 horses suffered such breakdowns.
Commenting on the meet’s numbers, Turfway Park president Robert Elliston said, “We had three main goals for our Polytrack installation: improve safety for the horses and riders; reduce the number of cancelled days while providing a consistent racing surface; and produce a competitive, appealing wagering product to our patrons. These numbers demonstrate that we met or exceeded all of those goals.
“We are very grateful that the Turfway Park ownership group—Keeneland Association and Harrah’s Entertainment—had the courage and foresight to allow us to move forward with this advancement that I believe will benefit racing for decades to come.”
Leparoux, Foley, Bearden take meet titles
Apprentice jockey Julien Leparoux, who has ridden professionally just since August 2005, set a new meet record with 167 wins from 529 mounts, a 32 percent win rate. He finished second 110 times and was third in 62 races, a 64 percent in-the-money performance. The previous record for the meet was 150, set by Rafael Bejarano in 2004. The second-leading rider for the 2006 meet was Willie Martinez with 43 wins from 292 mounts.
Gregory Foley took his third straight Winter/Spring Meet leading trainer title with 30 winners from 114 starters. Behind him was Wayne Bearden with 23 winners from 54 starters.
Bearden was the meet’s leading owner with 15 winners from 24 starters. Second among owners were Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey with 13 wins from 49 runners.
Top horse for the meet was Indy Energy, trained by Arthur Zeis. From January 7 through April 1, the 7-year-old gelding started seven times, racking up six wins and one third.
Live racing returns to Turfway Park on September 6. In the meantime, the track presents simulcast racing from around the country every Wednesday through Sunday. Gates open at 11:15 a.m.